Legacy Seeds open new research center, announces acquisition by Tillerman Seeds

Dan Hansen

WAUPACA – It was a milestone week for Legacy Seeds. On Aug. 8, the company celebrated the opening of its new research and learning center, and less than 24 hours later, the company announced that it had been acquired by a Michigan seed company.

Jim Wold, Legacy Seeds corn and soybean product manager, told attendees how the several varieties in the plot behind him encompass 100 years of corn breeding history.

Legacy employees, seed dealers, media members and others met at the 24-acre site on State Highway 54 east of Waupaca for the official ribbon cutting of a 7,200-square-foot research facility that includes laboratories for plant research and a 20-by- 30-foot greenhouse.

Just prior to cutting the ribbon at the building’s front entrance, Legacy Seeds President Bruce Ceranske thanked all those involved in bringing the new facility to completion.

“Today we celebrate the dedication and hard of our Legacy employees, dealers, and local vendors in making our new research and learning center a reality. This facility is a tribute to their commitment, integrity, performance and finding solutions to meet the needs of our customers,” he said. “This facility is such a blessing for us, our customers and our dealers, and we’re really looking forward to putting it to good use.”

Offices for the company’s plant breeders and agronomists are located in the new building. “There’s also a conference area for educational events where dealers and customers can receive the latest information on products and planting techniques,” Ceranske said.

Following the ribbon cutting, attendees toured the corn, soybean and alfalfa plots. Jim Wold, corn and soybean product manager, shared information on several varieties in one corn plot, that encompass 100 years of corn breeding history.

Company growth

The property also features several research plots containing numerous varieties of alfalfa, corn and soybeans.

“We’ll be planting a wheat plot this fall,” Ceranske noted. “We are not only looking at the genetics of the products but also their traits, and will evaluate these products to see which best fit the needs of our growers.”

Legacy Seeds, which was formed in 2000 by Steve Jensen, Tyler Lee, and Cerankse, now distributes its products worldwide. In addition to the research and learning center near Waupaca, its national sales headquarters is just a few miles north in Scandinavia. 

“Our alfalfa production center is located near Boise, Idaho,” Ceranske said. “There our field staff grows and packages the seed and ships it throughout the world.”

Despite current economic challenges throughout the agriculture industry, Legacy Seeds continues to grow its customer base.

“We’re in a good place because we have good products and remarkable people. We’re listening to our customers, putting their needs first, and we’ve been rewarded for that,” Ceranske stressed.

New ownership

Later that day during an employee meeting, Ceranske told his staff that Greenville, Mich.-based Tillerman Seeds had acquired the assets and real estate of Legacy Seeds. A public announcement of the deal was made the following day.

The Legacy Seeds acquisition builds on Tillerman’s October 2017 acquisition of another Michigan-based seed company, DF Seeds, LLC, a leading producer of soybean and wheat seeds for Midwestern microclimates. Both companies also sell popular conventional non-GMO seed lines.

Together, the two transactions have created a Midwestern seed company with nearly $40 million in annual revenues and 42 employees, proudly supplying more than 800 farms from seed operations in Michigan, Wisconsin and Idaho.

“Our employees did not know about this until after our Ribbon Cutting event was over,” said Ceranske, who will continue as an owner and executive leader of Legacy Seeds and part owner of DF Seeds. “I wanted to get through the event and tell all of our employees face-to-face versus an email.”

According to Ceranske, the transaction enabled Legacy Seeds to buy out the ownership stake of retired founder, Steve Jensen, and another minority partner, Tyler Lee, who will continue to manage the company’s operations in Idaho.

It will also provide resources for growth at Legacy. The transaction allows Legacy Seeds to maintain its heritage, operations — and all jobs — in Wisconsin and Idaho. 

“The deal will not impact any employee’s of Legacy Seeds or DF Seeds,” stressed Ceranske.  “in fact, we are continuing to add employees.”

Legacy Seeds and DF Seeds will be able to collaborate on research and development, as well as best business practices for customer service, marketing and cross-selling of product lines.

“As an investor and co-owner of Tillerman, we now have the ability to grow faster and acquire additional companies that are synergistic to the products and services we currently offer,” said Ceranske. “I see this partnership as a new beginning in our continuing growth.”