Native-grown seeds help producers and the Kansas economy

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
A semi-truck gets weighed on the scale at Phillips Seed Farms, 980 Hwy 15, in rural Hope, Kan. on Wednesday afternoon. Phillips Seeds Farms provides wheat, soybeans, corn, milo, forages, cover crops and lawn & turf seeds as well as seed treatments that have been tested to provide the best performance for a certain type of farm ground.

Out of a small seed, a nutritious plant can grow.

Kansas seed growers and manufacturers come in all sizes and produce all types of seed, from grains to grasses to beans and vegetables. Most of the companies are family owned. 

Like several other seed companies in Kansas, Phillips Seed Farms in Hope sells soybeans, corn, grain sorghum and cover crops. They not only test the seeds, but they make sure they are cleaned and ready to plant. In addition, they are continuously in a state of innovation.

By having offices in Assaria and Tescott, as well as Hope, this company is able to employ farmers in rural Kansas to help with growing, as well as be able to sell to farmers and ranchers statewide and throughout the Midwest. 

Kory Smith, CEO & General Manager of Phillips Seeds Farms, talks about the soybean seeds as they go through a gravity cleaner at Phillips Seeds Farms in rural Hope, Kan. on Wednesday afternoon.

Recently, the company expanded to a wildlife feed product. The product can be used on game farms or in the wild. By helping deer and pheasants with nutrition, they are less likely to become ill.

"This product helps them have a healthy herd," said Kory Smith, the CEO of Phillips. 

A pallet of Real World Wildlife Deadly Dozen bags that contain a blend of winter hardy oats, winter wheat, winter barley, Austrian winter peas, tillage radish, purple top turnips, rape plus, sugar beets, forage collards, impact forage collards, crimson clover and oil seed radish. Hunters can plant the blend in the fall to help attract wildlife to their land.

Phillips employs a full-time agronomist to help both the business and the producers they serve. Hundreds of thousands of seeds run through testing and cleaning each day.

Smith grew up on a diversified farm in Nebraska. His passion is to make sure his product is the right fit for each producer.

"The seed is a key element for any grower," he said. "We provide quite a variety of cropping seed."

Other growers across the state, including Miller Seed Farms in Partridge and Kauffman Seeds in Hutchinson, feel the same way. Miller Farms has worked in the field since 1947 and Kauffman since 1965. 

Kory Smith grabs a handful of soybean seeds after being sorted and cleaned at Phillips Seeds Farms at the Hope, Kan. facility.

Serving Kansas for more than one century

Along with having a high-quality product, it is the relationship with the producer and dealer that is crucial to all parties. 

The Sharp Family in Healy, just down the road from Scott City, has run a seed business for more than a century.

"My grandfather started it," said Daniel Sharp, a manager at the Buffalo Brand Sharp Brothers Seed Company

In 1908, Sharp's grandfather, Marcus “Brownie” Sharp, bought his first load of black amber cane seed in northwest Lane County. He traveled around the area in a horse-drawn wagon, purchasing seed and then loading his seeds onto trains.

But in the 1950s the business changed a bit. That's when Daniel's father and uncle came back from military service and decided to specialize in native grasses as well.

A semi-truck is loaded with pallets of different types of seed at the Phillips Seeds Farms, 980 Hwy 15, in rural Hope, Kan. on Wednesday afternoon.

"They were asked by a lot of conservationists to maintain and restore the land," Sharp said. "Grasses help with the restoration and preservation of soils. We are one of the largest national producers of buffalo grass."

Along with selling grasses, corn, wheat and sorghum, the company sells cover crops and wildflower seeds.

Like with Buffalo Brand and Phillips, seed growers in Kansas rely on their test plots, growers, products and communication skills. 

"It's still a human business. We want to treat our growers with the utmost respect," Smith said. "People sell people. That's what makes this business special."

Kory Smith, CEO & General Manager of Phillips Seeds Farms, sits by some seed samples inside of the main office at the Phillips Seeds Farms at the Hope, Kan. facility.