CEO Of Burpee Seeds Calls For REAL Healthcare Reform

(Marjory’s note; George Ball, CEO and Chairman of the Board for Burpee Seeds contributed this article – if you have a question for George, a favorite variety Burpee sells, or something you would like Burpee to offer, put it down in the comments section.  If we get enough interest, I’ll setup an interview with George and ask him your questions.)

By George Ball
Chairman and CEO of the Burpee Co.

Amid all the brouhaha about Obamacare, the very foundation of health care scarcely gets mentioned. By all means, let’s make health insurance available and affordable for Americans. At the same time, let’s do our darnedest to make it less necessary.

What we know as “health insurance” is in fact “sick insurance,” since it only kicks in once we’re ill or injured. It’s really there to protect our finances rather than our physical well-being. True health insurance would help us optimize and maintain our health, so we don’t get sick in the first place and run up those death-defying bills.

We should be directing our attention and resources to the front end of the health-care arc, shifting our focus from the doctor’s office or hospital (or grave) to the point of origin: the garden, the wellspring of health-giving, disease-preventing vegetables and fruits. Obamacare, meet Burpeecare.

Burpeecare is our company’s pet name for a program that lowers health-care costs by boosting Americans’ health. Burpee has, after all, been supplying American gardeners with seeds and plants for 135 years. While we think it’s catchy, the name is not that important, but the concept – improving Americans’ health from the ground up – most assuredly is.

The garden offers a prettier prospect for health care than what’s currently on offer. In 2012, health-care expenditures in the United States cost a whopping $2.8 trillion. About 75 percent of these health-care costs – and seven out of 10 deaths – arise from preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer.

Obesity, now afflicting 78 million American adults, plays a major role in promoting these preventables. Our obesity epidemic is expensive – costing $190 billion in related health-care expenses and $153 billion in lost productivity.

There is no mystery to why one-third of American adults are obese and seven out of 10 are overweight. Americans tend to consume vastly more calories than they expend.

The Great American Eating Disorder finds the people of our great nation turning the food pyramid on its head, binging on unhealthy fats, salt, and sweets, while neglecting nutritious grains, fruits, and vegetables. Too many Americans are, in effect, eating themselves to death: dying from their diet.

How do we Americans like our food? Cheap, fast, abundant, and effort-free. Nowadays, we eat half of our meals outside the home, opting for fast food or snack-ready, health-unfriendly “food products.”

The food industry, meanwhile, churns out more chow than Americans can safely consume: producing 3,200 calories of food per American each day, when the average recommended daily calorie intake is around 2,200 calories. Well, that surplus food – and calories – has to go somewhere, and it does: plumping America’s expanding waistline.

Even if you are health-conscious, and each day consume the recommended five to 13 portions of vegetables and fruits, anemic supermarket produce is robbed of much of its nutritional wallop by premature harvesting and long-distance shipping.

Burpeecare invites Americans back to the garden, where, in the place of high-calorie, fatty, salty, prepared food – or jetlagged, shopworn grocery produce – you can grow and harvest fresh, delicious, health-giving, life-sustaining fruits and vegetables – and at a fraction of the cost of supermarket produce. Food doesn’t get any fresher, purer, tastier, more convenient, or less expensive than this. And have you ever heard of anyone binging on green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, or raspberries? Me neither.

The garden delivers a harvest of nutritional and monetary dividends. Just a small patch of six to eight tomato plants – yielding the reddest, tastiest, juiciest fruits you can imagine – represents a savings of $5,000 a year, compared with purchasing those anodyne, flavor-free tomatoes at your grocer’s. With Burpeecare, health truly is wealth.

The garden, with its cheap, abundant, and nutrition-packed fruits and vegetables, represents the new face of health insurance: the best, most efficient way for Americans to eat right, keep in shape, and prevent, well, preventable diseases.

Burpeecare places responsibility for our health care not in the hands of the government, insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals, but with ourselves. It may not be the total solution to all of our country’s health-care woes, but it’s certainly the best place to start – right in our own gardens.

George Ball is chairman and CEO of the Burpee Co., www.Burpee.com and past president of the American Horticultural Society.


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  • Essie East says:

    I wish cancer were preventable. I have advocated and eaten organic and home grown foods my whole life. I’m in the 6th year of my battle. I’m still winning, I believe mostly from my healthy lifestyle, but it didn’t prevent it!

