RUSHVILLE, Ind. — It is no secret that the agricultural world, and the seed company sector specifically, is experiencing a trend of massive consolidations. Some of the largest companies are swallowing some of the smallest fishes in the industry.
For one of those “smaller fish” in Rush County, the challenge is clear – and welcomed.
“Our company mission statement at 1st Choice Seeds hasn’t changed in more than 20 years,” said Abbey Whitaker, key communications associate for the company. “We want to be the most customer-responsive seed company in our area by listening to our customers’ needs and responding with the products and services they want.
“This is why we sell seed options, not just push a single trait platform. This is why we provide precision planting expertise and service to area farms, and why we took on a 360 Yield Center dealership to assist local farms with post planting management services. Our customers want more than just a bag of seed. They have asked us to source globally, but be the local service and seed supplier they need.”
1st Choice has deep roots in Rush County. The company was birthed here a generation ago as DS Brand Seeds. Founded by Don Denzler, who worked a long career in the ag industry selling fertilizer and seed. Denzler was known to personally deliver high-quality seed with a no-frills approach.
In the mid-1990s, Mark Denzler joined the company and Don retired. Mark and his wife, Joyce, incorporated as Denzler Seeds, Inc., purchased a Marion County seed processing facility and the company grew and prospered. In 2009, they purchased Bird Hybrids of Tiffin, Ohio, and rebranded as 1st Choice Seeds.
In 2012, they moved their offices and warehousing back to Rush County. Today, from their location at 310 East Third Street, the company sells and ships its seed to six Eastern Corn Belt states.
How does a local independent seed company survive the inevitable shift of mergers in the market? “We recognize the shift in the industry,” Whitaker said.
“Mergers between Dow-DuPont, Bayer/Monsanto, ChemChina/Syngenta and BASF picking up Bayer seed assets are not positive in our view for our local farmers or local ag economy. We recognize a healthy global ag economy starts with profitable American farmers and strong American seed suppliers.”
Standing on that platform sets the company apart from the corporate business model. “We think decisions that affect the seed that farmers plant should be made as close to the farmgate as possible,” she said. “We hold our customer value higher than shareholder value. Our corporate jet says Ford. We don’t pay for layers of management in office towers in faraway cities.
“As an independent local company, we will continue to play a role supplying great seed as the seed partner to the local farmer.”
In keeping with their dedication to serving the communities they serve, 1st Choice boasts a rich history of philanthropic efforts over the course of its 20-year history. In addition to corporate contributions directed by the ownership, it began a new initiative in 2010 called “First Fruits.”
“This initiative was for each of our team members to individually select a nonprofit organization in their community,” Whitaker explained. “1st Choice Seeds makes contributions to the organizations our staff selects. It has been a real privilege for our company to support many works throughout the counties where we serve.”
Looking toward the future in an ever-changing market, she said 1st Choice will stick to what it knows best, and that includes playing up its strengths as a small – but dedicated, and growing – presence in the Rush County community.
“We know who we are, and we know what we offer,” Whitaker said. “We provide world class trait and germplasm options for area farms. National brands typically just promote one trait platform. Our brand has options.
“Options are a result of us being an independent seed company. We have no trait agenda, but we sell all traits. We also sell conventional non-GMO (genetically modified) seed. Area farms manage inputs, insects and weeds differently. We are uniquely positioned to provide the seed solution that best fits the management strategy and, most importantly, the local farm environment.”
1st Choice Seeds is located at 310 E Third Street in Rushville. They can be reached by phone at 765-938-3000 or online at https://1stchoiceseeds.com