Seed World

Your Company is Independent, But Does it Have Real Independence?

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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America’s Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Aside from being the official party of summer, it’s history and what it represents are especially meaningful to me as a third-generation seedsman.

Frustration in the Thirteen Colonies during the 1760s turning into outright resentment by the 1770s. The British expanded their global territories in the Seven Years War and French and Indian War (American theater) from 1754-1763. The wars and resulting expansion were expensive. The British sought to pay off those debts by imposing taxes on the Thirteen Colonies. The most notable being the Stamp Act of 1765, Townshend Acts of 1767 and Tea Act of 1773. All were unpopular and tension mounted between the colonists and King George III. The colonies didn’t start these wars. Why did they have to pay for them while the royals lived a life of opulence? 

The pressure reached the boiling point with the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The Crown and colonial delegates met in 1774 at the first Continental Congress to try and improve the relationship. Time marched on without change and the seeds of revolution were sown in April of 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The Revolutionary War had begun.

I bring up this history because it speaks to what independence actually is; the ability to control your own destiny. The colonists realized just how little control they had when the British imposed excessive taxes and they had no say in the matter. Their only recourse was to complain which resulted in a meeting several months later during which nothing was resolved.

Americans have always seen self-determinization as a necessity. We want to reap what we sow and to be in control of our decisions, our efforts and our lives.

Having independence in the seed industry is the same. Companies want to control their own product offerings, set their own prices and succeed or fail based on the value their company brings to farmers. 

This Independence Day was one of quiet reflection for me. I thought about my grandfather planting two acres of hybrid seed corn back in 1941. With that move, he struck out to set his own path; to declare independence from a poor farming area with little prospects. His bold action was echoed when my dad moved the business and family from North-Central Wisconsin to Southwest Wisconsin (1993) and repeated when we exited the seed retail business (2004) to eventually become the leading seed supply chain service provider in North America. We gained an additional measure of independence with each move.

Our latest move was launching Breeder Direct (2020) to provide elite corn and soybean genetics to independent seed companies. These new sources of germplasm and the freedom to operate that we offer allows seed companies to create new brands, target new markets and diversify their business in ways that more restrictive relationships don’t. The more independence, the better!

So as you reflect on this past 4th of July, remember that true independence is having the freedom to control your destiny and choose your own path.