SEEDWAY LLC, a full-line vegetable, turf and farm seed supply and marketing company located in Hall, New York, recently celebrated 52 years in business. Since 1963, SEEDWAY has supported growers throughout the United States and Canada as one of the few companies in the industry offering a complete product line of farm, turf and vegetable seed.
“We sell virtually all seed types; the exception being flower seeds,” explains Donald Wertman, chief operating officer of SEEDWAY, who has also been with the company for nearly 50 years. “We have a significant commercial vegetable seed business, reaching all the way from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic and the southern provinces in Canada to tip of Florida. Our farm and turf seed business covers 14 mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.”
Gaining ground by acquisition
SEEDWAY is based in central New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region in Hall, but the company also maintains seven regional office and warehouse operations from Trumansburg and Mecklenburg, New York, to Shoreham, Vermont, down to Emmaus and Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and Lakeland, Florida. “Our most recent regional expansion was into Pelham, Georgia,” notes Wertman. “SEEDWAY added a vegetable seed distribution location to cover Georgia and South Carolina. We have also expanded warehousing and distribution facilities in both Hall and Emmaus.”
The new structure in Emmaus covers 1 acre and will provide additional storage capacity for SEEDWAY and NK soybean production, as well as SEEDWAY cereal grains production from the seed conditioning mill at the facility. “The increase in storage capacity will allow better flow of product through the conditioning and packaging phases of production as well as an improvement in distribution speed and efficiency for dealers,” adds Wertman.
While SEEDWAY covers a broad range of territories throughout the U.S. and Canada, the company started small. SEEDWAY roots trace to 1923 with the formation of Robson Seed Farms, a mail-order vegetable and flower seed business in Hall.
Through the ‘60s, a spinoff operation began – Robson Quality Seeds. In 1963, Carl Fribolin of Geneva, New York, joined Robson Quality Seeds, initiating the foundation of SEEDWAY. The company officially came under the SEEDWAY designation in 1971. In 1974, SEEDWAY acquired Seem Seed Farms in Emmaus and the company has continued to grow both organically and by way of acquisition. “SEEDWAY has made 14 acquisitions in the last 30 years; that’s one every other year on average,” says Wertman. “Acquisition has played a prominent role in the development of our company.”
One of the biggest milestones in SEEDWAY’s history came in December 2002 when Growmark Inc. purchased SEEDWAY from Agway Inc., making SEEDWAY a wholly-owned subsidiary. This launched a new era in SEEDWAY’s course and a new phase of growth, continuing a history of successful acquisitions. SEEDWAY purchased Agriculver Seeds in Trumansburg, New York, in 2003; AgriSales Inc. in Plant City, Florida, in 2004; commercial vegetable seed business of Mixon Seed in Orangeburg, South Carolina; and Chesmore Seed in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 2007; followed by Olds Garden Seed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011.
Diverse product lines
SEEDWAY’s product line has grown as each operation came under the greater SEEDWAY umbrella, but the company got its start in commercial and home garden vegetable seed sales. As SEEDWAY grew, it steadily expanded its product offering to include farm seed sales throughout New England. In the early ‘70s SEEDWAY became the exclusive distributor of Asgrow corn and soybeans in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, as well as the exclusive distributor of Bejo Seed commercial vegetable seed.
As relationships blossomed, SEEDWAY began to market vegetable seed in Canada as well, forging supplier relationships in vegetable and farm seed that still keep the company moving today. The company continues to market farm seed of all types, including corn, soybeans, forages, small grains, conservation cover crop seed, turf seed and related products for golf courses, contractors, landscapers, municipalities, universities and school districts, as well as a vegetable line for commercial and organic growers. “We’re one of the few full-line, full-time seed companies in all respects in the eastern U.S.,” notes Wertman.
“Our product line is extremely diverse and far reaching, deep into production agriculture and this diversity keeps us moving even when parts of the economy are slow,” he continues. “For example, recently there has been a downturn in corn demand, but soybeans are strong. We have an excellent soybean program to fall back on.”
In-house seed production includes cereal grains and soybean seed. “Other external seed sources come from either affiliated or independent seed companies all over the world,” says Wertman.
The demand for cover crops is ever-present in the agricultural world and SEEDWAY is also one of the leading cover-crop distributors in the country. “Now, with the focus on more organic and environmentally friendly production, growers need cover crops for conservation purposes all months of the year,” explains Wertman.
52 years and still going strong
With cover crops, vegetable seed and everything in between, SEEDWAY is always looking to improve in terms of performance. Wertman says the firm is in constant pursuit of leading seed treatments and technology, conditioning and care. “We’ve installed several state-of-the-art seed treaters and the infrastructure of our information technology and genotation system is constantly being upgraded,” he says.
SEEDWAY’s motto in the early days was, “The home of seed quality,” and this tradition continues today as the firm continues to diversify. “We’re in a growth trend right now,” notes Wertman. “We’re growing by 7 to 8 percent a year in annual sales and we expect to see that trend continue.”
SEEDWAY may be growing, but Wertman, who has been in the business most of his life, assures the company’s focus remains on quality seed and customer service. “We want to be the customer’s choice for seed,” he says. “Our mission is to continue to partner with our customers to provide innovative, quality products and services that bring them more value.”
Although the company has changed in size and scope over the last 52 years, SEEDWAY LLC is still dedicated to this mission as one of the nation’s leading full-line seed suppliers.