Carl and Julie Peterson never set out to be in the seed business. Their passion was farming – and still is.
Carl grew up on a family farm near Prosper, North Dakota. Julie’s family worked the land near Waterloo, Iowa.
But sometimes life throws you a curve. In Carl’s and Julie’s case, it was a devastating wheat scab outbreak and their bold response to it.
About a year or so later, Carl woke up one morning and realized: “I’m a seed salesman!”
Oscar Peterson, Carl’s grandpa, walks to North Dakota all the way from Wisconsin. He likes what he sees, finding a job as foreman on a steam-threshing crew and a wife in Josephine Rust.
Ralph and Gwen Peterson – Carl’s parents – take over the reins of what was a typical family farm at the time. They raise both crops and livestock.
Specialization comes to agriculture, as Carl’s parents switch solely to growing wheat and other high-yield crops like soybeans and sunflowers.
Carl and Julie head off to Iowa State University. Carl, who goes at his father’s insistence, vows to finish his degree early so he misses as little farming as possible.
Carl and Julie meet as co-directors of a fraternity/sorority musical production. They’re soul mates now, but, Carl recalls, they had very different ideas about how that play should be done.
The graduates marry after the fall harvest and, with only a couple of old guitars and a ’77 Gremlin as assets, buy 300 acres near Prosper, ND.
A farm crisis grips the nation. While lawmakers haggle over a solution, the media serves up a steady diet of farm foreclosures.
Julie leverages her marketing degree and finds work at Great Plains Software. The company’s culture-first philosophy makes a huge impact on her and, eventually, Peterson Farms Seed.
Just as the farm crisis shows signs of letting up, wheat scab hits the Red River Valley. Elevators, not sure what to do, shut down.
Carl and Julie invest in several pieces of cleaning equipment in hopes of saving their crops.
The couple spends the entire winter – November through March – not only cleaning their own wheat, but their neighbors’.
Armed with the cleaning equipment, Carl and Julie decide to go into the seed business. They soon find out that conditioning the seed is the easy part.
Looking for a way to stand out against established seed companies, Carl persuades Julie to try humor. They call their first seed Ole. Sven and Lena soon follow.
Julie models the growing company’s culture after Great Plains Software. It’s a team approach that rallies everybody around one single mission: helping growers be successful.
Carl wakes up one day and realizes: “I’m a seed salesman.”
Peterson Farms Seed grows neighbor by neighbor, township by township, county by county.
Carl and Julie never waver from their original promise; they sell no seed that they wouldn’t be happy to plant on their own farm.
Peterson Farms Seed continues to invest in testing. Today, they have some 20,000 replicated plots of both corn and soybeans – and is the only independent seed company doing replicated testing in the region.
With the arrival of corn hybrids that can handle northern climates, Peterson Farms Seed adds corn to its product line-up.
Peterson Farms Seed grows to a point where Carl doesn’t feel competent to run it. He earns a master’s degree from Purdue and a Master of Business Administration from Indiana University.
Peterson University debuts. It’s an effort to go beyond the seed to help growers maximize their yields.
Peterson launches Plus20, a program that helps farmers find ways to add 20 bushels per acre to their yields.
With more than 30 employees – the company expands its headquarters.
Peterson Farms Seed celebrates its 20th anniversary.