Amanda Butcher in a field of milo.
AMANDA Butcher knows a lot about birdseed. She owns the Arkansas company that grows the seed and handcrafts our Grist Mill Bird Feeder, Bird Seed Bouquet and Songbird Tweets® birdseed ornaments, as well as some of our other birdseed products.
Butcher owned a nursery for eight years, while her father ran the birdseed business. "When my dad needed help running the company, I closed my nursery and joined him." She ran operations for a few years, and recently took over the business from her father. The company currently grows two to three acres of plants for their birdseed creations.
Butcher is passionate about her work. "I love that it's creative. I enjoy the artistic side to it, and I still get to enjoy working with plants. I get an itch in spring and summer and it's hard for me to stay inside. I can get out of the office when it's time to harvest. I get out in the field and sweat and get dirty."
Her favorite part is watching the plants mature. "If you let the millet and milo get too dry they'll drop their seed. If you harvest too early they don't have the right color." When it's time to harvest, it's all hands on deck. "We only have about a week to do it. We shut everything else down and everybody goes out to harvest. We can't let the machines do it, because they knock the seed off."
One of the challenges of growing birdseed is, well, hungry birds. "I harvest twice the number of sunflower heads that I need, so I can be sure to get enough flowers with the seeds still in them. The birds love the sunflowers!" What about other pests? "We don't have much trouble. Any bugs we have are eating the leaves, and we don't use the leaves in our products. You have to think about the ecosystem. There has to be enough there for everybody."
After harvest, it's time to move the plants into the upstairs portion of their warehouse, where the intense summer heat is perfect for drying. They do the actual production work, crafting each item by hand, on the lower level. "I've got three main employees that have been here for 10 to 15 years. Each item is a little bit different because they make each one by hand. It's not something that's mass-produced."
Who comes up new ideas for new products? "We all do. About two weeks before the last trade show, I said, 'I don't want you working on anything else; we're going to have creative playtime.' I get in there and play, too, and I give the employees the freedom to bring me their ideas. They're very creative. And because there are three of them they get into a healthy competition to see who can come up with the best idea. They came up with the Woodland Cottage, and it's one of my favorite birdhouses." It's one of our favorites, too!
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