Vertical Integration Key to Success at Mountain View Seeds

Born out of a co-op in the heart of the Mid-Willamette Valley, Mountain View Seeds has emerged as a top player in the global grass seed market, providing high-quality turfgrass, forage, and cover crops with a focus on environmental sustainability.

 

Today, the company contracts with more than 200 growers across the Pacific Northwest and sells anywhere from 60-80 million pounds of seed every year. Species include cool-season grasses like kentucky bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass, bentgrass, Bermuda, wildflowers, legumes, brassicas and much more used in lawns, parks, landscaped areas, golf courses, sports fields, and sod farms around the world.

 

Being vertically integrated also allows Mountain View Seeds to have a hand in every step of the process — from being involved in developing varieties, seed processing, and shipping. This offers more guidance and quality assurance from start to finish. Tony Ramirez, accounts manager for the company, said this is what gives Mountain View Seeds a strong foundation.

 

It just makes our turnaround time quicker and more efficient,” Ramirez said. “We’re able to work closely with our growers to ensure quality and performance standards are met. With our highly efficient automated seed blenders, we are able to ship products in a timely manner”.

 

 

Rooted in Oregon

 

Mountain View Seeds is part of Pratum Co-op, established in 1946 by a group of local farmers cultivating premium grass seed east of Salem. In 1998, Troy Kuenzi and Todd Bond started Mountain View Seeds to handle the rising demand for Pratum’s private varieties.

 

Though the scope of the business is now global, Ramirez said the company remains dedicated to serving Oregon agriculture. Mountain View Seeds is a supporter of several industry groups, including the Oregon Seed Growers League, Tall Fescue Commission, Fine Fescue Commission, and Annual Ryegrass Growers Association. The company also donates to the annual Oregon Ag Fest, as well as local FFA chapters.

 

As members of the Oregon Seed Association, Ramirez said the company benefits by being able to network and exchange insights that strengthens the entire seed industry.

 

“We’re all competitors in the room, but we have common goals,” he said. “It’s a really good place to gain knowledge of what’s happening, especially in a diverse industry such as ours. There are so many different things that go on.”

 

 

Fighting for Grass

 

One of the biggest challenges facing the seed industry, Ramirez said, is fighting against the perception that grass lawns are bad for the environment. In addition to grass’ ability to sequester carbon, improve air quality, and prevent erosion, Mountain View Seeds is constantly working to develop more sustainable varieties that use less water, fertilizer, and pesticides while maintaining quality.

 

To do this, Ramirez said the company utilizes the Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf (ALIST), multiple universities, and other research partners.

 

“The biggest thing is we do a lot of research and trials to figure out which varieties can have reduced inputs, more heat tolerance, and decreased water use,” Ramirez said. “A lot of it ties into the environment, but it’s also about cost savings in a way where you have fewer inputs, and you’re also doing better by the Earth.”

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?”

Lena Prine Joins OSA Administrative Team

Lena Prine

Pac/West Lobby Group is expanding its administrative team with the addition of Lena Prine as assistant to Oregon Seed Association Executive Director Ryan Tribbett. Prine and Tribbett will be working together to help grow OSA’s membership and influence statewide.

“Oregon is the grass seed capital of the world, driving more than $1 billion in economic activity annually,” Prine said. “We need to make sure that our companies have a strong voice in Salem, advocating for the policies and resources they need to keep the industry strong and competitive in global markets.”

Growing up in Portland, Prine first took an interest in agricultural issues as a legislative assistant for former state Rep. Raquel Moore-Green (R-Salem), who served on the House Energy and Environment Committee. She later participated in the nonprofit Resource Education & Agricultural Leadership Program, commonly known as REAL Oregon. The program aims to increase knowledge and advocacy for Oregon agriculture.

Each class spends five months touring around different regions of the state, learning about the myriad of agricultural commodities they produce and what unique issues farmers, ranchers, foresters, and fishers face.

“I learned about the importance and significance of the natural resources economy in ways I didn’t previously understand,” Prine said. “I feel like my time in the program furthered my understanding of who the true caretakers of the land really are.”

In addition to her behind-the-scenes understanding of the Oregon Legislature, Prine has also spent the last year working closely with local companies as director of business advocacy for the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. Prine said she hopes to use her experience in both business and politics to amplify OSA’s success.

“We sometimes make it hard for our natural resources producers, including seed companies, to do their job in this state,” Prine said. “My passion is really easing the regulatory environment so farmers can farm, fishers can fish, and foresters can forest.”