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home : columnists : columnists September 20, 2017

Beck's Hybrids are seeding the future

By Paula Dunn
From Time to Thyme

I've been an avid gardener for most of my life, but I'm basically a city girl and I don't know beans about farming. (Okay, that was bad, but I couldn't resist.)

I was able to correct some of my ignorance recently, though, when I got the opportunity to attend Becknology Days at Beck's Hybrids near Atlanta, Indiana.

Becknology Days is the annual field show Beck's holds at their Atlanta headquarters to showcase their products, share their research, and demonstrate their appreciation for their customers. (Five additional shows take place each year at Beck facilities in other states.)

Before Becknology Days, all I knew about Beck's was that it was a Hamilton County company that sold seeds to farmers (primarily corn, soybeans and wheat) and I only knew that because I'd often seen "Beck's Hybrids" signs at the ends of planted rows as I drove by local farm fields. I had no idea their organization was as big as it is.

It's HUGE.

Beck's Hybrids is largest family-owned retail seed company in the country, and is the number three brand in their marketing area (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, southern Michigan, southern Wisconsin, western Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa and Missouri.)

It's also a very old company. It was started in 1937 by Lawrence and Francis Beck - the grandfather and father, respectively, of current CEO, Sonny Beck - on the 80 acre farm that Lawrence and his wife, Anna, bought in 1901.

The old 1912 family farmhouse still sits on the south side of 276th Street, in the middle of a vast complex of buildings and fields.

Across the street, the Research Building contains, among other things, the Beck Experience Center, a small museum which provides an overview of the history of both the Beck family and the company.

One of the museum's most interesting exhibits is a case displaying items made from corn. Some, like corn starch and corn muffins, come as no surprise, but others you wouldn't believe. Disposable diapers? The over-the-counter cold medicine NyQuil? BATTERIES???

Also inside that building is a wall which sports the quote, "Farming is not just an occupation. It's a way of life." - a reminder that the people at Beck's don't just sell seeds. They're farmers, too.

They run one of the largest seed testing and breeding programs in this region, and they continue to support their customers even after the seed is sold, through consultations and other means.

In addition, they operate a Country Store on the premises which is open Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store not only stocks the usual promotional mugs, caps and tee shirts, but also many other interesting items, like corn and soybean-shaped stress relievers (with the Beck's logo, naturally!)

What really blew me away, though, was how clean everything was - no, not just clean, IMMACULATE.

You'd expect a business with that much machinery, especially one that deals with digging in the dirt, to at least be dusty, if not downright grimy. Everything was so clean it practically sparkled.

I don't know what their secret is, but I wish they'd let me in on it. Or better yet, come clean MY house!

If you'd like to learn more about Beck's, author Jerry Steadham collaborated with the marketing department to produce a book to commemorate the company's 75th anniversary in 2012, "The Beck's Experience: 75 Years of a Remarkable Way to do Business." It's available at the Country Store, or online through their website www.beckshybrids.com.

Thanks to Ed and Joe Snyder, and Tom and Lisa Hayner for helping me gather information for this column.

Notable Nineties Update: Rosanna Dunn has added former Noblesville mail carrier Betty Williams. Congratulations!

Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com

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