Charlie Hart from Hart's Seeds
We talked with 4th generation seedsman Charlie Hart and learned why his family business has thrived for over 120 years, when so many others have gone the way of the Ford Edsel. Here is his story:
Hartís business model is twofold.
Hartís has two divisions:
1. The wholesale division supplies dealers, seed companies, and farmers with bulk vegetable and flower seeds. It also supplies the turf market with equipment, materials, and seeds.
2. The packet seed division assembles displays of seed packets for retail sales, and keeps them well stocked.
Seeds are sold to individual gardeners through retail outlets, and via The Online Greenhouse, accessible from Hartís website.
The business remains all in the family.
Charlie Hart started by sweeping the floors, learning every phase of the seed business from the bottom up. His great-grandfather, Charles C. Hart, started Hartís Seeds in 1892, and passed it down to his sons. The four sons, in turn, each selected a family member to be involved. ďMy father was one of four cousins who ran the business,Ē Charlie
explained. ďOver the years, every kid in the Hart family has worked in the company for some period of time. Now that Iíve retired, my two sons manage different parts of the business, and my 16-year old grandson has just started to work at Hartís. Jim Harris, the company president, is a 4th generation relative by marriage.Ē
Hartís rocks the Cradle!
Just as the Hart family is entrenched in the seed business, their hometown of Wethersfield, Connecticut is steeped in the seed tradition. Known as the ďCradle of American Seed Companies,Ē the town was home to seven different seed companies for a period of time in the 19th century. Good management, a strategy for succession, and a strong family work
ethic (Hartís grandfather and great uncle stayed active in the business into their 90s) enabled Hartís to thrive as others consolidated or otherwise lost their identities.
Hartís believes in giving back to the community.
As a venerable elder in the seed industry, Hartís has played a part in shaping it. The business is a founding member of the Home Garden Seed Association and the Atlantic Seed Association, and remains an active participant in these and multiple other trade and marketing groups. It is the Hart familyís way to take an active role in community affairs,
and do its part to ensure that the entire seed industry thrives.
Charlieís words of wisdom:
ďEverything evolves,Ē Charlie replied when I asked him how Hartís has maintained its success for five generations (and counting). ďAt one time the competition was mostly from other seed companies of similar size, and government regulations were much looser. We produced some of our own seed, which gave us a competitive advantage.Ē In the modern seed
business much of the production happens overseas, and Hartís prospers by knowing the industry inside and out, keeping abreast of regulations, and providing great customer service.