Joseph Harris came from England where he had
trained in experimental farming. He settled on a farm in the town of
Gates, west of Rochester, New York in 1849. Harris bought the Genesee
Farmer from James Vick in 1856 and had
a widely popular column called “Walks and Talks on the Farm” in
which he publicized the results from his experimental / seed farm.
1863, Harris bought the 141-acre farm in Gates and named it Moreton
Farm. In December 1865, Harris sold Genesee Farmer to
Orange Judd & Company of New York, who merged it with the American
Agriculturist. Harris continued his column.
In 1879, he opened the Harris Seed Co. at Moreton
Farm, published a 44-page catalog and sent out 30,000
copies. A year later he built his first seed house.
When Harris died in 1892, his son Selah
took over the company. By the end of the 1890s, Moreton Farm was
the largest of its kind of seed farm. When World War I began, their
independence from European seed sources made them one of the top seed
companies in the nation.
When Selah Harris died in
1931, his sister Margaret Harris Sheldon took over the company. In
1937, the Joseph Harris Company bought the old Vick
seed farm. Joseph Harris, the son of Selah became president of the
company in 1949.
begins to thrive and grow and since much of their seed was coming from the
West Coast, they opened a field office in the Pacific Northwest in about
1950. Then in the early 1960s,
they purchased the
Gill Bros. Seed Company of Portland, Oregon. This gave them
access to Gill's local production resources as well as a huge mailing list
of loyal customers.
The Celanese Corporation (a major US chemical company) purchased the Moran Seed
Company in 1977 and Harris
Seeds in 1978. They combined the companies and formed the Harris
Moran Seed Company based out of Hayward, California. Plant breeding
was the company’s primary focus.
LAfarge Coppee bought
Harris Moran Seeds, and at that time it was considered the third largest
North American producer of vegetable and flower seed. Groupe
Limagrain acquired Clause and Harris Moran in 1996. In 1997,
Groupe Limagrain consolidated Harris Moran and Ferry-Morse Seed
operations in Modesto, California.