100% Michigan Grown Staple Crop Seeds that Empower Your Plant-based Lifestyle Goals

Our Answers to Your Questions

Why am I getting an error?!?

We are closed for the season to seed orders until late August / early September for our fall-planted grain inventory available after harvest and processing.

Why do you seasonally close?

We are truly a family business. Each and every seed is grown by us. Each and every facet of Great Lakes Staple Seeds, from growing the crops for seeds to website maintenance to order fulfillment is accomplished by just two people with one of us having a full-time, off-farm job. Seasonal closures allow us to focus on the important behind-the-scenes tasks of seed production while maintaining some semblance of sanity. I do list alternative sources for your consideration on my Community page.

You are open after a seasonal closure but your inventory isn't fully updated yet?

Yes, that is probably the case and it stems from society's unfortunate "instant gratification" mindset. Yes, I am fully aware there are companies that are open year-round with their full catalog available 24/7. Those companies typically are larger, with operational teams that consist of more than just two people. "Team Great Lakes Staple Seeds" truly is just two people and a LOT goes on behind the scenes before you can click "add to cart" on a seed listing. Our opening date is chosen in response to the urgency of wanting seeds "now now now!" since other companies are offering their seeds now and not because the site is completely updated. I do recognize this is source of frustration if you place an order and discover later there are varieties that are newly added or that have had their inventories updated. It's a balance between expediency and maintaining sanity in a stressful resumption of orders and I mean no inconvenience.

But I live in [insert warm climate location] and can plant now!

Well, we are GREAT LAKES seeds for a reason! Perhaps you'd consider starting a seed company for your region. We'll gladly offer our help as mentors as this is how we started. That and as mentioned above, I do list alternative sources for your consideration on my Community page.

So why don't you have outside help?

Well, when people are already upset our prices are "too high", hiring someone would require the addition of a rather large budget item that is not supported by our current cash flow. To maintain any slim sliver of profitability, adding an employee would necessitate higher prices, which isn't a popular idea. What about interns and volunteers you ask? Well, finding reliable, interested, trustworthy agricultural help is way more difficult than imagined.

Wow, your seeds are expensive!

Not really when you consider purchasing a seed pack from Great Lakes Staple Seeds is an investment in your personal future food security. All our seeds are open-pollinated which means with a bit of intention, you can save your own seeds from what you plant and never have to buy that variety from us again. Recently I purchased a one pound bag of pretzels - retail price $4.75. This whim, like many other routine purchases represents a one-time, disposable event; once I've eaten the pretzels, what do I have left but an empty bag. Open-pollinated seeds, whether sourced from us or from other small-scale producers, represent an investment that could last a life-time - after all, what is an heirloom but a variety that was passed from generation to generation.

Why are many of your varieties marked "Unavailable"?

We are a small-scale seed producer that grows every seed we sell, unlike most seed companies which distribute bulk or contract grown seed, in addition to their own grown stock. Our inventory is fixed and available first-come, first served. Once our seed stock is depleted, we are sold out for the season. Due to the overwhelming increase in demand for seeds and the popularity of our varieties, our inventory tends to sell out quickly, even before many begin garden planning. 2021 brought over 42,000 NEW visitors to our site. Just 1% of those new users placing an order meant over 420 NEW customers ordering our seeds. We just are not big enough to accommodate that volume in demand. If you are interested in a variety marked unavailable, please email us for suggestions on a similar variety.

What happened to all your cool beans?!?

Great Lakes Staple Seeds began literally on a "let's give it a try" whim in late fall of 2017 meaning we only had what we had grown that season to offer as inventory. At that time many of the beans I grew were more because they were pretty and I was interested in developing a pretty bean collection. Since then, and especially in light of the pandemic and now increasing global conflict, my goals have evolved. I am still enthralled by the stories of so many bean varieties and such but my focus has shifted to varieties that are Great Lakes region specific. The recent turmoils reinforce the importance of locally sourced seeds for community and personal food security and I believe it worthwhile to maintain varieties that are connected to our wonderful region. This doesn't mean that I'll never offer the "old" beans again, it just means they are not priority in the grow-out rotation schedule, and are safely tucked away in our mini seed vault until their time again in the gardens arrives.

Do you offer gift certificates?

Unfortunately the behind-the-scenes legal requirements of gift cards are such they present a liability too great for us, preventing us from implementing their issue. Perhaps, though in time this will change and if so we will announce the change on our homepage and on our Facebook page. Regardless, thank you for your interest in our seeds!

