Seed business cast wide via Internet
By Jack Sullivan
FARGO, N.D. A visit to his brother-in-law's central North Dakota farm and a little quick math gave Gordon Moe an idea for a business enterprise: selling sunflower seeds over the Internet.
"I saw an opportunity where a person could go directly from the farmer to the consumer," said Moe, a Web site developer in Hawley, Minn. He teamed up with Dan Ecker, a sunflower farmer in Grandin, N.D., to launch eBirdseed.com.
Moe said his brother-in-law, Jerry Thorson, had told him he sells 50 pounds of sunflower seeds from his farm for about $4. The same amount packaged as birdseed sells for at least three times as much.
Moe saw opportunity and decided he needed a partner who knew farming. In stepped Ecker through a family connection.
The two, who met in February, are taking four orders per day and expect to more than double that by next year.
They have shipped to 42 states, Moe said, but not to any neighbors in North Dakota. He conceded that someone who can drive to an elevator and buy a 50-pound bag of sunflowers for less than $5 might not understand eBirdseed.com's $48 price tag.
"The people living in Staten Island don't have that luxury," Moe said. "But they do have the money."
Moe and Ecker buy sunflowers from Agway and Red River Commodities in Fargo. They make their own mixes as well as reselling some.
The company received a $17,850 marketing grant from the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, and are overhauling the Web site to add suggested seed mixes to attract different species of birds in different regions.
"We're not driving expensive cars yet, but the business model is working," Moe said.