Interview With Seth Peterson, TLM Seed Farmer
Do you ever wonder where your seeds come from? At True Leaf Market, we look for reputable and responsible sources for our seeds. These seed farms range from thousands to just a few acres. Each of these farms is run by dedicated, capable, and knowledgeable farmers. One of these farmers is Seth Peterson who oversees and runs the True Leaf Market Farm operations in Caineville, Utah. We took a few minutes to ask Seth about what it’s like to be a seed farmer. We thank Seth and all the farmers like him for what they do.
TLM: Where did you learn how to farm?
SP: First I learned from my dad and grandpa. They had a large garden and a small farm. I loved being part of it. Then when I went to college I found the biology and plant science classes to really interest me. At Utah State University I worked in on-campus greenhouses and experimental farm plots. After that, I took a job in California growing almonds and pistachios which taught me about large-scale ag operations.
TLM: How did you decide you wanted to be a seed farmer?
SP: After the pistachio and almond farm I took a job at a production nursery where I grew strawberries, raspberries, and grain crops. I saw this as something I could one day do on my own back home.
TLM: How long have you been farming?
SP: I have been professionally farming for 17 years, but I drove my first tractor when I was 8. So, a while.
TLM: How many people are in your crew?
SP: My crew is sort of whoever I can get. The main and most regular crew includes 6 people. It’s mostly my kids, nephews, nieces, sometimes a few friends of their friends, and a couple of my old high school friends. Plus my sister! Because of the families’ schedules, I am sometimes down to zero and sometimes up to 14. I joke that it’s Uncle Seth’s troubled youth camp. We turn bad kids into good kids by making them pull weeds all day. But actually, they are very good workers and I really appreciate their help.
TLM: What are your typical work hours? What is a typical work day like?
SP: Start at 7:00 and finish at 4:00 for the crew. Then I often work longer checking the water and status of the crops.
TLM: How many acres are you farming this year?
SP: About 40 acres directly. Then we have some contracted acres with a few other growers in the area bringing it up to around 150 total acres in Utah.
TLM: What crops are you planting this year?
TLM: How do you keep all of your different crops straight?
SP: I use maps and written records. I try to not put similar-looking varieties next to each other. We also use signs on each row to mark different crops.
TLM: How does farming for seed differ from farming for produce?
SP: When farming for seed it’s important to keep the varieties separate. We have to be concerned about how it’s pollinated and how much space it needs from possible outside pollen. Weed-free seeds are also very important. Disease problems and plants that are not true to type need to be eliminated.
TLM: What are some challenges to farming? How do you overcome those challenges?
SP: Weeds are a constant battle. We have used more plastic mulch and drip this year to reduce the weeding requirements. We have also invested in some specialized tools to get the weeds between the plastic rows.
Water Quality is also a problem for us. But the quality we are talking about is how much sediment is in the water. The ditch diverts from the river about 6 miles away and by the time it gets to us, there hasn’t been enough settling of the rains that have caused flooding in the desert and washed sediment into the river.
Labor is short. We have found help with high school-aged kids but they have school during planting season and harvest season.
Equipment is always breaking down or not exactly the way we need it to. Some of this comes with experience… like workers' ability to drive straight rows. A GPS system would really change things from planting to cultivation.
TLM: What brings you joy in farming?
SP: I love when the planning and organizing all start to come together to make multiple functions run at the same time and support each other. I also love when the crop is ready to harvest and all the results from the hard work are now visible. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables in the field is also a pretty great part. This is especially a fun tradition we like to do with the watermelons. There’s nothing like a watermelon bust in the field. I find joy in sharing the crop with others so they can enjoy it as well.
TLM: What are a few of your hopes and dreams for your farm?
SP: I hope to provide a few steady local jobs that could allow someone else to be able to choose to move back home. Our county has not had any population growth for at least 10 years. Part of this is jobs. I want to one day have the business running steady and be able to give my kids the option to stay around if they would like to.
We know the source of all of our seeds at True Leaf Market matters. Because of dedicated farmers like Seth, we feel confident that all the seeds we sell come from excellent origins and therefore have the best chance for success.