Welcome to Century Seeds
Having always wanted to grow my own heirloom produce, I purchased some land a couple of years ago (3.8 acres). I was told by everyone around me not to do it as it would be a waste of money as land never goes up in value. I did it anyway. The reason for doing it was my dream of creating an enterprise that everyone could benefit from. When I say everyone, I mean schools, community garden groups, allotment sites and those back garden producers up and down the country. My vision is to be the number one go to site for heirloom seeds, advice and support in growing your own vegetables.
What are Heirloom Seeds?
Heirloom seeds are those with a genetic heritage dating back to a time where produce was grown naturally, open pollinated with the genetic codes passed on through generations rather than modified to look better on the supermarket shelf. They are what our grandparents ate, as did their grandparents. They don't look pretty by any standard (whatever the standard is) but they do taste fantastic and produce healthy robust seeds for next year's crop. They are nature's gift that keeps on giving.
- Better flavour - I will never forget the taste and aroma of my Grandad's tomatoes.
- Robust crop - You can save the seeds to ensure an equally healthy and tasty crop next year.
- Open pollinated - no technology is required to pollinate. Mother Nature has done that for you.
- More nutritious - Mother Nature didn't produce an edible crop with all the nutrients required for no reason.
- Cheaper - Long term, you will reap the benefits of not having to purchase new seeds each year.
- Slightly more labour intensive. Although, it's not something that we cannot achieve. You reap what you sow.
- you need to keep them separate from other (GMO) crops to ensure no cross pollination.
So, the reality is that heirloom crops are by far, the best for you. They may require a little more concentration but they're worth it in the long run.
How do we fertilise the crops?
Well, as we are trying to keep things as natural as possible, there is something known as 'Black Gold'. It's a manure which is provided by my on site Alpacas. I have 6 right now. We have a deal. I provide a safe and secure place to live with feed. They produce organic fertiliser for the crops.
This is Cherry. She is one of six girls that supply 'Black Gold'.
We also have a Pony called Snowflake. He provides the manure in what can only be described as equal measures. He poos a lot...love him.
What will your money be spent on?
This is a really good question. I already own the land (which I paid £59,000 for). That is done, no loan or mortgage. It's mine. So no amount of funding will go towards investing in land ownership. It's already bought and owned. However, the monies raised will go towards the set up of the business. I have begged and borrowed in order to provide shelter for the animals. I have taken on pre loved decking in order to build a greenhouse. I've even taken an old shed in order to store equipment and feed. I've tried to keep costs as down as possible. My biggest expenditure was fencing and the Alpacas. The Alpacas cost me £3000.00 (in total) as did the fencing. I've split the land so that the Alpacas roam free with the pony and the other half is dedicated to the heirloom crops.
- Seeds - approximately £300.00 - this should be a one off cost as the seeds will be harvested to create next year's crops and seeds to sell online.
- Compost for seedlings. - approximately £40.00
- Seed trays. - approximately £50.00
- Greenhouse - This is essential for starting off seedlings. I have a framework already (chicken run built from old decking) that I will cover with polycarbonate sheeting. This will cost approximately £2000.00. I thought about polythene sheeting but this will be vulnerable to weather and more costly in the long run.
- Polytunnel - approximately £1600.00. This is for growing the more delicate and vulnerable crops such as peppers and tomatoes etc.
- Fencing and Holding Pen for the Alpacas. - I paid to have them sheared last year (£300.00). However, by creating a holding pen and area for £500.00, this will prove less costly in the long term as I can shear them myself.
- Rechargeable shearers. £250.00
- Road plainings for holding area - £250.00
Nice to Have
- I would like to increase the heard of Alpacas and therefore hire a stud to impregnate the girls. This is usually at a cost of around £300.00 per pregnancy = £1800.00. This will increase the fertiliser production by double and also attract visitors to site to see the Crias (baby alpacas). I will also be able to either sell the fleece or turn it into felt sheeting for an organic crop protector from frost for produce over winter.
About the People
Carey - Owner (49yrs)
I have spent most of my working life sat behind a desk feeling very frustrated at my 9 - 5 job. I knew this was not the career I wanted. It wasn't until having the children that I realised that being stuck indoors was not for me. Since having an allotment myself many years ago, I'd always planned on purchasing my own land and produce on a larger scale. I am purpose driven, focussed on an ethically and responsibly developed, sustainable business practices to win and delight today's aware customers.
Maddie - Daughter (15yrs)
Maddie is also keen on growing her own produce. So much so, that she will be attending Kingston Maurward College (based here in Dorset) to study for her Diploma in Horticulture. She is also very keen on Alpaca Husbandry too and has been a great source of support with them.
Dom - Partner (54yrs)
Dom has been an amazing support with unwavering positivity on this project. His visionary outlook and business acumen has been nothing but inspirational. Throughout his entire adult life, he's shown a constant drive for success. However, his drive is not all that sets him apart. His, creative and logical / practical mind has deemed him an incredibly paramount part of this project. He loves a challenge and nothing phases him whatsoever.
Obviously there are going to time constraints to allow for the growing season. The produce firstly needs to be grown and then the produce needs to be allowed to go to seed. The seeds will then need to be dried and packed.
The plan for the future, once the business is established is to visit local schools and get the next generation involved with growing produce and saving the seeds for next season. Organising field trips to the field to see the Alpacas and how the food we eat is grown. Encouraging schools to create their own kitchen garden and supplying them with their seeds. This produce can then be used in the school canteen for lunches. Imagine knowing that your child's school lunch is not only healthy but grown on the premises too.
By opening the site up to the general public, we encourage them to start their own kitchen garden. This will benefit those who also choose to home school their children.
Also, the Alpacas will be a huge attraction to children. They will not only be able to feed and pet them. They can also learn how to felt and spin the fleece.