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Mini-cast 169: Sow True Seed Becomes Employee Owned

Sow True Seed: North Carolina's Newest Worker Co-op

Bret Keisling celebrates Sow Tree Seed's recent conversion to a worker cooperative including a brief look at its products and mission, and why Sow True had an EO vibe before it even transitioned.


Mini-cast 169 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling, and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. It's my pleasure to share with you an exciting new worker cooperative in North Carolina and to welcome its employee owners into the EO sandbox.

[00:00:23] Sow True Seed is a garden center based in Nashville, North Carolina. In addition to its retail location, all of its seeds, as well as garden supplies and a wide variety of gifts and tools are available online. They also offer wholesaling.

[00:00:38] Sow True features open-pollinated, heirloom, and organic seeds and they have a collection of over 500 types of GMO-free vegetable, herb, and flower seeds. They carry heirloom, organic, and small farmer-grown varieties. From their website, we know that their mission is to encourage seed saving for a resilient food system and that they've been supporting food security and seed diversity since 2009.

[00:01:03] Sow True was founded in 2008 by Carol Koury, who is a lifelong gardener and food activist, in order to preserve our shared botanical heritage and grow a new era of ecological wisdom. On their website, they show their commitment to growing their awareness and actions to honor the heritage of their seeds, the diverse people and places that have contributed to their collective abundance. Sow True encourages equity in agriculture, making sure to promote all farmers' voices based in the glorious mountains of Western North Carolina. Home to a temperate rainforest, it's one of the most biologically diverse areas of North America. They proudly work with the farmers in the Katuah Bioregion who ensure the survival of heirloom varieties that would otherwise become extinct.

[00:01:48] We'll include a link to their website in our show notes and I'd encourage you to check out not just all of their great products but take a look at their "About Us" page. They include a section called our intentions and it's a pretty cool explanation of their mission broken down into five sections: sow, germinate, grow, pollinate, and save.

[00:02:07] I'm going to paraphrase here and I'm not going to do justice to the vibe of the website, so I hope you'll check it out. They want to sow a better world by seeding young minds, with excitement and enthusiasm for gardening. They want to educate because they believe every person has the potential to change and grow and they want to help provide the opportunity and skills to do so. That includes donating thousands of packets of seeds to programs that support their communities and offer free garden education. They believe through seeds we can invest in our future, because growing our own food is the most powerful way to help ourselves and the environment.

[00:02:41] They celebrate the unsung heroes, those bees, butterflies and other pollinators of the gardens. And to that end, the company offers a wide range of pollinator friendly flower and vegetable seeds to create year-round habitats.

[00:02:55] And finally, because a secure food system requires a secure seed system, home gardeners and farmers can use open-pollinated seeds that can be saved and grown true year after year, thereby decreasing dependence on big agriculture.

[00:03:10] In EO, we often say that there are many companies that have an EO vibe before they became employee owned. I get that vibe about Sow True just reading their website. It seems to me that the worker cooperative model is just about a perfect fit for the company's vibe.

[00:03:25] On its homepage they feature a lot of gifts for gardeners. There are seed collections, tools, apparels, and just about anything a gardener would want or need. Probably my favorite is their custom seed packets, which they allow customers to design themselves for their big event. The custom seed packets are affordable and earth friendly and they make great wedding favors, branded products for corporate giveaways, or gifts to friends and colleagues. This just strikes me as a really cool idea and a great way to differentiate yourself from the same old giveaways we often come across.

[00:03:56] I want to give a shout out to Anne Claire Broughton of Broughton Consulting who worked with Sow True before and after the transaction. Besides her own consulting business, Anne Claire is a founder of the North Carolina Employee Ownership Center [NCEOC], and that office has shown great success and progress in the few short years it's been open.

[00:04:14] So, congratulations to Sow True Seed and its new employee owners. Thank you to Carol Koury, the founder, for guiding the company in this direction. And to our friend Anne Claire for all the work she did, as well as the other professional advisors who helped make this a reality.

[00:04:29] I love it anytime a company becomes employee owned, but when it's as cool as Sow True Seed, I'm extra excited. I'm glad you're in the EO sandbox.

[00:04:38] Join us Tuesday for a brand-new episode on our primary EO/ESOP Podcast. You can check out all of our past archives at

[00:04:47] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.


[00:04:50] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The EsOp Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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