Small Steps Lead to One Amazing Journey

LarrySailer_KickoffLast week I attended a conference that made me reflect on the last four years, and how circumstances have led me to become a dealer for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds! It’s interesting to see how many small steps led to this journey.

The first step was getting involved in the Franklin County Farm Bureau. I was asked to be on the county board and agreed only if I could help in the background. I wasn’t interested in holding any office, but that wasn’t to be! I also requested to be in as few pictures as possible, but that didn’t happen either.

Playing an active role in Farm Bureau led me to become involved in the Franklin County Harvest Bloggers Tour. The influential bloggers, who toured Franklin County and wrote about their experiences riding in a combine and learned where their food comes from, attracted national media attention including CNN. As Deb Brown wrote in her post, Starting Point, “CNN found more stories about our bloggers tour. Residents of Franklin County were actually using social media! Suddenly the topic changed from politics to how rural communities were using social media.” A group of Franklin County residents, including yours truly, were invited to the Capitol City for a television interview.

Since CNN mentioned on air that I was a farmer who blogged, Shannon Latham suggested I actually write a guest blog on I’ve been telling my farm story every week – since Feb. 7, 2012 – through my “Musings of a Pig Farmer” blog! Each week it seems that I have more topic ideas than I have space because there is such a great need to bring policy issues to the forefront. Seeing a need is difficult to ignore.

Speaking of seeing a need… Shannon and I share the same affliction of massive volunteering! While she was serving as a trustee on the Iowa 4-H Foundation, Shannon learned that Franklin County was one of the few Iowa counties without an endowed scholarship fund. She decided to change that!

To raise money for a county 4-H scholarship, Shannon decided to host a fundraiser. She made lemonade from lemons by holding a Brown Bag Fundraiser during National 4-H Week, which just so happens to be in the heart of Iowa’s fall harvest season. And it’s working! Each year the fundraiser continues to grow. Last fall we grilled a record 600 burgers and ran out, so I can only imagine we’ll be grilling up even more come October. The community does a great job of coming out to support the cause, and we certainly appreciate the business owners who help sponsor the radio broadcast and some even help at the grill.

Committed. That’s one word I’d use to describe Shannon. After blogging for over two years, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know other members of the Latham family and realize just how committed they are to helping family farming operations succeed. John Latham is extremely passionate about picking seed products that are bred and proven to perform in specific geographic areas. Helping farmers succeed is the only way the Latham’s family business will succeed and transitions someday to the fourth generation.

For the past two years, I’ve planted 100% of my acres to Latham® seed products. I have had good results even with terrible weather and less than ideal growing conditions! This past spring I decided to take my commitment to Latham to the next level by signing on a seed dealer in Franklin County. As a result, last week I attended my first ever Latham Dealer Kickoff meeting in Dubuque.

The Kickoff meetings were to introduce Latham dealers to the new products available for the 2015 growing season and to provide sales and marketing tools to assist dealers with growing their individual dealerships. However, I found this company to be more than just a seed company. Latham Hi-Tech Seeds is a company that was literally founded on family values and remains committed to upholding founder Willard Latham’s values.

But, Latham Seeds isn’t just focused on its own family. It’s focused on strengthening all families. Dealers’ families were invited to these meetings in Dubuque and special activities were planned for family members of all ages.

The third generation of Lathams – John, Shannon, and Chris – are taking this company to new heights while still keeping it a family owned company. It’s impressive to see how they have put together a product lineup that’s broader and deeper than the competition’s because they have the ability to feature genetics from multiple “big” companies. I couldn’t be more excited about the programs they introduced and the services, like Seed-2-Soil® they provide to help farmers choose products that are best suited to their farms. It’s going to be fun sharing this information with farmers like myself!

What services could a dealer provide to make seed buying easier or more enjoyable for you? I’m interested in your thoughts. In her closing comments last week, Shannon Latham challenged Latham dealers to find ways that they create unique and relevant customer experiences. You can bet I’m going to be thinking about answers to her question whenever I have windshield time, whether it’s behind the wheel of my truck as I drive to meetings or the wheel of my tractor!