    1. Shannon McCalla says:

      Keep it up. I empathize with you, having been through breast cancer. One thing that helped me was to believe that “S–t happens”.In other words, illness and heartache and loss are more random than we care to admit. It is crushing to discover that all your good habits did not prevent your cancer. But I believe they will help you resist the disease. I will refrain from offering anecdotal advice about various plant remedies. Sometimes we have to step back from hearty well-meaning people who make you feel blamed when they’re just trying to offer encouragement. Tell people close to you what you need and let them help you. All the best-

  • Karen Clarkson says:

    Dear Marjory,

    I thought it was irresponsible of you to title your email, “Forget Obamacare”. That’s NOT what George Ball said, He said we should make health insurance “available and affordable”AND encourage and support gardening.

    Karen Clarkson

    1. Hi Karen, yes, thanks for that clarification

      1. Lynn K says:

        In addition, our President’s name is OBAMA, not O’bama. No apostrophe. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of the man, he is still our President and deserves respect.

        1. Yes, he does deserve respect. Oh dear, my ability to typo is never ending…

          Yes, yes, I am in the process of hiring an editor.

          What a job being president – must be terrible for anyone. I saw him speaking on t.v. just the other day and was shocked at how gray his hair is now.

          1. Tracy Akins says:

            Respect is not given…it needs to be earned. Obama is disrespecting the Constitution of the United States and destroying our country, not to mention being a liar. Therefore he most certainly DOES NOT deserve respect.

        2. Shannon McCalla says:

          Hey Lynn, he’s President O’Bama on St. Patrick’s Day!

        3. since when are we supposed to respect liars, thieves and adulterors.????? give him any title you wish but to earn respect he has to live a decent life… no one knows how far this mans lies go… no records are allowed to be seen.. what is he hiding/???? RESPECT? get real… DISGUST IS THE BEST DESCRIPTION OF WHAT HE DESERVES… RIGHT BEHIND PRISON

          1. Hi Linda,

            The system is utterly corrupt – no doubt. And while I don’t condone whatever it takes to become president, I do have respect for the tenacity it takes to get there. And I do have tremendous respect for the forces that they must deal with every day. It cannot be easy for anyone.

            How long do we have to go back in our history to find a decent, honest president? Hmmm, a century or two? Perhaps Andrew Jackson who ended the first attempt to create a federal reserve (he died in poverty with the bankers retaliation on him)?

      2. Margaret Clay says:

        Although I am unable to read your mind, Marjory, I surmise that the “Forget Obamacare” phrase was supposed to get our attention and make us want to read the article; which it did. It worked. I am not offended. I am enjoying the DVD’s. Hmmmm how many of the offended called President Bush, Bushy? All of our Presidents, Democrat and Republican should be treated with respect.

        1. Thanks Margret. I really don’t have any political leanings – I think the various ‘parties’ are a serious distraction from the reality of a higher level of control. And whoever becomes president, that is one heck of a job, you have to have respect for whoever does it. Gosh, they all go so grey and old within their terms. The pressure of our collective projections must be immense.

    2. Jenny Gibbons says:

      I agree with Karen. “Don’t forget your garden” is a very different message from “forget Obamacare.” A garden alone won’t help my cousin’s son, paralyzed in an accident at 18, who hit the cap on his insurance by 20. A garden alone didn’t help a friend’s dad, a small farmer, who died because he made too much for Medicaid and too little to afford health insurance.

  • Julia Hensley says:

    25 years ago, I had a go at serious gardening — large back yard, willing husband help, year-round climate, etc., and got some seed catalogs. Burpee offered herbs, flowers, vegetables, seeds, etc. I don’t recall ay mention of heritage or organic seeds, and looked into Territorial Seed, Nichols, and some of the other organic heritage seed companies. Last year, I got some help with the small back yard of my apartment with the idea of putting in an organic garden of heritage plants, but an opportunity to move to a moister climate has arisen, and I’ve put gardening on hold until I’m relocated, as our western drought frightens me.

  • Susan says:

    I just want assurance that the seeds I get from Burpee are heirloom, I can save the seeds and grow my produce from them. That they are not GMO, any association with Monsanto, etc.

    1. JJM says:

      Have you even visited their site? There are drop down menus for Heirloom and Organic.

  • Brian says:

    It’s not that people are eating fats and salt, it’s that they’re eating toxic refined seed oils and not healthy fats: fat from pastured animals, coconut oil, olive oil and a few others. Unrefined salt is healthy, refined salt less so but you’ll die without the sodium (to remove wastes from cells) and chloride (to make hydrochloric acid for digestion) that salt is made of.

    Stick with pastured livestock, organic veggies (don’t forget sweet potatoes!) and healthy fats and you’ll do well. Coincidentally, or not, these are the easiest foods to grow on a homestead. Grains? Devastating to gut health and soil health, though rice is by far the least bad of the bunch if you have to compromise.

    Other than that I absolutely agree with the general premise. Curious how the government subsidizes the ingredients of toxic industrial food and sends goons to small family farms. You’d think there’s a conspiracy or something.

  • Brian says:

    Also, avoiding mercury poisoning from FDA approved amalgam dental fillings would help too. That’s a big one people miss.

  • Dave Rea says:

    Burpee does not sell GMO seeds. For details, check this article from the Philadelphia Examiner:

  • Becky DeWitt says:

    I keep hearing that it is almost impossible to find corn seed that is non-GMO. Are you making sure that a good portion of your seeds for corn and other vegetables are non-GMO, organic, and otherwise not tainted in any way?

    I would also like to see more herbs offered that are of medicinal value instead of only for cooking, such as echinacea, chamomile (which I think you probably do have), burdock, elderberry bushes, holy basil (tulsi), etc. I am working hard at keeping us healthy with natural foods, home canning, and using home-grown medicinal herbs in tinctures, salves, teas, etc. Would like to learn more and would love to see you focus on some of that, maybe offering some books on the subject at the same time.

  • Stephanie Boxberger says:

    Would love to see an interview with Burpee. We have started ordering only non-GMO, heirloom seeds and companies like Johnny’s and Burpee need to understand the growing demand for these products. As far as I know, Jere Gettle actually tests all the corn they sell which is a great reassurance when contamination of even organically grown, heirloom seed is such a strong possibility. We’ll be investing our “seed money” with the companies we feel are the most dedicated to protecting our health and that takes more than just selling vegetable seeds.

  • Gene Cramer says:

    Glad you followed through with Burpee. The only reason I mentioned them was to introduce you to their “4th of July hybrid. They are early, tough, prolific and taste like tomatoes are supposed to taste.

    A question for Mr. Ball the owner; what seeds should I plant in my new Solexx green house?
    Margory check them out at http://www.GreenhouseCatalog.com. I learned of them in their ad in Mother Earth News.
    I agree totally; if I don’t take car of me, no one else will. So I grow garden food.
    I just bought grass feed beef and it is so much better.
    Want open pollinated? check out D.V.Burrell Seed Growers Co., Rocky Ford, Colorado. (719) 254-3318
    Order their catalog it has good how to grow info for many different seeds.

    Hope this helps you Margory. Gene Cramer, Shawnee, KS.

    PS Did you know that Mother Earth News and Grit are produced in Topeka, KS? Small world.

    1. Oh gene,

      I was trying to remember who told me about the “4th of July” tomatoes… Thanks for writing in.

      Hey, that Solex plastic has a 10 year life? Wow, that is quite good – for plastic. Actually, we are in the process of building a hoop house. I’ll be writing about it soon enough… Photos, the works.

  • Cam says:

    Degenerative diseases are preventable if we eat clean and from our garden, local fields, or organic.

    I have not been able to locate Tree Collard (or Collard Tree) seeds in Texas. I also am interested in lemon cukes. If Burpee Seeds carries these two seeds, where would I find them?

    Tnks muchly,


    1. Hi Cam,

      I did see tree collards at Bountiful Gardens. We should check and see if Burpee sells them too.

      1. Rob says:

        Re: Tree collards at Bountiful Gardens are cuttings (NOT rooted). Evidently the seeds do not grow true, so they are grown from cuttings. Excerpt:

        “Each cutting has several nodes from which leaves or roots will sprout. Cuttings should be put in pots in good potting soil (with half of the nodes below the soil and half above) and kept moist and in the shade to develop roots for a couple of months before planting out in the garden.”


        Oh my, they really ARE trees (I think I won’t be trying these in northeast Maine):

        “Everything you never knew you wanted to know about Tree Collards. Welcome to the Perennial Tree Collard Blog” (pictures too).


        1. Hi Rob,

          Oh thanks for hose links. I grew those tree collards for quite a while here in C Tex. Hmmm, yes, in Maine, you’ll need some kind of protection.

  • J! Walker says:

    I, also, want to know for sure with all certainty that any seeds I get from Burpee are NOT GMO!!! They do have on their website a list of organic seeds available. I also want to know for sure that they do NOT support Monsanto!!!

  • I think his math is off. $5,000 from 8 tomato plants? There’s a guy on YouTube claiming 50-80 pounds per plant, but even at 80 lbs/plant for 6 plants, that’s only 480 pounds of tomatoes. To save $5,000, you’d have to be saving $10.42 per pound of tomatoes. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen tomatoes that expensive in my life. Even the ones that come on the vine are around $3.99/lb.

    1. jim says:

      I did my math a little differently. $5,000/365= $13.70 per day for just tomatoes. At that rate with just 8 different types of veggies in my garden I would be saving more that my wife and I make in a year from our retirement income. Based on the square foot gardening idea that would only take up 64 sq ft or an 8′ X 8′ garden. I wish it were that easy.

  • Ruth says:

    I have tried on a small scale to start a garden a couple of times but it get just too hot here to grow much for very long. I would like to know how to grow the basic’s; potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, carrots, squash, and maybe beans in a hot climate?? Anyone have any thoughts to help me out?

    1. Ruth, we will have a lot to help you, and more coming. chekc out this video

      and this one too

  • Shannon McCalla says:

    Mr. Ball said ” And have you ever heard of anyone binging on green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, or raspberries? Me neither.” Actually, I have binged on fresh fruit as a kid- apricots from my grandmother’s tree and figs from a tree that grew on the way to school. My grandfather always bought Burpee seeds for his garden. The grandparents had an extensive garden,too. Every year when the seed catalogues come out, I wonder where my Burpee catalogue is, and think about my grandfather.

  • James Agee says:

    The healthcare bill was never intended to keep us healthy.It is another globalist elitist FORCED tax as is global warming.Why is it that other countries grow food specifically to ship to the US that is illegal to market for consumption in their own country? Case in point SUBWAY. Eat fresh! They were caught allowing plastisizers and other carcinogens to “GO IN THE DOUGH” and when confronted responded “The FDA allows for it! We did nothing illegal!WHAT??? Big Pharma, Monsanto, among the biggest, really want you in an early grave! They spent millions to keep it off the labeling in California. THEY CANT BE TRUSTED! This is why I grow as much as I can at home.

  • jim says:

    Mr Ball. Smart move. I would do the same thing to bring more customers to my business. I really do hope that Burpee Seeds are part of the answer and that the quality of your seeds stand up to the scrutiny of these very well informed people that are a part of the Marjory Brigade.

  • kathy says:

    I would be interested in hearing an interview. I have enjoyed your site since hearing you on the recent survival summit. I also think it would be great to have a list of trusted non-GMO organic seed catalogs. I get loads of catalogs, but I only know that Gettle’s, and the Seed Savers Exchange meets those criteria. Wouldn’t a seed swap through you’re site be neat? Now I’m rambling. Been cooped up too long in Michigan.

  • Gail says:

    If Obama were really concerned about our health he would be more open to address and stop all the geo-engineered spraying that has been going on for the past few decades instead of forcing people to buy into an insurance plan that is not benefiting many people in certain sectors of the population, and then penalizing them for not having insurance.

  • Rebecca says:

    I agree with Mr. Ball in his premise of the need for more attention to caring for our health, as opposed to salvaging it when damage has been done by our lifestyle. As a nurse practitioner, I see the sad results of the American lifestyle, including poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, stress, etc… every day in my occupation. I have little to offer my patients if they are not willing to take responsibility for their health and make those difficult lifestyle choices.

    As a gardener, I have a question for Mr. Ball and/or others:
    I have grown heirloom seeds for several years now, and have found the yields from saved seeds to be lower on subsequent years. I’m aware of the possibility of cross pollination from non-heirloom plants, but also would love to know some guidelines on seed preparation and storage and how to maximize future yield. I realize a seed company has a vested interest in selling seeds, but part of the purpose of heirlooms is not just superior flavor, but the ability to protect the lineage of seeds and to plant again from your harvest. Wondered if there are any resources on this. Thanks.

  • David Conklin says:

    Working in the garden is also a low-impact exercise–which way too many Americans need!

  • Eric Viveiros says:

    Can’t wait to get started

  • Dulci says:

    It would be nice if we could implement a ‘health care’ system like Canada has. Taxes on non-essentials would go up but no one would be left wondering how they were going to afford their kid’s surgery, their needed medications, and so on. I’d also like to see better nutrition taught in schools, instead of them focusing on passing state tests before anything else.

  • Amanda says:

    My great-grandmother would pore over the Burpee seed catalog for an entire day after it came, and she taught me a love of gardening and Burpee seeds. We would read the entire thing from end to end, and then plan what we would buy, and what we would use from saved seed. Seeing that catalog brings me closer to her, and my grandfather, and my mother, all of whom taught me a love of gardening. While many thank you for your insight with this blog, and others for the quality of your seed, I would like to thank you for the quality of your catalog. It’s packed full of great information, tips, tricks and techniques, if you just read it through. And now, you’ve included much more information on drought-resistant planting–thank you for a long tradition of excellence!

  • Hazel Maunder says:

    We have plenty of land to work with, currently have a tenant farmer for much of the land. We also hunt on the property, with only 4.8 acres wooded, but we do get deer and other wild animals to hunt. But do know others who live in apartments that are close family members.

  • Chuck Parr says:

    These words couldn’t be more true. Change your diet and change your life!

  • Razbare says:

    Yes if people would eat what they grow I do think there would be less people going to the doctors……..the food people are doing nothing but giving us junk in our food that is making us sick

  • Lloyd Sizemore says:

    I love my garden and chickens and I wish everyone could enjoy the same. I retired in 2008 and have been able to spend much more time in the garden. Not only the healthy food I get but the exercise has helped me be healthier and happier. I think all insurance is just a betting game, I’m betting I will get sick or die and the insurance company is betting I will not.

  • Tammra says:

    What are creative ways to get children to eat food from the garden?

    1. Justin Arman says:

      Hello Tammra, Marjory is temp out on a wilderness trip. She’ll definitely be responding to your questions when she gets back. I see that you left a couple of comments… Wish you well!

  • Rd says:

    Just remember or research what gardens used to be like, we need them to be our future.

  • jamie says:

    This i would like. been trying to grow tomatos inside for the last 5 months and they have produced nothing 🙁

  • Marc Werschem says:

    Do you have a collection of seeds that are of medicinal plants only or perhaps a section of your catalog that deals with medicinal plants and what they are commonly used for?

  • MQ says:

    We all (who read this blog!!) have a finite amount of money. We can choose to spend it on good food or at the Doctor’s office.

    If you do an interview with George Ball, could you ask him to clarify the differences among heirloom, GMO, and hybrid seeds. There seems to be a lot of confusion about these terms.


  • Frank says:

    I really need help with knowing what to grow. I can go to the store or web and buy seeds. I need some advice on what is the best to start with and to grow my experience to grow the more difficult. Mainly I just need to start but so confused as to what to start with…

  • Mary says:

    My biggest concern is getting organic, non-GMO seeds that are more native to my region, things grown here for generations that have always thrived without chemicals.

  • Valerie P says:

    I just hope I am able to get a garden in this year!

  • Trista says:

    Fantastic article,

  • Brandon says:

    Well said! I am 100% with you and am now striving myself to provide health assurance instead of the so called health insurance. It is more like ill and death insurance. In your own backyard is as healthy as it gets! Well, that is if you do it right, that being the soil and how you grow your own food.

  • LANA JACKSON says:

    I recently retired as an administrative assistant at a large medical school. While they focus on teaching students to view the body as a whole and healthy lifestyles, they are also taught that prescriptions are the way to cope with illness. I believe it’s become easier and, unfortunately, more mainstream, to prescribe medication than to help patients change poor habits.

    I believe that the best way to approach this prescription frenzy is to start laying the groundwork for healthy lifestyle instruction in our medical schools. By encouraging medical students to grow community gardens they could help the residents around the school and broaden their thinking about healthcare. Is there any way we could work with Burpee on a program to get medical schools growing community gardens?

    1. Right on Lana – that is an awesome question for George. I ‘ll do my best to organize the interview and ask him.


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