Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

Joseph Harris

Joseph HarrisJoseph 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.

In 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.

Selah HarrisWhen 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.

The company 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.

In 1985, 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.


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