The Oldest Continuously Operated Seed Company in America
Poised for its Third Century of Service
Today, Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., based in Mansfield, Missouri announced the addition of Comstock, Ferre & Co, the oldest continuously operated seed company in the United States, to its agriculture-related pure seed initiatives dedicated to preserving gardening traditions passed down through the generations.
Founded in 1820 by James Lockwood Belden as the Wethersfield Seed Company in Wethersfield, Connecticut,
the company was later renamed Comstock, Ferre after the new owners. This company established the region around Hartford as a premier supplier of seeds for an entire nation and was responsible for the worldwide demand for the Wethersfield Red Onion, which has become an honored icon for the Town of Wethersfield.
Located in the Historic District of Wethersfield, Comstock, Ferre is surrounded by splendid, meticulously maintained homes representing several important periods in American history. Just across the street from Comstock, the First Church of Christ stands on the site where George Washington attended church in 1781. Less than a block away, General Washington and Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau planned the final victory over the British to end the American Revolution in triumph. The Historic District boasts over 150 structures built before 1850. The town itself dates back to 1634.
In harmony with the District and the historic flavor of the seed company itself, the new owners will operate the business as if it were 1820 all over again. Employees will dress in authentic 19th century costumes. Wherever possible, the outward appearances of the modern era will be hidden to be more compatible with the 200-year-old tradition.
Jere Gettle and his family are dedicated to preserving this business by maintaining the historical buildings and their rich seed heritage, as well as the traditions that were such a part of the fabric of life in the 19th Century. The former owner and the Town of Wethersfield were concerned that the buildings not be turned into a modern development, so they were pleased that the Gettle family committed to revive this near-museum of heirloom seeds and historic agriculture. Says Jere Gettle, “We hope to develop this into an East Coast garden and farm educational center. With nearly two acres, we have plenty of room for such events. We also believe this will grow into a green- and agro- tourism destination, thus benefiting the surrounding community and its economic and environmental vitality.”
Gettle went on to say, “With Connecticut having the highest rate of decrease in farmland in the nation—losing some 7,000 acres per year to development— our historic company hopes to help reverse this trend, with the help of thousands of gardeners and farmers.”
As always, Comstock, Ferre will offer its traditional brand of heirloom garden seeds through in-store sales, and will soon offer catalogs and online ordering. The store will also offer the Baker Creek brand of heirloom seeds, which is firmly established as one of the most trusted suppliers of open-pollinated, pure and natural, non-GMO seeds. The company intends to build on that reputation in concert with the Comstock, Ferre & Co. tradition. Another goal is to investigate the feasibility of re-establishing the Wethersfield Red Onion as a major variety, as well as working with local suppliers to offer seeds, gifts, plants, natural products, handmade arts and crafts, and food items.
Comstock, Ferre, & Co. will continue into its third century of service with a renewed dedication to green, sustainable gardening, while blending harmoniously with the surrounding community.
Read the story from the front page of the Hartford Courant. (America’s Oldest Paper)