Smith Seed Services Offers Full Spectrum of Industry Tools

A lot goes into making Oregon’s seed industry renowned worldwide. From breeding quality genetics to seed coating, cleaning, and packaging, producers rely on a bevy of services to help them increase productivity and satisfy customers around the globe.


For more than 60 years, Smith Seed Services has been providing the tools that seed growers and distributors need to prosper. What started as a small seed cleaning operation working out of a converted dairy barn has since expanded to include specially formulated seed coating, blending, storage, distribution, and marketing. The company also offers its own exclusive lineup of high-performing turfgrass, forage, and cover crop seeds.


“With a commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction, Smith Seed Services has grown to over 300 team members with a coating and packaging capacity of over 15 million pounds per month, serving clients globally and continuing to thrive as a privately held, family-oriented business,” said Dustin Withee, a spokesperson for the company.


Seeds of success


Headquartered in Halsey, Smith Seed Services was founded in 1956 by George Smith. Originally a seed cleaning business serving Willamette Valley farmers, the company has gradually expanded its reach and added to its repertoire of services and products.


One of its biggest accomplishments came in 2008 with the completion of a new multi-million dollar seed coating facility. A second coating and retail packaging facility was also built in Lamar, Missouri in 2018.


Throughout its various departments, Withee said Smith Seed Services employs a robust and experienced team.


“We take pride in the fact that most of them have been here for five years or longer, including several who have worked here for 15-30 years,” Withee said. “We have a loyal, long-term, and stable team that has invested in and is integral to the success of our business.”

Engaged with OSA


As a key player in the seed industry, Withee said Smith Seed Services is constantly pursuing market access while navigating ever-changing regulations. Being a member of the Oregon Seed Association allows the company to access information and ensure they have a seat at the table when discussing industry issues.


“As a company alone, our voice is small, but as we work collectively with the larger industry, we can all affect change,” Withee said. “While we may not directly influence policy in every case, we work to find solutions and ways to work within the regulatory framework we are given.”


Smith Seed Services also supports causes and organizations that benefit all of Oregon agriculture. These include Oregon Ag Fest, the Oregon Seed Growers League, Oregon Annual Ryegrass Growers Association, and the local Central Linn FFA Chapter. In addition, Withee said the company provides logistical and regulatory support for mission groups sending relief containers to areas afflicted by poverty and armed conflict around the world.


“Part of our ethos is encouraging and supporting employees with their involvement in community organizations and charities,” Withee said.

Pure Seed Cultivates Varieties for the World

Developing new grass seed varieties is no easy feat for Crystal Rose-Fricker and her team at Pure Seed. The process usually takes a decade or longer of careful breeding, cultivating the right mix of genetic traits that can withstand drought, diseases, and other environmental pressures while also maximizing yield for growers.


“Breeding is always a numbers game,” Rose-Fricker said. “For every variety that we license, we probably throw away at least 10 because they’re not good enough.”


It is that level of detail that has established Pure Seed as a top player in the seed industry. The company’s products can be found all over the world, from the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores to major sporting events like the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.


A family business


Pure Seed was founded by Rose-Fricker’s father, Bill Rose, in 1972 as a marketing and wholesale supplier of warm- and cool-season turfgrass and forages. Two years later, Rose started Pure Seed Testing to cultivate new varieties at its 175-acre research farm in Canby, and a second 25-acre research farm in Rolesville, N.C. Pure Seed Testing will celebrate its 50th anniversary in June.


Rose-Fricker is now president of Pure Seed and Pure Seed Testing, carrying on the family business. The companies employ about 80 people depending on the season, she said, including her own kids, McKayla Fricker-Smucker and Austin Fricker.


“Between our companies, we’re almost 50% women, which is unusual for an agricultural company,” Rose-Fricker said.


Strengthening the industry


Being part of the Oregon Seed Association gives members the chance to come together and strengthen their industry, Rose-Fricker said. Even though they are technically competitors, she said they are stronger as a group when it comes to advocating for legislation and support that helps everyone along the supply chain.

“We’re all working together to keep this industry strong and valid,” she said. “We can’t stick our heads in the sand and just farm anymore. We have to get involved.”


That means making sure they tell the industry’s story, and explaining how companies like Pure Seed are cultivating better seed varieties that give all the benefits of natural grass while being more environmentally friendly — requiring less water and chemical inputs.


“People want to have a beautiful green landscape, but they don’t want to feel guilty about it,” Rose-Fricker said.


The next generation


Pure Seed also volunteers with Oregon Aglink’s Adopt-A-Farmer program, which pairs farmers with middle school classrooms for field trips and agricultural-themed lessons. This year, Rose-Fricker said the farm in Canby will welcome 200 kids from Sellwood Middle School in Portland.


For some kids, it might be the first time they’ve ever been on a farm or seen a tractor, Rose-Fricker said. The program aims to show them that they could consider jobs in agriculture, no matter what they’re interested in doing.


“It’s really needed to give kids that experience,” she said. “Who knows what they’ll end up being in the future?”