Seeds from Italy was started in 2001 by Bill McKay, a dedicated gardener and cook, because he couldn't find the Italian vegetable varieties he wanted to grow.
By luck, he happened upon Franchi Seeds, Italy's oldest family-owned seed company, which offers an extensive selection of traditional Italian varieties. Franchi didn't have an agent in the U.S., so Bill started importing the seeds and reselling them. For the next decade, Seeds from Italy grew rapidly under Bill's enthusiastic ownership. You can watch Bill on the Martha Stewart Show talking about his favorite Italian vegetables.
In 2011, Bill decided he was ready to retire. He sold the business to Dan Nagengast, a long-time market gardener in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to growing vegetables and flowers for local markets, Dan was director of the Kansas Rural Center, a nonprofit that advocates for
sustainable agriculture and family farms. The Lawrence Journal World wrote about Dan taking over the business and posted a video interview that you can watch here.
Dan is married to Lynn Byczynski, the founder and publisher of Growing for Market, a national periodical for market farmers, and the author of several farming and gardening books, including The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. The couple's young adult children also work in the business; Will, who finished college in 2011, is handling the company's social media program, and Laurel, who started college in 2011, helps with graphics and the website.
Will, Laurel, Lynn and Dan, under the Tuscan sun, June 2011.
Dan and Lynn are growing Franchi Seeds on their small farm, Wild Onion Farm, with help from Dan Phelps and Cole Cottin, a young couple who are growing vegetables for farmers markets, restaurants, and a CSA. We will keep you posted on the results of these trials with the Review feature on this website. We hope you'll use Reviews to contribute your experiences with Franchi vegetables, too. Bill McKay will continue to provide expert advice for a while, so don't hesitate to email with questions for him. Please use the Contact Us link above.
Finally, we would be remiss to not mention the other valuable members of our team: Penny, who warmly welcomes all visitors (except deer), and Gracie and Tiger, who intimidate the mice but are really quite softhearted.
Everyone here at Seeds from Italy thanks you for your business and hopes your crops will be robust, plentiful, and delicious!
About Franchi Seeds
In 1783 (the year the American Revolution ended) Giovanni Franchi started selling seeds around the market squares of Parma from his horse-drawn cart. The company is still in the same family 229 years later, with Giampiero Franchi at the helm and modern facilities in Bergamo, near Milan. Franchi Sementi (Sementi is the Italian word for Seeds) is a family-owned business that is not affiliated with any other seed company.
Franchi Sementi is so much more than just packaged vegetable seeds; it’s a story of tradition, pride, experience, quality, and excellence handed down over seven generations.
(At right, Seeds from Italy owner Dan Nagengast shares a laugh with Giampiero Franchi at the Franchi Seeds offices in Italy.)
Franchi carries a large selection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, including an ever-growing number of certified-organic seed. Most are open-pollinated heirlooms that have been passed down through generations because of their great flavor. Franchi offers seeds from every region of Italy, helping to preserve the regionality of Italian cuisine. That's why you'll find, for example, 17 varieties of green zucchini — so that every regional specialty can be served.
Franchi caters to backyard gardeners and small farmers while maintaining the highest professional standards. Every batch of seed is tested to ensure it exceeds germination standards. Seed is stored in climate-controlled rooms to maintain its viability. Varieties are regularly grown in trial gardens outside the warehouse to be sure they are correctly named and consistent; the photo below shows a small portion of the trial gardens.
Franchi buys 70% of its seed from Italian farmers. Someone from the company visits those farmers regularly to ensure the seed crops are healthy and quality standards are observed. The small percentage of seeds that are not purchased from known contractors are grown out in the trial gardens to ensure their quality.
Franchi seed packets are big and beautiful! The amount of seed is always generous, making them a great value for the price. Packets have full-color photos on the front and descriptions in multiple languages on the reverse. We add an English-language label with growing instructions, too. Most important, Franchi seeds grow strong, healthy plants that will give you delicious food and beautiful flowers.
Grow Italian and taste the difference!