Donnie Nowak of Glen Arm, Ill., collects antique tractors and farm toys, and a while back at an auction, he came up with something extra in his assortment – some seed memorabilia. In this case, it’s all from one firm, Lowe Seed Co. The collection is mainly an assortment of small planting record seed books and a neat booklet titled Lowe Improved Hybrids, Offering New STAR SERVICE to Help You!
This appears to be a highly collectible seed company. Internet searches showed sales of signs, memo books and even a thermometer. Jeremy Thompson, Illinois location manager for AgReliant Genetics who collects his own share of Lowe memorabilia, was kind enough to share some history of the company.
A plant history that he has shows Lowe Seed began in 1900 and continued until 1984. At the plant where AgReliant Genetics is now, next, Payco Seeds were produced there, then in 1989 it changed to AgriGold and expanded in 2000 to include several companies under the AgReliant umbrella.
“There has been seed produced at this plant for over 100 years,” Jeremy said.
Lowe Seed Co. was started by W.H. Lowe. When he died in 1933, the company was taken over by his son, Lawrence. Initially there were two processing plants, one in Aroma Park, Ill., and one in Oxford, Ind.
The company was sold in 1950 to Edward J. Strasma, who bought controlling stock and became its president. In 1962, Edward’s son, Norman, joined the company and became vice president in 1971, then president in 1979. Norman’s or Edward’s names appear in the front of the seed record books that Donnie purchased at auction.
(One interesting fact is that Lura Lynn Ryan, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s wife, was Lawrence’s daughter.)
Lowe Seed acquired the Benton County Hybrid Seed Assoc. in Oxford in 1969, and the company marketed its seeds throughout the Midwest in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota. The company lasted until it was sold in 1983 or 1984 to Payco Seeds of Dassel, Minn.
In 1960, during the Strasma period, the company added a trademark to its brand, Golden Goliath. The seed record and planting books are quite fun to look through; the earliest book in the group Donnie got at the auction is from 1968. The calendar has a couple of helpful hints with the flower of the month and the birthstone (just in case the farmer was contemplating a gift or flowers for his or her loved one).
The Lowe field seeds are special because “Gro-Coated is an exclusive Lowe process that protects the seed and the surrounding soil for faster, safer starts. The result is a 20 percent better stand.” In 1968, Lowe’s was calling its hottest yield of corn HYC-100 Companionated, which was a single cross available in 1969 for “all top management farmers.”
In 1983, farmers had the option of buying now and paying later, when Lowe Seed was offering corn, soybeans, legumes and specialty corn.
Lowe Seed Co. was a highly respected hybrid corn company that made its mark, and collectors are enjoying memories of it through the items still available at auctions today.
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at http://travelingadventuresofafarmgirl.com