GALLATIN VALLEY SEED COMPANY HISTORY
In 1911, the Jerome B. Rice Seed Company of Detroit, Michigan sent William A. Davis to the Gallatin Valley in Bozeman, Montana to determine whether peas, a crop blighted by disease in the East, could be grown in the area profitably. The Davis’s pea production efforts were so successful that, two years later, farmers harvested seventeen thousand acres of seed peas, spawning the Gallatin Valley Seed Company in 1913.
During the 1930’s, the pea industry was the dominant business in the Gallatin Valley. Indeed, Montanans called it the “seed pea capital of the United States.” The Gallatin Valley Seed Company carefully bred, inspected and measured its pea seed varieties to ensure purity of its lines. Customers regarded Gallatin Valley pea seed varieties, i.e. Thomas Laxton, Perfection, Rocket, W.R. Surprise, Bridger, Cascade, Climax, Pride, Ranger, Hyalite, and Alaskan as top varieties. Many farmers, as had happened in the East, grew peas season after season thus bacterial blight began to diminish yields and the seed pea industry began to decline in the 1940’s and 50’s.
During the late 1930’s farmers learned the dangers of single crop production; blight destroyed some of the once vigorous pea production. As blight inflected the Gallatin Valley, seed companies began to move production to Idaho’s Snake River Valley and Washington’s Palouse Hills. The Gallatin Valley Seed Company absorbed several competitor companies and moved its operations to the Twin Falls, Idaho area referred to as the “Magic Valley” and Colfax, Washington in the Palouse. Rogers Brothers Seed Company acquired the Gallatin Valley Seed Company in 1957 as a wholly owned subsidiary with its excellent research program and 30 years of successful operation. Gallatin Valley Seed Company left the Bozeman area in 1962 and moved its headquarters to Filer, Idaho. The president of Gallatin Valley Seed Company was H.B. Schlagenhauf and its head of breeding and research was Dr. M.C. Parker. In about 1967 Gallatin Valley Seed Company build a new pea and bean processing plant in Twin Falls and in 19 Bill Albers became the President and its research department added Dr. Calvin Lamborn and Dr. Paul Moser.
Gallatin Valley Seed Company during this period expanded its research and sales to include garden beans, peas and a new innovation from Dr. Calvin Lamborn called snap peas. President Bill Albers went on to become President of Rogers Brothers Seed Company and was replaced by Alden Hill. Dr. Lamborn breeding of snap peas and Bill Albers contributions to production, marketing and sales contributed to Gallatin Valley’s continued success and growth in production of sales. The primary pea breeder was Dr. Paul Moser and most current pea varieties owe their beginning to Dr. Moser.
Gallatin Valley Seed Company continued to grow and focused its efforts in breeding, production and sales of garden beans, peas and snap peas under the leadership of Alden Hill, John Mueller, Dr. Calvin Lamborn, Dr. Paul Moser, Jim Krier, Doug McEwen, and Mrs. LaJoy Nielsen until 1992 when it was consolidated into Rogers Brothers Seed Company.
Ron Johnson entered the picture in 1999 to acquire the name use rights to Gallatin Valley Seed Company to manage dry bean and pea production for Syngenta Seeds (Rogers Brand) and its Twin Falls, Idaho production. Syngenta seed announced its intent to sell its dry bean and pea programs including all pea varieties and the name and trademark “Gallatin Valley Seed Company.” Ron Johnson purchased the Gallatin Valley Seed Company and the pea varieties from Syngenta Seeds, Inc. in December, 2008. Thus, Gallatin Valley Seed Company remains a vibrant and successful part of the pea seed industry.
Ted Arnzen is our Director of Sales and Marketing. Ted has 24 years of experience in the large seed vegetable industry with a focus on processing. Ted's previous roles include Procurement Rep for pea, bean and sweet corn seed production; Production Research for seed procurement of large seeded vegetables; Product Development for peas, beans and sweet corn in the processing industry; Direct Sales and account management; Product Lead for Marketing of large seeded vegetable. Ted holds a Plant Science degree from U of I an a MBA from Boise State.
- Much of the history comes from “Peas That Please” article in the Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Article date July 1, 2008. Author Phyllis Smith.