Wow, why is your shipping fee is so high?

When you shop at a brick and mortar store, do you expect the store to pay for your gas? Of course not. To remain a viable business, I charge a "shipping" fee. This charge recovers the fees assessed me (postage and electronic payment transaction fees) and covers the cost of the packaging and shipping materials. In most cases the amount charged is not enough to cover all these components. I am not that large a business I can afford to absorb these costs nor do I believe it right to hide "free shipping" through increased packet prices. I promise you I in no way profit from the "shipping" fee. As an interesting aside - apparently shipping fees were even an issue in 1889!

Peter Henderson & Co. 1889 catalog entry regarding shipping

I live in Hawaii - why can't I place an order?

Unfortunately due to Hawaii: Summaries of Exterior Quarantines I do not ship to Hawaii.

Do you ship to an international address?

If there is no stated restriction against shipping seeds into your country, I am willing to ship. For more information please see International Shipping, Shipping to Canada, or our NO SHIP Country List. Please note I do NOT have an export license or plant health certificates.

Well, why don't you have an export license or the ability to offer a phytosanitary certificate?

We are just too small a company that the ability to meet these requirements is well beyond our budget.

I am ordering for a Michigan tax-exempt organization, what do I need to do?

Please email me with your state tax ID and create an account. I can then mark the account tax-exempt.

Where is your merch?!?

Great Lakes Staple Seeds is a seed company - our "merch" is both our seeds, each lovingly grown on our southeast Michigan homestead, and our educational outreach material, including our extensive Digital Resources Collection, to enable your success meeting your plant-based lifestyle goals. At this time we don't feel the need to dilute our focus with non-seed inventory.

Seriously?! Where are your "Survival Seed" kits?!

In this unsettled era, it appears increasingly popular to offer these "survival seed" kits but no, I will never offer a survival seed kit. We are all different - from our knowledge and experience level, to our location, to our eating preferences and wants & needs. I honestly believe a "feel-good-but-possibly-impractical one-size-actually-DOESN'T-fit-most" survival seed kit plays on a fear of uncertainty to make a sale. That and I firmly believe the best preparation for a future "survival situation" is active participation NOW in growing your own food. If you are truly looking for varieties to increase your personal food security and want suggestions, please shoot us an email at [Seeds at GreatLakesStapleSeeds dot com] - we'd love to have a conversation on this very relevant topic.

Dude, where's yer Bohdi or Blue Dream?

Dude. Wrong website. Really. Different company.

I am not finding your position statement on < insert social issue here >?

And you won't. Essential to our existence, seeds are apolitical. Everyone has the right to grow their own food and create their own seed stock. An increasingly polarized society suggests people exercise their right of choice and only support businesses that reflect the agreed upon "correct" position on an issue be it political, social, or religious, rejecting those holding positions deemed "objectionable." So, as this works, the collective "you" get to pass judgement on me for issues totally irrelevant to seeds, their cultivation, and their stewardship; however, should I not then get to refuse sales to those who hold personal positions counter to my own? It'd be fair, right? But how can I know your beliefs? Am I to institute a required questionnaire and screen potential customers? Of course not. Regardless of our personal beliefs, seeds are an integral part of our shared humanity; and no, I will not post position statements, no matter how trendy.

What?!? You pack your seeds in plastic zipper bags?!?

Yes, we pack our seeds in 4-mil LDPE zipper bags - intentionally. Why? Several reasons - first it allows you to easily view your seeds without opening the pack. Packs are easy to open, and more importantly easily re-sealed. Plastic offers protection against moisture and bugs. Most importantly the bags are versatile and are re-usable after you've planted the last seed. Along those lines, they enable you to package your own properly dried, saved seeds as you create your personal seed stock.

What?! You don't carry zucchini?!***

No, I currently do not carry zucchini or other summer squashes. (*** ETA: Okay, so I now offer a zucchini. At Scott's request, we've added Costata Romanesco Zucchini, and I admit I am glad we did!) Our focus is on staple crops that extend the nutritional value of our gardens into fall and winter that are stored in the pantry without the need of energy inputs. While it is possible to eat immature winter squash (mentioned in a variety's description if possible), I cannot store a zucchini on the shelf without canning or dehydrating. That and I absolutely love winter squash on a blustery Michigan day and have enough trouble as it is deciding which varieties to plant each year in my already limited space. Another biggie for me is that most summer squash belong to the Curcurbita pepo group which is the same group of many my beloved winter squash. If I grew zucchini it would be one more variety of squash I need to hand-pollinate to keep the seeds true to type and my playing bee routine is already pretty full... Please see our Community page for a list of great seed companies that do offer summer squash.

