Seed World

From Our Desk: Celebrating the Independents

In the rich tapestry of American agriculture, independent professional seed companies, sometimes overshadowed by the goliath ‘Big Four,’ are critical to the overall color and shape of the seed industry. Surveying the heartland of our nation’s farms, I appreciate the vital role these independents play. Their significance in our agricultural narrative is not just a matter of variety; it’s a story of resilience, adaptability and a deep-rooted connection to the land and its stewards.

The first thing that strikes me about independent seed companies is their commitment to diversity – not just in crops, but in ideas and approaches. These companies often provide unique varieties tailored to local conditions, something the larger players may not be able to do in their pursuit of more one-size-fits-all solutions. This diversity is not just beneficial; it’s essential for the ecological and economic health of local farming communities.

There’s a personal element in the way these companies operate. As our cover story source and new IPSA president Colin Steen told me: it’s not uncommon to find that the person selling you seeds also knows your family, understands your farm’s history, and genuinely cares about your harvest and profitability. This personal touch extends beyond customer service to genuine relationships and trust. This human connection is both refreshing and necessary.

These companies are not just businesses; they are integral parts of their communities. By providing jobs, supporting local agriculture and contributing to the local economy, they help keep rural America vibrant. In an age of rampant urbanization, these companies often stand as guardians of rural livelihoods.

Many times, independent seed companies are at the forefront of sustainable practices and innovation. They are agile and able to quickly adapt to new challenges and opportunities, from climate change to market demands. This agility fosters an environment where innovation flourishes, often leading to more sustainable and efficient farming practices. It’s a reminder that sometimes the best way forward is through smaller, more nimble paths rather than wide, beaten tracks.

As we look to the future, we must recognize and nurture the role of independent professional seed companies. They are more than suppliers; they are custodians of agricultural diversity and community well-being. Supporting them is not just an investment in a company; it’s an investment in the fabric of our American agricultural heritage.

Our January issue of Seed World U.S. is online. Click here to dive right into the content. We’ve made an intentional effort to highlight independent seed professionals and recognize their valuable place in the seed industry. In these pages, you’ll read thoughts from Scott Sanders, general manager at Peterson Farm Seeds and IPSA board member, who speaks candidly about the challenges independents face competing in the marketplace. He encourages each independent company to look at its marketplace challenges and find a way to meet them head-on. 

You’ll also read about Renk Seeds’s Jeffrey Renk, who details the deep family roots of his company — a special trait many independent companies share — and how those roots push his company forward thanks to the grounding of previous generations.

You’ll also find highlights of the recent ASTA Field Crop Seed Conference in Orlando. It was great to meet so many of you face-to-face. The meeting was so productive, informative and well-planned; kudos to the organizers at ASTA at the Hyatt Regency Orlando for making the event so fabulous. Although attendance was down this year for many reasons including tighter budgets, a tougher marketplace, a natural tendency to resist the unknown, and travel complications, I think it’s just growing pains of a city and venue change. I encourage those who didn’t make it to Orlando to make it a priority next year. There really is no replacement for face-to-face networking.

If you’re at IPSA in Indianapolis, please stop by our media center near the escalator on the second floor. I’d love to say hello and hear your ideas and perspectives on the seed industry. As always, please reach out to me with comments, perspectives or future story ideas to

It’s an honor to partner with you,