Seasonal employees including Lindsay Peter, left, pack seed orders at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow in 2018. This year, the company is marking its 50th year in operation. Morning Sentinel file

WINSLOW — Johnny’s Selected Seeds is marking 50 years in business and as the company continues to expand its reach — it supplies seeds in more than 50 countries.

The lead executive says he plans to keep jobs in central Maine while adapting Johnny’s product portfolio to include more regional seed varieties outside the Northeast.

Chief Executive Officer David Mehlhorn said last week that he hopes to position the company as a “one-stop shop” for mid-sized farmers and home gardeners across the U.S. The company sells a variety of vegetable, fruit, flower and herb seeds, but also manufactures its own line of tools and shares educational resources online.

David Mehlhorn, chief executive officer of Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Photo courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Johnny’s was established in 1973 and has been based out of central Maine since 1975. It has its headquarters in Winslow along with a warehouse, a 200-acre research farm in Albion, and a customer care center in Fairfield.

Mehlhorn has been the company’s CEO since 2018 and said it was founded to grow biodiversity for farmers and home gardeners by offering unique seed varieties alongside educational resources for success in growing them.

Johnny’s has been lucky in recent years to benefit from a movement toward healthy eating and supporting local farms, Mehlhorn said. The company declined to provide revenue or sales figures, but he said Johnny’s has seen a 50% growth in sales over five years.


“We’ve been fortunate to help start that movement,” he said. “But also to go along with the ride.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, contributed to a renewed interest in indoor growing and home gardening, he said.

The movement toward indoor growing is something the company hopes to support. Winters in the Northeast are tough, Mehlhorn said, and farmers have been adapting with “low-tech structures” to be able to grow in all seasons.

He said that in the coming years Johnny’s will be increasingly focused on “geographic market penetration” — supporting farmers in far-off states, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, Southeast and the central South.

“(By) adapting more regional varieties in our product portfolio, we think there’s still a lot of growth opportunity,” he said.

A large part of the company’s internal mission, however, will be to retain jobs in Maine.


Johnny’s has about 250 full-time and 100 seasonal employees across its three regional locations. Despite post-pandemic trends toward allowing remote work, Mehlhorn said even call center and customer service jobs, the easiest to outsource, will be kept local.

“We’re not trying to grow for the sake of growth,” Mehlhorn said.

The company is employee-owned so staying a “strong central Maine employer” remains a primary part of its ethos.

Another area of growth Mehlhorn identified is in how Johnny’s shares resources for home gardeners and small- to mid-sized farmers.

“(Johnny’s) is moving from 2D print materials to videos and current media to stay in pace with the younger generation and the expectations people have for how they get information,” he said.

The company hosts online webinars once a month to an audience of about 2,000 to 3,000 people each, he said.

“We’re trying to educate people in a more dynamic way,” Mehlhorn said.

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