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Farmer John

Farmer John Sustainable Seed CompanyEnvironmental Planner turned Food Activist and Farmer

A new breed of “rurbanista” farmers are taking up the mantle of seed preservation and flocking to rural areas to grow food. Sustainable Seed Company founder, John Fendley, is one of these pioneers.

Born in Texas, John grew up eating seasonally from his grandmother’s garden.  From her he learned the "secrets" to feeding a family of seven: grow your own food.  And the sFarmer John sampling heirloom wheat seeds sustainable seed coeed of his belief that organic, home grown food should be available to people of all backgrounds was planted. 

John came to agriculture through his experience in historical preservation. He traveled to Central America where he collected and grew seeds, which instilled an awareness that a global sensibility to seed preservation was the key to food security. He discovered that culture, American roots and global migration can be traced though food, feeding his passion to tell the story of seeds. 

So in 2008, he left corporate America and started The Sustainable Seed Company with the mission to grow and preserve as much organic, open-pollinated heirloom seed as possible.

Each year, John receives hundreds of heirloom seeds from gardeners around the world hoping to save them from extinction. He traces the seed history and verifies historic varieties by referring to his collection of century-old seed catalogs, which he treats like a research archive. Seeds are then trialed on the farm; through this process Fendley has been successful at bringing many heirloom varieties back into circulation.  This is his passion and his mission.  

His other mission is sustainability.  Powered by 90% renewable green energy, the farm in Covello, CA was an example of the future of sustainable farming.  He hopes to be able to take it even further at the new Chico, CA location.  

Today, Sustainable Seed Company offers more than 1,800 varieties of heirloom and organic seeds, and John stands as a symbol of the changing nature of farming, where farmers come out of the field to contribute to the food-obsessed American discourse.

The red barn and pitchfork have come a long way.

View pictures of John and the farm here


Comments on Farmer John

Nikki 03-03-2014 06:52 AM
Saw you on foodcrafters, never knew there was so much to know about seeds.. You are definitely the most dapper farmer I have ever seen! You have inspired me to start growing something.
Rudolf Reitz 05-09-2011 10:13 AM
Hi FJ,

thats a great story, especially the fact that you started so early... you should have green sprouting out of your ears by now!

I discovered my love for a greenhouse and nursing plants just a year ago (and back then I was already 57 years young.)

Keep up the good work, I am growing a variety of you seed as we 'speak'.

And thank you for doing what you are doing.

Best regards,

Mr. McGregor
bkptroy 05-06-2011 04:59 PM
I just saw your company featured on foodcrafters. You are so handsome.

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