Farm customers and residents of the Jefferson community gathered recently on the AgVenture Spangler Seed Farm to celebrate the Spangler family's 100th year in the seed business.
The gathering included facility tours where visitors learned how the company sorts and packages seeds grown on 1100 acres around the Jefferson area.
It also included a presentation by Tim Maloney and an opportunity to view the varieties of corn growing in the plots around the business.
The Spangler family has had an impressive history in the agricultural industry.
John Spangler was the son of German immigrant parents. He bought 60 acres of cut over stump land north of Jefferson in 1877. The trees had been removed by the local railroad for use as railroad ties.
The Spanglers cleared the stumps to establish their farm. They still operate that 60 acres today and have added more land as time went by.
John Spangler's youngest two sons were Albert and Linus. They returned to farm the homestead. In 1920 they started the firm Spangler Brothers to grow open pollinated corn.
They relied on the advice and support of the Wisconsin Experiment Association, which later became Wisconsin Crop Improvement.
Some of the early varieties they grew were called Golden Glow, Silver King and a red corn known as Northwestern Dent.
There were hundreds of seed companies at the time in Wisconsin with eight alone in the Jefferson area.
Business was good and Spangler Brothers opened an office in an old hotel in Jefferson that served as their headquarters for close to 40 years.
Spangler Brothers began selling hybrid seed corn in 1937. They were to raise Wisconsin Public Hybrids for the next quarter century.
They were also one of the first seed companies in the state to build a "Wright" dryer.
Dr. Andy Wright was a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He published the first design for a commercial dryer for seed corn production.
The Wright dryer used a slatted floor design and allowed hot air from a furnace to be forced through the corn still on the ear. It greatly improved seed quality and hundreds of them were built in coming years by seedsmen all over the Midwest.
Albert Spangler's sons John and David became the second generation to enter the business in the fifties. John and David moved out of downtown Jefferson building the present day office at the farm in 1961
The brothers also slowly moved away from marketing Wisconsin Public Hybrids. They started a research effort and began developing their own proprietary corn hybrids.
The company also began marketing public variety soybean seed in the mid sixties. It came in two-bushel bags and soybeans were still a minor crop in the area at the time. But demand increased and by the early seventies the company began its present day lineup of proprietary seed.
STILL FAMILY FARM
John Spangler's son Jeff became the third generation to work at the firm in 1986. David Spangler passed away in 1989. Spangler Brothers changed their name to Spangler Seed Tech in 1997.
John Spangler is described as a true entrepreneur, constantly experimenting to find a better seed to improve yield and grower income.
He says, "We did not reach 100 years alone. With deepest gratitude we want to thank our customers, employees and everyone involved in sales. We wouldn't be here without you."
While John and Jeff continue to run the company today, in 2007 Spangler Seedtech joined forces with AgVenture, the nation's largest network of independent owned and operated regional seed companies.
John says, "AgVenture allows us to access the broadest sources of seed, leading-edge genetics and traits available on the market. We continue to innovate high-yielding products for Wisconsin farmers that can stand strong against stress and plant disease, and provides our growers more profit per acre."
John adds, "Private ownership is important to us in this industry. It allows us to act quicker and for the right reasons than many competitors. It also allows us to be closer to the customer and better meet their needs."
Jeff says, "We are proud to put our knowledge of Wisconsin soils, growing conditions and agronomic practices to work for our customers. As an independent regional seed company, we respect the local variations that have such huge impact on yield and profitability."
Guiding the tour of the facilities at the celebration was Rodney Meschke, who has been with the company for 32 years. Before working full time for the company he worked summers for the Sprangler family detassling corn at the age of 14.
He explained that seed corn on the Spangler farm is harvested on the ear and dried on the ear. He says, "It can't get too hot because heat will ruin the germination. The drier provides a lot of air flow without heat."
Once the product is brought out on a drag line it is shelled and then stored in bins.
He says, "We bring the shelled corn into the mill with upper air suction to take out the light stuff from the top. Two screens on the bottom take particles out from below. What's in the middle is the good seed corn."
The corn seed then passes through drums to separate the flats from the rounds, the small from the large. It is then graded and sifted once more.
Most corn goes through some sort of treatment - fungicide, insecticide or both. The mix that is placed on the corn seed is computer-controlled according to the specific recipe.
Seed then goes into bags or bulk 200-pound boxes.
The company has six full-time employees and many part time workers during planting and harvest season and for detassling.
Seed bagging begins in November after all the outside field work is complete.
The company raises both corn seed on 840 acres and 260 acres of soybeans. About 400 acres are irrigated.
Meschke says, "Last year we bumped up the corn acreage some and this year we still planted more because of last year's drought.
On hand at the 100th anniversary celebration were some of the machines used in production and also the first pickup truck the Spangler family used in the business and the first tractor - a John Deere M - that replaced horses on the farm.