THE DAY MONSANTO, the world’s largest agricultural-biotechnology giant, announced it was acquiring Seminis, the world’s largest vegetable seed company, where Frank Morton was cleaning seeds using some of the world’s most primitive tools. In his line of work, every seed tells a story…
He was in the Seed Drying Facility, a funky shed he and Karen put up in one day 10 years ago using $40 worth of plastic pipe, plastic sheeting, and black tape. He screened out leaves and sticks, then poured the seeds from one Rubbermaid container into another.
Usually, the wind blows away dust and dried insect bodies, a seed-cleaning technique that farmers have been using for 10,000 years.
If there’s no wind, or it’s raining, Morton uses a window fan and a homemade tunnel of cardboard and duct tape. Sometimes, for seeds that are ball-bearing round, he’ll race them down the Roundy Round, a steep spiral ramp that uses centripetal force to sort out grass, dirt and any seeds that aren’t perfect orbs. The whirling seeds sound exactly like an aboriginal rainstick.