Seed Companies - A Competitive Alternative

FTLComm - Tisdale - March 8, 1999
Even as a kid I realised that farming was considerably more complicated then driving a tractor around a field and harvesting the grain. In this last year of the twentieth century agriculture remains the most important industry of North American and perhaps the world. The problem is that we just don't appreciate the whole process. When considering why North America enjoys such incredible wealth when compared with the rest of the world you will hear a lot of speculation about American know how and free enterprise but the human geographers and anthropologists will tell you that the reason is simply resources. North America was almost entirely empty when the Europeans arrived and was capable of amazing abundance. Ever since the arrival of the Mayflower and Jacque Cartier North Americans have been able to grow more, much more, then they consume, so that the fraction of their income they need to spent on food is far less then anywhere else on the planet.
The present situation in agriculture is confusing if you consider the basis of North American wealth to be its agriculture and the continued efficiency of this industry, why are those who are involved in farming facing such difficult economic times? The fraction of the population that is engaged in agriculture is becoming smaller and smaller as farm efficiency continues to grow exponentially. Farming practices of this era are enormously successful to the point that a situation of overproduction is taking place. But like the technological revolution in the computer industry, farming is not based solely on dirt and sunlight, it is much more inclined toward information and science, which is fueling the rapid increase in productivity. In the Tisdale area farm diversification is more easily attained then in some other places where soil and sunshine pretty much dictate what can be produced. Tisdale farmers have more options and in the past decades have steadily been involving themselves in these alternatives.
Recognising that every other consumption of man dwarfs by comparison to food and agricultural production, big business has been steadily moving into agriculture looking to make a profit. The bounty of the prairies was largely the result of publicly funded and publicly shared agricultural research at the beginning of this century. But now at the end of the century, large and small companies have been able to obtain patents on plants and have moved to capitalise on the research into natural selection and selective breeding. The major grain companies have secured specialty varieties of crops that are coupled with
chemicals that boost production and then require farmers to resell the production back to them. It is interesting to see that there is a counter movement to this big business process. Many small farm based businesses are developing and working with the universities to further develop public domain seed varieties and the pulse seed producers in particular are maintaining their own research facility to produce crop varieties that are and will continue to be, royalty free.
Though Walker Seeds dominates the seed for seeding market, in this part of Saskatchewan, it is by no means alone in this field, as there are a large number of businesses that have developed as sidelines to farm operations who specialise in providing services to their fellow farmers. These operations provide custom cleaning facilities and in the case of Greenleaf Seeds, this company offers pulse seeds for plots and is involved in continued development of new varieties of pulse crops. Greenleaf has just installed this new leg this winter to make moving of products around the bins far easier. In the foreground of the picture above you can see the scale installation beside the service building.
Operations like Greenleaf Seeds provide their customers with an alternative to the large grain handling companies and at the same time provide special services which large operations simply can not do.