DLF Pickseed Announces New Company Promotions

Over the past couple years, DLF Pickseed has been working on succession planning and development. It is a valuable process to ensure continuity, leadership, and success. As a result of their work and conversations, the company has two exciting changes to share.

Sean Chaney was promoted to vice president of the Pro Turf Division.

Chaney is an Oregon native who has been involved in the Ag community since childhood. His first experience with seed was hands-on – working in fields and warehouses as a teenager. Beginning at age 14 and on to his graduation from the University of Oregon, Sean worked for a local seed producer and marketer. He learned about the seed production process, and was able to bring many of these skills to DLF Pickseed. Chaney was hired 6 years ago, beginning as a buyer and a sales representative. He continued in the buyer role as his sales and brand management duties expanded. As time went on, he also added international sales experience to his resume, something he has been doing for over 3 years now.

During this same period Chaney started a dual-degree program that resulted in a Master of Business Administration from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.  In addition to receiving his degree, he also worked on and received a Masters in Agricultural Business from Purdue University.

Michael Billman was promoted to export director.

Billman is also an Oregon native who grew up in the grass seed country. He graduated from Oregon State University, a passionate Beaver Baseball fan, who began his agricultural career long before college. His vast experience working on seed farms and other local Ag endeavors has helped him with his success over the years.

Billman began his official seed industry career at Zajac Performance Seeds in 1996 in operations. Following his operational role, he decided to join CHS as key account manager. Billman’s next career move was to join International Seeds as a domestic and export sales representative for five years. From this experience as a sales representative, he then went into the specialty seed business at S & S Seeds as general manager for 10 years. He returned to CHS as a location manager before joining DLF Pickseed as a key account sales rep for the Seed Research of Oregon brand. Only a year later, he was promoted to a brand management role for Seed Research. Over the last 3 years, Billman has continued to show his dedication to DLF Pickseed USA. His role and responsibilities have expanded heavily into the export business.

Bill Dunn will serve as transition manager.

Dunn will manage and facilitate the transition in his new role. Over the next year, he will work closely with the sales team to ensure an exemplary transition of the key roles and duties within the Pro Turf Division.

Published by SeedWorld, July 13, 2020


Chris McDowell: Starts seed business with her daughters

Chris McDowell’s long history in the grass seed industry has taught her and her two daughters that Oregon is fertile ground for more women in agriculture.

McDowell has been a part of the mid-Willamette Valley’s grass seed production operations for nearly 40 years, she said, while daughter Marissa Donahue transitioned from production into turf grass sales in 2008.

“We’d been working together long enough and she had been in the industry for a long time and had all this knowledge and relationships, which was essential,” Donahue said. “But we work together well, which can be considered a big advantage.”

In 2014, McDowell, Donahue and her other daughter, Mandi Mack, decided to toss the dice and start their own business, which they called Vista Seed Partners.

“We saw the need in the industry of a real customer-based seed company,” McDowell said. “The timing was right in 2014, so we just said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Today, Vista markets high-performance grass seed varieties and blends for professional landscapes (Central Park in New York City is a client), sports turf, golf courses and sod applications. Turfgrass products include Bermudagrass, perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass and others.

Forage products are also developed at Vista, including tall fescue and orchardgrass.

The three women co-owners title themselves as “sales” staff, though each has significant experience in the field.

Donahue has served on the board of the Oregon Grass Seed Advisory Council and is currently on the board of the Independent Turf and Ornamental Distributors Association.

Mack held a sales and marketing role for a large multinational turf grass company for more than a dozen years before Vista Seed Partners was formed. She commutes from Salem to Vista’s Shedd, Ore., headquarters.

McDowell is a turfgrass industry story by herself, though.

“Back when I was first doing seed sales in the early 1980s there were probably only three or four women doing what I was doing,” McDowell said. “It was kind of a Good Ole Boys Club for a long, long time.

“But things changed,” she said, “and I got involved in the Oregon Seed Trade Association, and I became the first woman president of the Oregon Seed Council.”

McDowell also has chaired the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program board and on the American Seed TradeTrade Association’s Lawn Seed Division.

“I think that there’s this misconception that women are in competition with one another,” Donahue said. “But in my experience, I’ve not felt that in this industry, where people are nothing but supportive.”


By GEOFF PARKS For the Capital Press Jul 2, 2020