The story of Petcher Seeds begins on a farm, of course. But the passion for their products goes beyond an agricultural background. It’s a pioneer spirit that unites Petcher Seeds with fellow farmers; A pioneer spirit that aims to proceed and progress until we can feed America, together.
That pioneer spirit took Richard and Steven Petcher’s parents to Africa as missionaries, providing medical care to the less fortunate in Nigeria. The brothers would never forget what they witnessed: The realization that there were children their own age, who faced hunger and malnutrition on a daily basis.
Feeding America and feeding the world is a lofty goal, and one that no one company can tackle alone. But Petcher Seed was founded upon the premise that good agronomic practice could make farm production easier, cheaper and healthier. Those goals led Richard Petcher to promote Sunn Hemp, a cover crop that has swept the nation thanks to his energy. With continued growth in the use of cover crops such as Sunn Hemp, his dream of feeding the world is becoming more realistic.
Long before he discovered Sunn Hemp, Richard Petcher took both his dreams and his pioneering spirit to Alaska. His grandparents both farmed—one pair in Pennsylvania and the other in Alabama. That instinct stayed in his blood, and he soon began work managing a farm in Southeast Alaska. One day, considering what he would do in case of a traumatic injury, Richard decided that he should pursue a degree in agronomy just in case.
That, and his desire to learn more and push the field forward, led him back to Alabama and Auburn University, one of the finest agricultural institutions in the United States. It was a fateful decision on his part, and his passion for the field allowed him to remain at the university as an agronomist.
His research, alongside Alabama farmers, would ignite the spark his dream to feed the world needed.
The USDA declared that Sunn Hemp was an excellent option for cover crops, with countless benefits for agricultural use...in 1931.
Nearly 70 years later, Richard Petcher wondered why no one had taken them up on it. His research proved that the crop was indispensable in producing natural fertilizer, restoring poor soil, mining soil for nutrients, suppressing weeds, and adding drought tolerance to the crops that came after it. It seemed to be a cure-all, and nations such as Brazil had already embraced the plant.
One problem was cost. The price per-acre for establishing Sunn Hemp was $200 in 2010, because it was simply difficult to find in the U.S. Richard wasn’t in a position to import and sell the plant, as it would create a conflict of interest due to his role at a public university.
Fortunately, his boss—Dr. Paul Mask—saw the bigger picture and encouraged Richard to seize the bull by the horns.
“We’re holding you back,” Richard recalls being told.
Petcher Seeds is Founded
Richard began Petcher Seeds in 2011 to promote Sunn Hemp and other cover crop blends, using his experience as a county agricultural extension agent to understand the needs of, and collaborate with, farmers in Alabama. He worked to find find how his products could make their lives easier, and their processes cheaper.
“Pioneering is not a one-company, nor a one-farmer job. The problems that farmers face are national and global ones, and collaboration is the only way to find a solution to problems this big.”
- Richard Petcher
Steven Petcher joined the Petcher Seeds team full-time in 2014, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge from his background as a veterinarian. His expertise with cattle and other large livestock has been invaluable with analyzing Sunn Hemp and other crops for their value as nutritious forage.
Together with pioneering farmers, Petcher Seeds is well on its way to making Sunn Hemp the cover crop of the future, and the present. Seven years after his first cost estimate, planting an acre of Sunn Hemp is down nearly 85 percent, to $30 per-acre. And the number of acres planted has grown from a measly 10,000 acres in 2010 to more than 100,000 acres now. We’re even happier to meet and collaborate with the many farmers and fellow seed companies who share our vision.
We would love to have you join the revolution. All of us together, feeding America.