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Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
           Saturday, January 18th, 2020
                Volume 29 Issue 2

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 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   This Organic Week:  A Milestone For the Good Food Movement.

      Winter in Maine, midway through a now cold January we note we have passed a milestone.  Our friend and colleague, Rob Johnston, founder of Johnny’s Selected Seeds here in Maine retired this week.  The event represents a clear milestone and allows a time for reflection about how far the Good Food Movement has come in recent decades.  The accompanying Downeast Magazine article provides good back ground to Rob and his iconic company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds which now enters a new era.

       Today we wrote the article below and it is posted on the new and improved Wood Prairie Blog.

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
Click here for the Wood Prairie Family Farm Home Page.


     Rob Johnston, Founder of Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

After 47 Years Founder Rob Johnston Retires from ‘Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

     In 1973, 22-year-old Rob Johnston began his seed venture on a farm in New Hampshire.  Two years later he moved his nascent operation to Ben & Ariel Wilcox’s organic  Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont, Maine.  That move began Rob’s and Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ enduring and uninterrupted deep commitment to Maine.  Over the decades Rob became a respected seed breeder, organic farmer and business entrepreneur.  Johnny’s pioneering dive into supplying the seed needs of heretofore neglected small vegetable farmers was both revolutionary and profitable.  It is no exaggeration to say that Johnny’s was instrumental in helping fuel the future local food movement.

     We purchased our first seed from Rob in 1975.  Thirty years ago we sold our first organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes to Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  For most of the twenty-five years Jim served on the MOFGA Certification Committee beginning in the mid 1980s, he worked with Rob who was Chair.

     In the early 2000s, after great success had been achieved and as Johnny’s was ramping up towards yet more significant growth – and vastly increased administrative responsibilities – Rob decided it was time to sell the company.  In a move which offered insight into Rob’s integrity and his commitment to Maine and his loyal co-workers, he attached to the sale the requirement that Johnny’s MUST not be moved away from Maine.  This stipulation in effect created a poison pill and dissuaded interested competitors from afar who would have loved to have acquired Johnny’s and roll its iconic title into a distant portfolio.  In time the best option floated to the surface and that was to initiate an employee buyout.  In a very involved and painstaking procedure, that ownership transition began in 2006 and was successfully completed in 2012.  Johnny’s Selected Seeds is now a 100% employee-owned company and offers substantial benefits to its employee-owners. In the years during and since the employee-ownership transition, Rob has continued working, breeding and guiding Johnny's.  The last figure we heard a few years ago is that Johnny’s annual sales were at that time $42 Million.

     Tuesday was Rob’s last day as he officially ended duties and stepped down from the Board of Directors. Tuesday evening a celebratory tribute for Rob and his legacy was held at Thomas College in Waterville.  Caleb and Jim attended.  So did one hundred Johnny’s employees, also Johnny’s Board members (including Agrarian Elders Norbert Kungl and Jack Algiere), and Johnny’s Tool Inventors/Advisors Agrarian Elders Eliot Coleman & Barbara Damrosch.  Also in attendance was Peacemeal Farm’s Ben Wilcox who in later years had become a Johnny’s employee.

     Rob and his wife, Janika Eckert (as well an accomplished seed breeder), own a house in France and have been spending increasing amounts of time there.  They also share intensive bicycling as another passion enjoyed together.  This article in ‘Downeast Magazine’ offers good background on Rob and his phenomenal achievements with Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Well-respected in the seed industry, Rob leaves behind quite a legacy.

Click Here for our Organic Wood Prairie Family Farm Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.


Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox