Seed World

Farming New Ground Germination January 2012

Farming New Ground

Another cropping season has come and gone and the new challenges we have to face year after year never fail to amaze me. One would think after decades of farming in the same place we would have everything figured out, but Mother Nature seems to deal us a slightly different hand every year.

Much of the same can be said for the ever-changing landscape of the seed industry in Western Canada. Just when we think we have found our niche in this business, a new player enters the game, the next great product comes to the table or, in the pending case of the Canadian Wheat Board, the rules are changed altogether.

In 2012, our family will be celebrating 60 years in the pedigreed seed industry. Any company that has enjoyed success over that period of time has had to make changes in how they conduct business and how they position themselves in relation to their competitors and other players in the industry. Suffice it to say that the removal of the CWB’s monopoly could mark a junction in how independent seed dealers in Western Canada continue to succeed in the coming years.

As a seedsman in the relative adolescence of my career, thoughts of how I’m going to position my business in the future literally run through my head daily. One of the challenges we face today is the emergence of certain industry members who want a piece of the seed industry pie. I admit that you would have a hard time accusing me of being someone who is against free market capitalism. These players have as much a right to participate in this business as I do. The issue I and other independent seed professionals face going forward is how are we going to exist together with these new, large players as the industry continues to evolve?

Seed growers can be seen as an odd group of people in that we collaborate on many issues provincially and federally while still competing with one another for the grain farmers’ business. I think that if we want to continue to enjoy the jobs we have and the lifestyles we lead independent seed dealers are going to have to start working together more at that ground level.

This might involve negotiating with larger industry partners collectively instead of individually. Perhaps seed growers will start producing seed more efficiently. Ultimately, if we want to realize long-term sustainability, we are going to have to work together to build everyone’s business instead of competing against each other in favour of short-term gains. Every year brings new opportunities for Certified seed in Western Canada. We’ll have to see what kind of hand seed growers are dealt during the next game-changing move. Maybe this round there will be a little more chatter at the table.

Lee Markert, Seed Grower, Markert Seeds Ltd.