Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: January 10, 2022 2022 Economic Forecast

2022 Forecast: Johnny’s Selected Seeds plants optimism for economic growth

From David Mehlhorn’s vantage point as CEO of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, the seed industry and the economy offer reasons for optimism. Everything just needs a little extra planning and effort.

PHOTO / Courtesy of Johnny’s Seeds
David Mehlhorn, CEO of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, says more people have started gardens during the pandemic.

Catering to small and mid-sized commercial farmers, as well as avid home gardeners, Johnny’s Seeds has fared well during the pandemic. Small and mid-sized farmers weren’t significantly hit by pandemic woes, and home gardeners actually got more enthusiastic about gardening as they worked from home, moved out of large, urban areas and paid more attention to their food, gardens and yards.

“We’re optimistic about that segment in particular,” Mehlhorn says. “It may settle down some, but it won’t settle down to pre-pandemic levels.”

People’s growing interest in the source of their food and in shopping locally has helped small and mid-sized farms. While there has been significant interest in those topics in the Northeast and along the West Coast for a long time, that interest is growing in parts of the country where it wasn’t a topic of conversation 15 to 20 years ago, Mehlhorn says.

Although some farmers were hurt by the pandemic closure of restaurants, those that were able to increase their home deliveries or community support agriculture contributions did well.

“Farmers got industrious and survived pretty well,” Mehlhorn says.

Even though its key customer segments did well despite the pandemic, Mehlhorn says operating a business in Maine still can be tough.

“Almost every commercial you hear on the radio is for employment. Everyone is hiring and having trouble finding people,” Mehlhorn says. “We tend to do well retaining workers once we get them in the door. We have a unique, positive culture and we’re employee-owned. We’re a mission-based company. The goal of the business is to help friends and family feed one another. So if the sensibilities match up, people tend to stay. It’s finding them that’s hard.”

In addition to hiring, Johnny’s Seeds has also had to navigate supply chain problems. Mehlhorn said people tend to think of supply chain problems as container ships stuck in a port. But the reality is that there are labor shortages and pandemic-related problems worldwide.

“We have tools that are made in France. They had a shut down. That delays things. Seeds that need inspecting at the USDA get delayed because of staffing,” Mehlhorn says. “Supply chain issues have been affecting life for a year and a half. We saw all of this developing at the beginning of the pandemic and we knew it would be difficult and stay difficult for a while. We planned for it very well.”

The outlook for Johnny’s Seeds looks bright, Mehlhorn says. The trendy crops this year: crunchy lettuces and local flowers native to each region.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF