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Seed-saving kids run own business

SALEM – Lydia Matyas is only 9 years old, but she and her younger brothers and sisters already run their own business.

They save and sell their own organic heirloom seeds, and buy others in bulk which they sort, label seed packets and fill orders for her family’s “Seeds for Generations.”

The Matyas family and their Seeds for Generations at the Salem Farmers' Market are parents Shannon and Jason Matyas and children, from left: Adeline, Lydia, Elijah, Samuel, Norabel and Levi. Photo by Meg Hibbert
The Matyas family and their Seeds for Generations at the Salem Farmers’ Market: Shannon and Jason Matyas and children, from left: Adeline, Lydia, Elijah, Samuel, Norabel and Levi. Photo by Meg Hibbert

The children and their parents, Jason and Shannon Matyas, are among the newest vendors at the Salem Farmers’ Market, which opens for the spring and summer season this Saturday, April 5.

In late February at the market, the Matyas family started selling 90 different varieties of heirloom seeds such as snow peas, beans, carrots, beets, kale, squash, and such enticing names as Black Prince tomatoes, Marketmore cucumbers, Ananas melons, other small fruits and flowers

They also share information about how seeds grow best, and about the thought and effort that they believe should go into growing food.

“I’m a big believer in child labor,” said Jason, explaining that he started gardening alongside his parents when he was a toddler. He’s passing the same work ethic along to their children.

In addition to Lydia, the children are: Norabel, 7; Elijah, 6; Samuel, 4, Adeline, 3, and Levi, who just turned 1. The children are home-schooled. Reading gardening information. filling orders, making change, counting money, setting up the Seeds for Generations display at the market and talking with customers are all part of their lessons.

The family lives on 12 O’Clock Knob in Salem now, after two years in the Simmonsville community in Craig County. They hope to move back to Craig when they can find their own land. They’re helping Josh and Lena Deel build greenhouses and animal enclosures for their “Barefoot Farms & Permaculture” in Craig.

Right now, the Matyas family has a 3,000 square-foot garden of their own. “It’s not big,” Jason says, “but we do a lot with it.”

Jason is an Air Force reservist who decided to leave active duty “because I wanted to spend more time with my family, to do home schooling and to involve the kids in a business.” He works from home as an Internet business consultant.

Although they save seeds from their own vegetables and fruit, “We can’t produce all of our own, so we came up with the idea of buying seeds in bulk and having the kids repackage them,” Jason explained. “We incorporate entrepreneurism, and there’s a lot of character qualities that can be taught through a family business,” Jason said, such as attention to detail, diligence, perseverance, duty.

“Those things are part of home education we’re able to use in context,” he added.

“I’ve learned a lot of math,” said Lydia, who is a voracious reader. Her favorites are agricultural books. Just ask her about the best ways to provide grass pasture and housing for laying hens, for instance.

Working in the family business “is good discipline,” she said. “It bribes me to finish my other chores that I like outside. I love gardening but I can’t do that until I get the seeds done.”

And Nora added, “I like doing work.”

Samuel recently told his daddy, “I want to pack some seeds so I can earn some money to buy a farm.”

Meet the Matyas family at the Salem Farmers’ Market most Saturdays, or learn more about their heirloom seed business at seedsforgenerations.com.


About the author

Meg Hibbert

Meg Hibbert held the position of editor of the Salem Times-Register and The New Castle Record from July 1999 - July 2014. She won more than two dozen awards from the Virginia Press Association for feature writing, columns, business articles, health and environmental writing and education coverage. She and her husband, Bill, live in Salem and are avid University of Georgia Bulldogs.

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