How do you select your varieties?

We grow varieties based on several criteria.

  • First they need to grow successfully and produce a sustainable quantity of viable seed with little attention from us within our 145ish frost free days.
  • Next they must be good eatin' or serve a useful purpose – why grow something we don't enjoy eating or that isn't useful to us.
  • A third criteria is versatility – crops with multiple ways of preparing them maximize use of our garden space. Consideration three and a half is also related to versatility, the variety must preserve well through multiple methods with as minimal energy requirements as possible.
  • A fourth important aspect is history or story – is the variety culturally or personally significant, does it have a story to share.

Why so many beans?

Why not? Mother Nature provides us with a diverse and wonderful abundance of beautiful beans that are not only easy to grow but are flavorful, nutritious, versatile and easy to preserve / store. Also, it is important to us that we do our part to preserve open-pollinated varieties at a time where the large corporate seed companies are dropping them in favor of hybrids and patented varieties. And don't forget the captivating stories! So many beans are associated with people and places from our past and yet they allow us a common connection with the present and future. So please, explore & enjoy these fabulous Fabaceae!

Why do you include Latin names?

Latin names tell us to which groups a plant belongs. Knowing how a plant is grouped helps us harvest seeds that are "pure" or true to type. Mixed Cornfield Bean and Kurzer's Calico Traveler Lima both belong to the bean family. Both are in the large genus group Phaseolus but they are in smaller, different species groups. Kurzer's is in the lunatus species and Mixed Cornfield is in the vulgaris species. Because the beans do not share the same species, they will not cross-pollinate. If they are the only two beans we grow, the seeds we harvest in the fall are "pure".

How do you keep all your varieties from crossing?

The key to keeping plants from crossing is knowing their species. If plants do not share the same species, we don't have to worry about cross-pollination. Some species we only grow one variety a season. Others we can grow many varieties if we use different commonly accepted methods for commercial seed production, alone or in combination, such as isolation by distance, barrier crops, isolation by maturity dates; hand-pollination or use of blossom-bags. While we do actively plan and work to reduce cross-pollination events, Mother Nature may have other plans. We regularly practice techniques central to stewarding a variety by identifying and roguing out plants that do not meet varietal traits. Please see the Seed Saving page for more information.

You are a seed company, why do you want us to save our own seeds?

Honestly, simply, the best seeds for your garden come from your garden. Saving the seeds from your garden fosters self-reliance and sustainability as each season seeds adapt to the micro-climate that is your garden. That and humans have been saving and sharing seeds and their stories for millennia - it is a vital part of our collected culture. Let us add new varieties to your garden, but by all means, please save and share your seeds.

My package shows you spent only $3.50 to ship my order. Why did you charge me more than that for shipping?

As indicated on our Important Details page, the "Shipping" fee includes fees associated with processing your credit card or PayPal payment in addition to actual postage and shipping materials. Some companies hide their costs in their packet prices, I believe it is more fair to my customers to recover some of my costs through a one time "shipping fee". I am not making a profit on shipping fees.

Do you donate seeds?

While we at Great Lakes Staple Seeds support community food pantry gardens and seed libraries, the overwhelming increased interest in donated seeds far outstrips our ability to fulfill requests beyond those local projects we currently sponsor. For the foreseeable future, we are not able to accept new donation requests.

Do you trade seeds?

I am open to trading seeds if they are ones of interest to me. I am primarily interested in open-pollinated staple crops suitable for growing in Michigan, especially legumes and grains. I am specifically interested in Robert Lobitz varieties, John Hartman varieties, and Ralph Stevenson varieties. Varieties with some significance to Michigan and/or the Great Lakes region, and Slow Food Ark of Taste varieties are also of interest. I look for large enough quantities (at least 20 seeds for legumes) to ensure healthy genetics. I send seeds in a protective mailer with tracking id and request similar for seeds sent. If this is of interest to you, please send me your list of available seeds and let's chat! (or find me on Facebook...)

How many seeds do I need for a plot [this sized]?

Well, it depends, but as a starting point for grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and triticale, we present this table:

How many seeds to plant this space?

Over the winter, we'll tabulate different square inches per plant depending on which grain it is.  This table assumes you will 'drop' one seed per 4 inches along the row, with 9 inches between rows. 

Updated 2024 April 10