Chris and Kevin Sale have a vision of a seed business prioritizing transparency, customer service and ultimately, profitability. With Sale Brothers Seed’s commitment to quality and recent return to their family business-based roots with Beck’s Hybrids, their vision has become reality.
In 1985, Chris and Kevin struck up a deal with DeKalb, their father and grandfather’s favorite seed company, and filled a semitrailer with product ready to hit the fields. But their introduction to and, ultimately fascination with, the seed business began even earlier thanks to a high school field tour.
“We went to school at Labette County High School and there was a DeKalb dealer there named Lillian Payne who let our class go out and tour some of her plots,” Kevin said. “We took an interest in it and there was another DeKalb dealer who had recently passed away near Coffeyville who left a void for a new DeKalb dealer in the area.”
Over the years as Sale Brothers Seed grew into a full-service seed business, DeKalb also grew from a family-owned seed company to what began to feel like a rotating door of company mergers and name changes. Eventually, Chris and Kevin, along with their customers, felt they needed a new direction, a wider variety of options, and a renewed connection to their business’s family values.
“In 2017, we decided to add another line-up to our portfolio after we had customers requesting a new line of seeds,” Kevin said. “We wanted to get back to a family-owned seed company so I went online to do some research and the first family-owned company I came to was Beck’s Hybrids.”
After doing their research, the Sale brothers found Beck’s commitment to customer service and seed quality to closely align with their goals for their seed business. At the time, Beck’s — an Atlanta, Indiana, based company — had only recently established itself with Missouri customers and the Sale Brothers pushed ahead in hopes of becoming one of the company’s first Kansas dealers.
“When Sale Brothers Seed originally reached out to us, we were not officially marketing in Kansas yet,” said Beck’s Hybrids regional representative Reid Nodine. “We knew from the beginning that Sale Brothers would be phenomenal because of what they stood for, for their customer base and service-driven mentality.”
As Beck’s westernmost dealer, Sale Brothers Seed serves multiple Kansas and Oklahoma counties in ways few seed businesses can — all while giving customers a direct connection to the source of their seed and the family behind the business.
“We wanted to get back to our roots because when we first started with DeKalb, they were a family-owned seed company,” Kevin said. “We felt like some of the corporations have lost track of what is important to the customer and why they have made it to where they are — and Beck’s has not lost sight of that.”
The Sale brothers feel confidence in their switch to Beck’s does not solely stand on their aligning values. First, Chris and Kevin put the quality of Beck’s varieties to the test.
“When we planted Beck’s seed the first year, we planted 100 acres of Liberty Link soybeans and using the Liberty herbicide they were our cleanest fields,” Kevin said. “We were able talk a lot of customers into trying the Liberty Link system using the results of that first year and now about 75 to 80 percent of our sales on soybeans is Liberty Link soybeans with the remainder being the Extend soybeans.”
While Beck’s is one of the top providers of Liberty Link soybeans in the United States, Sales Brothers customers can still buy all of their old favorite varieties or experiment with something new.
“There are so many choices with Beck’s because they buy germplasm from Pioneer, Bayer, and Syngenta. They also have their own breeding program so they can bring the farmer the best of all worlds,” Chris said. “That gives our customers lots of choices and different trait packages.”
New technology has always been a driving factor for Chris and Kevin. As farmers, they understand the need for continuous progress and improvement and as seed dealers, they push outside the box to help other producers integrate seed technologies on their own farm.
“When the Roundup Ready trait began in 1998, from that point on our soybean business exploded and we saw the need for stepping up our customer service,” Kevin said. “We added the bulk system with the treater and started delivering seed right to the customers’ fields so that they would not have to take time out of their day to come pick up seed.”
Sale Brothers wants to ensure each customer has easy, transparent access to information about how varieties perform in the area. Plot tours and variety tests help Chris and Kevin display their options and ensure they are carrying the best quality varieties for the region.
“We put out test plots and that has been a main driver for several years to put competition in these plots alongside our products and to know how our products perform,” Chris said. “By putting in the plots, in our fields and in customers’ fields, we can see the consistency from plot to plot.”
Along with customer service and education, Sales Brothers Seed values good customer rewards — an area where the switch to Beck’s Hybrids put them at an advantage over competitors.
“Since Beck’s is family owned, we don’t have shareholders that we have to give dividends back to so instead of our top 10 percent going to Wall Street, Beck’s started Commit Rewards to give our top 10 percent back to the farmers,” Nodine said. “The program started out with ATVs that guys could get to use on their farm and as that gained popularity, Beck’s approached other companies about volume savings to pass on to their customers and the program exploded.”
With or without the lure of fancy tractor leases, tropical vacations or private plane trips to the company headquarters, Kevin said the quality of the products at Sales Brothers far surpasses any perks offered.
“There’s competition out there that would say Beck’s is buying customers with the reward items but they’re saying that because they simply can’t offer the same things,” Kevin said. “The reward items are only as good as the products themselves are able to perform in the field so if the products weren’t performing well, no one would continue to buy from Beck’s just to get the reward items.”
Sale Brothers’ best asset is in the name. Service at Sale Brothers means producers deal with a Sale family member, who will treat them like family over a broad range of situations and solutions.
“Being farmers ourselves, we don’t close at 5,” Chris said. “We understand that if it’s 2 in the morning and there’s a big rain coming in and you need seed, we’ll get you that seed because we have been in those situations ourselves.”
By placing commitments to farming and family first, Sale Brothers Seed has been able to return a fourth generation to the farm and work alongside family to serve their friends, neighbors and community.
“We chose to come back to the farm — and our dad still farms with us,” Chris said. “It’s been passed down through time and to have my two boys now join the farm, it’s been great to have them on board, especially with the way the seed business has continued to grow.
“It’s definitely been a blessing to be able to do this as a family,” he said.