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The Profit of Seed Saving, Biodiversity

Photo and graphic of plant seedsProfits, by their nature are positive. According to Merriam-Webster.com the first definition of profit is 1. :  a valuable return :  gain. In general, profits are associated with business, and for some, that has a negative connotation. In his book Creating a World Without Poverty,  Muhammand Yunnus presented the his case for social businesses. He lays out a foundation a business can have a social impact and it's a matter of the choices that people make when setting and running their business on how they generate profits, and what they do with those profits. This book, and this theory has had a tremendous impact in my life. It inspired me to look up the definition of profit where I found there was another meaning that didn't apply to money. That has stuck with me, and now I have the application for it with my work here at the Library Seed Bank (LSB).

I've spent decades working in communications, most of it implementing marketing plans that were for monetary profit. That's business, and the strategies that are used, when done right, are very effective. It didn't occur to me how the research I was doing for the Historic Seed Map (HSM), and these business-based strategies would merge into a divine application where biodiversity would be the profit.

Market Research
A lot of time and money is spent on market research. Collecting data about your audience is important. To be effective, you have to know what appeals to your audience so you can deliver to them your message using the proper words, tone, fonts and colors.

I've realized the research I'm doing for the HSM by using old seed catalog, provides a lot of data about biodiversity. Old seed catalogs are a wealth of information. According to the Agriculture Almanac for the Year 1945 from John Bae's Sons, Inc of Lancaster PA;

The seed catalog is therefore a current encyclopedia of gardening, revised, and brought up to date each year. Some are so complete as to be preferred reference books in agriculture schools.

The wide array of seeds the seed companies offered is biodiversity in black and white. Throw off all limitations and conventions and follow me here. Let's look at biodiversity as an audience and think how can the successful marketing communication strategies that businesses use to generate monetary profits be used to provide profits, such as a valuable return or gain, for biodiversity by saving seeds. By removing the conventional definition of profit relating only to money, this opens up a new playing field. It allows for a new way to position seed saving advocacy, and my part in it.

Applying the market research
From the research for New Jersey, the first state for the HSM, I discovered that there were three major seed farms within a 40 mile radius of the first seed library connected to the LSB. These seed farms were active in the early 1900s. While not a native Jersey boy, I've lived here 95% of my life. I grew up around farms, and gardens, and in the course of it all, I've learned a lot about the agriculture history here. I didn't know about the seed farms, and from conversations with some locals, neither did they. To me, these seed farms are a significant piece of history. History is information. Information drives marketing plans. So, put this information behind the wheel, and let it drive. And, I'm glad I did.

Here in New Jersey, we have the Sopranos. We have Bruce and Bon Jovi. We have exits off the New Jersey Turnpike, and the Garden State Parkway that a lot of natives use to identify where they live. We also have our beloved Jersey Tomato. Local pride is a wonderful thing, and even more so, when that pride is grown in the native soil. While tomatoes didn't originate here, we love them, and they love it here. You can tell they do by the way they grow here. It's a great symbiotic relationship. Tomatoes have also played a significant role in New Jersey's agricultural history.

Thanks to a chemist named Dr. John Dorance, who invented the condensed soup process, and who grew  tomatoes on his farm in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, we have Campbell's Tomato Soup. For those who aren't familiar, Campbell's is headquartered in Camden, New Jersey, and Cinnaminson is approximately ten miles away. Camden is 15 miles from the Pitman where the first seed library will be.Cinnaminson is also 5 miles from on where one of the seed farms were. Dorance also saved his tomato seeds, and gave them to farmers so there would be a consistent crop.

Campbell's Soup drove tomato production in southern New Jersey in the early 1900s. Without Jersey tomatoes, there wouldn't be Campbell's Tomato Soup, which is a iconic American food product. It's the soup most frequently associated with the condensed soup process. Also, paired with a grilled cheese, it's a top choice of comfort food. When Andy Wharhol immortalized this American icon with his Campbell's Soup Cans in 1962, in a way, he immortalized the Jersey tomato with them.

Product development
Enter the Authentic Jersey Tomato Seed Collection. A seed collection based on local history is by no means unique. What's unique about this collection is that tomatoes, or vegetables, are generally not categorized by where they originated, especially with varieties that were developed with 20 miles of where gardener are acquiring the seeds.

These seed farms developing varieties of a source of local pride (the Jersey tomato), is a bridge from the pre-industrial food complex past to the current focus of locally sourced food, is a product development dream come true.

I don't know how many other areas had a such concentration of seed farms in a local area, and as I mentioned above, it's not common knowledge in this area that these seeds farms existed. Looking at the research about the seed farms, with biodiversity as my audience, and with profits being the valuable return or gain, provided the base for product development, in this case the Authentic Jersey Tomato Seed Collection.

Consumer touch point – Point of purchase or POP
This is where the market research and product development come together. When someone checks out a package of seeds, they are the consumer, and the seed library is the point of purchase. Since we're using the Authentic Jersey Tomato Seed Collection as our model, let's take a look at how this information will be delivered to the consumers, with the greatest impact being a profit for biodiversity.

A list will be presented to consumer about the seeds from this collection that are available. Included on that list will be the tomatoes varieties that are extinct. Seeing this in black and white will have a big impact to the consumer. Included will be a brief explanation about how important their role as a seed saver will be in providing the profit (a valuable return or gain) for biodiversity. Simple, direct and effective. As is the end result of all successful business marketing techniques that drive monetary profits.

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