Accessibility links

Breaking News

AGRICULTURE REPORT – August 28, 2001: Burpee Seed Company - 2001-08-27

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

An American company famous for selling plant seeds is observing a major anniversary. The Burpee Seed Company is one-hundred-twenty-five years old.

The Burpee Company was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Eighteen-Seventy-Six. W. Atlee Burpee started the company with one-thousand dollars he borrowed from his mother. Company officials say Mister Burpee first planned to sell chickens by mail. But he soon discovered that Americans wanted seeds for vegetables, flowers and grains.

Over the years, millions of people have seen magazines that describe Burpee products and tell how to buy them. The company mails these catalogs to anyone who wants them.

The catalogs describe different kinds of crops. For example, the Burpee Company began to offer seeds for iceberg lettuce in Eighteen-Ninety-Four. It was the first kind of lettuce that remained fresh from the time farmers harvested it to the time people in the cities ate it. Farmers grow many kinds of lettuce in the United States. But iceberg lettuce is the most popular.

One reason for the Burpee Company’s success was its development of seeds. Mister Burpee traveled to Europe to collect seeds of plants not grown in the United States. Also, some farmers offered him seeds from their best crops.

In Eighteen-Eighty-Eight, Mister Burpee bought a farm near Philadelphia where he could test seeds. Twenty years later, he bought more farmland in the state of California. California’s warm climate permitted him to develop products that he could not grow on the East Coast.

The Burpee Company quickly became one of the world’s largest seed companies. By Nineteen-Fifteen, it was sending its catalogs to one-million Americans each year.

Today, the company sells seeds for more than five-hundred kinds of vegetables and more than six-hundred flowers. It also offers more than three-hundred kinds of young plants.

Ten years ago, another American business, the George J. Ball Company, purchased the Burpee Company. However, Burpee’s headquarters remain in Pennsylvania. The company still publishes catalogs of its products as it did one-hundred years ago. Many stores sell Burpee seeds. And, people with computers can buy seeds by using the Internet computer system.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.