Regional Seed Company Spotlight: AgVenture East Coast Seed
Earl Passwaters created East Coast Seed in 2008. Mark Davis took over the reins as owner when Earl unexpectedly passed away in 2011. Mark—and East Coast Seed—have carried on Earl’s legacy.
From day one, East Coast Seed has been committed to helping farmers become more successful. Was that a planned approach from the beginning?
MARK DAVIS: Who we are today started with Earl Passwaters, who founded East Coast Seed. In the early 2000s, Earl was one of the leading agriculture seed sales representatives in the Delmarva area. He wasn’t satisfied with how farmers here were supplied with seed based on Midwest conditions. There was little or no consideration for the differences in soil, weather, environment and farming practices. Earl discovered that AgVenture shared his mission to provide seed based on local conditions, so in 2008 he created East Coast Seed and became an AgVenture Regional Seed Company (RSC). His first move was to develop AgVenture plots. I bought seed from him and became involved in putting in more plots and gathering data. Earl and I traveled to Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota many times between 2008 and 2011, networking and ultimately finding and developing seed that was specific to our area. Earl unexpectedly passed away in 2011, at which point I took over ownership. Since Earl had 26 years of experience in the seed industry and was well respected in the ag world, I had big shoes to fill. I continue to carry on his vision and work hard to bring advanced seed technology and individualized plans to East Coast farmers.
“There are always more bushels to produce” is an AgVenture mantra. How does ECS help achieve this?
MARK DAVIS: We help farmers a variety of ways. As business people, farmers know they need to constantly find new approaches to increase their earnings and their profits. Sometimes that means changing the way they farm. The first thing we do is work with them to discover what they can do differently to produce more bushels. We consider things like farm decision-making, crop rotation and placement, chemical applications and timing, and fertilizer use. I examine farmers’ fields and assist them the following season in choosing the correct AgVenture variety, setting up the planter and checking seed depth and spacing.
Another thing we do is conduct an annual Ag Expo where farmers get pertinent, useful information—information they can incorporate immediately for greater success the next season. Recent Expo topics were dedicated to effective use and non-use of fungicides, soil testing, tissue sampling, scouting crops, drones, deer management, nitrogen application to corn and Palmer amaranth control. “Where Do Hybrids Come From?” and “Farming—It Ain’t What It Used to Be” are two subjects that drew a lot of attention. Agriculture vendors also participate to present the latest technology and services.
Finally, we have more than 10 years of research and data behind our seed to prove that it’ll produce in this area. By working with farmers, discovering their needs and strategizing on how to improve their bottom line, we help them produce more bushels, which is our goal for each grower every year.
Why has ECS been successful over the years?
MARK DAVIS: Our success is because of the legacy Earl Passwaters left behind to supply the right seed for this area. I’m continuing Earl’s mission to help area farmers every way possible. When we form relationships with committed area growers, a great team is created. And that leads to great advances and success.
What sets ECS apart from the competition?
MARK DAVIS: We’re not your typical seed company. First, East Coast Seed has worked and researched for more than 10 years to provide individual growers with localized seed that can deliver the highest profit potential. We personally select the AgVenture hybrids and varieties that are best suited for conditions in this area—it’s not allocated at a corporate level. We use several years of plot data, local soil and weather data, and testing on selected farms before we sell a variety.
Second is the quality of our seed. Most seed suppliers are satisfied with corn seed germinations of 85%, but our standard is no less than 90% for warm, cold and cold saturated germinations. Most seed suppliers don’t place importance on any germination testing except warm germ.
Third, an East Coast Seed representative is available year round, seven days a week for assistance with a wide range of services, from crop planning and pest control to fertilizer application and assistance with planting and equipment. We’re here to take care of our farmers—even those who aren’t customers.
Finally, we’re also an authorized Meridian dealer and provide seed tenders and other Meridian equipment and parts, as well as personal instruction or assistance with repairs when needed.
In a nutshell, we’re a flexible, independent RSC that focuses on individual farmers and their success—not on the “corporate machine.”
Why should growers come to ECS instead of the seed company down the road?
MARK DAVIS: No other seed company has as much appreciation—or respect—for area farmers as ECS. They’re hard-working, resourceful and determined to succeed. We support them every step of the way and continue to deliver on our founding principle to provide locally selected seed and individualized plans. We work day and night to assist farmers in every way to help them become more successful and profitable. Farmers won’t find locally selected seed like ours. It’s the result of superior AgVenture seed technology that undergoes rigorous above-standard seed testing. Plus, we don’t just sell seed. We provide year round agronomic support and develop relationships based on mutual goals.
How does ECS solve problems for its customers?
MARK DAVIS: We consult with a network of knowledgeable agronomic experts and institutions, such as the University of Delaware, University of Maryland, extension agents, Midwest agronomists, local crop consultants, local and national laboratories and other RSCs. We’re determined to assist growers and will use all means and expertise to do this.