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Seed company flourishes
Womans business makes it as Martha Stewart award finalist
0926ROTH10
Roth’s own back yard near Statham is the headquarters for her company. - photo by Bonny Harper

Mizz Tizzy’s Weeds and Seeds

Mizz Tizzy’s sales are made primarily through the company’s Etsy account, which can be found at etsy.com/shop/MizzTizzysWeedsSeeds.

More information on Mizz Tizzy’s Weeds and Seeds can be found at its website at MizzTizzysWeedsAndSeeds.com, its Facebook page at facebook.com/mizztizzy2 or Pinterest account at pinterest.com/mizztizzy/. Additional questions can be asked by email at mizztizzy2@gmail.com.

Joanne Roth said she has been growing plants “forever and ever,” or at least since she lived in England in the early 1980s.

“I was already growing all this and I had to have a way to support it, so I started selling seeds,” Roth said.

That led Roth to form her seed company, Mizz Tizzy’s Weeds and Seeds, which is now in its second year. And her bounty has proved fruitful.

The Barrow County resident is a finalist in the 2014 “Martha Stewart American Made Awards” in the “Agriculture & Sustainability” food category. Mizz Tizzy’s is one of 48 finalists in its category, for which more than 80 companies were nominated from all across the country.

The finalist selection period ended Sept. 9. The contest is in a judging period until Oct. 13, during which time Martha Stewart and a panel of four judges will determine the category winners. For the same span of time, the public may vote for the Audience Choice Award Winner.

The announcement of the nine Judge Honored Category Winners and the Audience Choice Award Winner will be Oct. 17, according to the American Made section of marthastewart.com.

“Martha Stewart’s American Made spotlights the maker, supports the local and celebrates the handmade,” according to the site.

The site states the program comprises people and communities that have “turned their passion for quality craftsmanship and well-designed goods into a way of life.”

Roth grows her product from her residence near Statham, employing a method called “forest gardening,” or intermixing all different types of plants in the same area to construct an almost woodlandlike habitat.

Such is the case for Roth’s backyard, which isn’t unlike a fruitful Eden in its own right, with plants of all colors, shapes, sizes and yields.

“There’s a big surprise every time you turn around,” Roth said, standing beneath a contorted willow tree. “Everything in this garden does something — though there are a few things here just because I really like them and they’re pretty.”

Not only is Roth a forest gardener, she is also a firm believer in “permaculture,” or a state of “permanent agriculture” brought about by developing agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient — or permanent, as it were.

“Growing seeds in a permacultural setting is the healthiest thing that you can possibly do for the seeds and for yourself,” Roth said on the Mizz Tizzy’s website.

A half-acre permacultural garden can feed a family of five for a year, she said.

And her vast array of plants serves many purposes aside from the typical food or visual aesthetics one might find in other gardens. Some plants can be used as medicines, and some provide shade for other plants or even for her home. She noted her air conditioning bill is cut by 40 percent by her plants.

The root systems and chemicals from her plants also have changed the texture of her soil over the years, to where what started as hard-packed Georgia clay is now soft. Roth can even make pesticides and fungicides from her plants, like making tea, she said.

Before recent storms, Roth said her plants had only gotten 1« inches of rain since May, causing many of them to be less fruitful than usual.

Nonetheless, Roth had many to show off, including absinthe, catnip and stevia, which has a sugary taste. Roth said it is an ideal sweetener for diabetics. She cautioned against buying stevia in stores, however, due to the additives.

When a buyer orders seeds from Mizz Tizzy’s, Roth includes an informational pamphlet to teach the buyer the origins and histories of the seeds, how to grow them and a few practical uses for the plants, including recipes.

Roth, who compiled the information and designed each pamphlet herself, said she believes plant education is essential. To that end, a catalog of her plants, a gardening journal and a recipe book — all compiled by Roth — are available for free download on the company website, mizztizzysweedsandseeds.com.

For stevia, Roth said the pamphlet explains how to convert the plant into a sweetener to be used in culinary ventures.

“It does come out green in color, but if you’re making a chocolate cake that doesn’t really matter,” Roth said.

Other plant pamphlets teach buyers anything from how to make mosquito repellent from catmints (which Roth said are 100 times stronger than the DEET used in store-bought repellent) to the origin of “pocket melons,” which ladies of the colonial era carried in their pockets for their long-lasting pleasant aroma.