Barry Mumby took a leap of faith in 1979 with four partners to launch Mendon Seed Growers.
Paying 18 percent interest on borrowed capital and adding customers a single digit at a time, he had no idea then what the seed corn venture would spur in St. Joseph County and the region.
While that Southwest Michigan county is also home to seed corn production giants Pioneer and Monsanto, Mendon Seed Growers persevered because family-owned seed companies wanted to sell seed grown by family-owned farms. That familial commitment allowed Barry to buy out his partners’ interest. His son, Dave Mumby, later joined him in business after graduating from Michigan State University and spending several years as a seed corn salesman at Dow.
“I learned marketing and brought these skills to Dad’s business,” Dave said. “I contacted 45 seed corn companies and gained one new customer. Soon, we had five new customers and quickly went from growing 500 acres of seed to two thousand acres.”
In 1999, Dave and his wife, Deanna, bought the business from his father, and the evolution continued with Barry’s blessing. Dave was instrumental in establishing Premier Seed Group, a collaboration of 12 family seed producers who use their combined resources to better compete in the market. In 2012, Dave and Deanna added to their business footprint by constructing a modern seed corn drying facility with the capacity to handle 140,000 bushels annually.
Forward thinking has led to another project. This year, Dave and Deanna joined forces with kindred entrepreneurial spirits, Jason Schwenk and Alvie Wall, to create Excel Ag Solutions. The newly-formed seed corn bagging company will operate in a renovated industrial building in Sturgis, taking their offerings to a new level.
“Mendon Seed Growers needed to vertically integrate,” Dave explains. “Yesterday’s family seed companies were farmers that wanted to produce. Today’s family seed companies are marketers that want full service.”
After the seed is dried, Excel Ag Solutions provides the remaining turn-key services—cleaning, sizing, treatment, bagging, warehousing, and distribution. The $3 million start-up investment includes state-of-the-art equipment and will serve retailers from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.
The operation will begin with eight employees, including two clerical, two managerial, and four laborers. The various job skills needed will encompass data management, scheduling, customer relations, equipment set-up and maintenance, operations oversight, and warehousing functions.
Although Barry passed away in 2017, Dave knows he has been proudly watching over the progress. “This is something he always wanted to do,” he said.