A couple years I stopped in Jackson, Minn. at a former DeKalb seed corn processing facility which apparently shut down during the ‘evolution and upgrading’ then underway within the American seed corn industry. I stopped because at 2018 Farmfest event, I heard about this guy, Mitch Rowe, buying this seed plant and was gearing up to produce and market his own non-GMO seed. And delivered at less than $100 a bag!
Being a long-time seed corn guy myself in the Trojan Seed and Keltgen Seed era at Olivia, this intrigued me. So I stopped and had my first visit with Mitch Rowe. Somewhat cautiously, I waded in with my first question, “What gives you this ambition in today’s competitive seed corn market thriving on super-traited GMO hybrid?”
Perhaps somewhat leery with my very direct question, I recall Rowe responded, “Because there’s a time and a place. The time is now. Corn farmers need some help. I think I’m the guy.”
We had a good chat. He’s got seed experience prior to this huge adventure on his own. He’s farm-reared, still farms and tends to think like most farmers … inquisitive and believable up to a point. But as I journeyed the next 90 miles north to my Olivia destination, I couldn’t help but wonder, will he make it?’
Sureflex Hybrids certainly didn’t register deeply on my front burner. But today, Dec. 10, scanning my daily email, I noted a SureFlex Hybrid listing. I punched in and noted this question: “Have you purchased your 2021 seed? SureFlex offers an affordable option that saves farmers an average $25/acre. With 34 hybrids we have the right option to fit your farm needs. Give us a call at 833-300-9797.”
So at 1:30 p.m. Dec 10 I did just that. And somewhat to my amazement the person taking my call said, “My name is Mitch Rowe. Can I help you?” Wow, thought I, he’s the owner answering his own phone. Tell me when that happens in any seed company. So I explained my call, reminding him we had visited two years earlier — shortly after he had launched his new seed ambition.
Now aware that SureFlex was indeed alive and thriving, I somewhat jokingly inquired “With that $97 price have you run out of seed?”
Rowe, now a vigorous 36-year old, quickly responded, “No, we have not. We had a great seed production season, so lots of seed for 2021 — with the expectation that our new customers generated the past two years will be growing even more of our corn in their 2021 crop program. But admittedly seed is now going out fast.”
That demand perhaps gets sped along with SureFlex’s early season discount program of $80 per bag through Nov. 30. However, Rowe mentioned, “Yes, but we’re now back again to that ‘outrageous’ $97 price that perhaps you and a few others chat about over your morning coffee.”
So how many states grew SureFlex corn in 2020? “We finished off last year in 38 states,” Rowe said, adding “I just got word that’s now up to 39. And this year even some into Saudi Arabia.”
I asked Rowe if he had a ‘seed friend’ over there too?
“Nope, they just called the 1-800 number like everyone does,” said Rowe. (I didn’t ask, but suspect that customer paid some freight to get his seed delivered. Free delivery is part of the SureFlex offer anywhere in the states.
SureFlex packages in conventional 80,000-kernel unit seed bags; or custom package in 20, 30 or 40-unit bulk containers … and even more if the buyer so desires.
So with gangbuster sales this season, even more seed production for 2021? Yes, said Rowe talking a two to two-and-a-half times increase in seed acres for 2021. And yes, they’ve certainly outgrown seed processing capabilities of their Jackson plant; so additional seed is now grown in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
SureFlex does not offer a ‘haul back’ package. Once you buy the seed, you own the seed. “Farmers certainly understand us on that issue. And thanks to our growing customer base, more and more farmers are realizing you don’t need $250 to $300 GMO pedigrees to make this corn business work.”
He added, “I think everybody pretty much agrees that ‘traits’ are beginning to break down in the marketplace. So I also believe the trait emphases may not be so relevant down the road.”
I couldn’t resist. “Anything else I should ask?”
Being a marketing guru, Rowe responded, “More guys got to give us a try because next year we’ll launch again with our $80 campaign ending the end of November.”
And either credit card or personal checks will get the deal done.