Seed World

Low Profile, High Goals: How Greg Gerard Put JoMar Seeds on the Map

The role of the modern CEO has evolved to encompass a wide range of responsibilities that extend beyond traditional business functions. A CEO is now expected to be a visionary, a crisis manager, an innovator and a leader. Seed World Canada has selected six CEOs for our list of the top boardroom leaders of the year. Here’s the third entry.

JoMar Seeds doesn’t have a website or a social media presence. Google their name and you’ll primarily find links to some Seed World U.S. articles that have been written about the wheat licensing company, but that’s about it. Calling JoMar Seeds low-key would be an understatement.

Yet, the company plays a huge role in the Canadian wheat landscape, with over 70 major varieties on the market in the U.S. and Canada. JoMar has the Fhb1 fusarium resistance gene stacked with industry-leading yield in almost every soft red winter wheat variety it licenses out.

The company is headed up by CEO Greg Gerard, who runs JoMar along with his brother Bryan, who sits on the board of Seeds Canada, and Greg’s son John. In an age of mergers and multinationals, JoMar Seeds’ increasing market share proves there is room in the seed licensing business for small independents.

JoMar Seeds is not Greg Gerard’s first go-round in seed licensing: until 2012, he operated JGL Inc., a soybean and wheat licensing company founded by his father John in 1982 and headed by Greg and Bryan from 1990 until its sale.

JGL was also small in size, but big in capacity. Initially created to serve the eastern U.S. Corn Belt, it licensed varieties to over 100 seed companies in more than 10 countries across three continents by the time it was sold in 2012.

Being small gives JoMar “a chance not just to survive, but to flourish,” Greg says.

“We try to focus on the aspects an independent company can offer. When someone calls, they speak to Bryan or me, so they’re talking to the decision makers. They’re talking to the people who are walking the plots, studying the data, and making the advancements. We value the personal relationships, and we’re able to work well with companies of all sizes, from small companies to large multi-nationals.”

JoMar Seeds grows test plots in multiple locations, so that it has a good understanding of how its varieties will fare under various soil types, climatic zones, moisture conditions and agronomics. Even with this strong background with each variety, counselling customers on what might work in their unique circumstances is a heavy responsibility, especially when licensing varieties to seed companies north of the American border.

“I feel fortunate to represent breeders who have integrated important traits throughout their breeding programs. It’s been quite a journey. I remember when we first introduced FHB resistance in our wheat varieties; I was talking to some university breeders about it, and when I mentioned that most of our new releases were FHB-resistant, their immediate concern was yield,” he says.

“They questioned whether these varieties could maintain high yields alongside FHB resistance. At the time, the one-year yield trials showed Fhb1 varieties at or near the top of the university trials, but some breeders were skeptical that someone broke the yield drag linkage.”

However, a couple of years later, their perspective changed. University breeders began to see that it was indeed possible to have both yield and FHB resistance in wheat varieties.

“That was significant because it allowed us to maintain disease resistance while preserving other essential agronomic traits. It was a game-changer, comparable to the impact of innovations like corn rootworm-resistant or Bt corn, though it didn’t receive as much publicity. There was a slight additional cost, but it wasn’t heavily advertised.”

Nonetheless, it revolutionized the industry by providing consistency in high-quality wheat and relieving growers from worrying about scab severity in uncertain years. It showed the power that Greg Gerard and JoMar Seeds have in working with breeders and commercialize new technologies that have ripple effects across borders.

Qualifications as a Top CEO:

  1. He creates big industry impact with a low-key presence: Despite the company’s virtually non-existent online profile, Greg Gerard and JoMar Seeds have managed to make a huge impact in the Canadian wheat landscape.
  2. He champions small independent players: In an era dominated by mergers and multinational corporations, he has shown there is still a place for small, independent seed licensing businesses. By maintaining a 50-50 ownership of JoMar Seeds with his brother Bryan, he highlights the resilience and potential for growth among smaller players in the industry.
  3. He has a track record of success: Greg’s previous experience in seed licensing with JGL Inc., which licensed varieties to over 100 seed companies in more than 10 countries across three continents, demonstrates his track record of success in the field. His ability to lead small-sized yet high-capacity ventures is a testament to his leadership skills.
  4. He knows the value of personalized customer engagement: Greg prioritizes personalized customer relationships, ensuring that clients interact directly with decision-makers like himself and his brother Bryan. This level of personal engagement allows JoMar Seeds to cater effectively to the unique needs of companies of all sizes, fostering strong working relationships.