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Western Integrated Seed has come a long way since the Hoegemeyer family first started producing seed in Hooper back in 1937.

It was then that the family first started producing seed under the name Hoegemeyer Hybrids. In 2010, the family sold off the company, but the seed production part of it remained family owned and became what is now known as Western Integrated Seed.

In 2015, the company expanded its facility in Hooper, adding a new office and warehouse. And now, the company is considering potentially expanding further into Fremont.

“Our growth has really skyrocketed in the last four to five years,” said Matt Harms, plant manager at Western Integrated Seed.

And now, the company is being honored by the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce as the 2019 Ag Business of the Year. It’s the second time the company has received a recognition -- in 2016, when it first joined the Chamber, it was recognized as the New Chamber Business of the Year.

This time around, the company will be honored with a luncheon on March 19, along with the 2019 Ag Innovator of the Year Merritt Trailers and the Chvatal family, who is the 2019 Farm Family of the Year.

“We’re very excited about our company and how far we’ve come,” said Paul Robertson, operations manager for Western Integrated Seed. “We’ve had some really strong growth years and it’s nice to be recognized.”

Western Integrated Seed describes itself as a “custom seed production company that produces high-quality seed for retail seed companies and provides other seed solutions such as transportation and storage,” according to its website.

In addition to doing the field production of hybrid seed, the company has also grown to help its customers with business logistics as well -- the distribution, storage and other elements that seed companies may be seeking. That’s where the “integration” part of the company’s name comes from: they’ve sought to integrate all aspects of the seed business into one business model.

“We’re a little unique in this industry in that we’re a truly full-service company,” said company President Chris Hoegemeyer.

But the company’s executives say that’s not all that sets Western Integrated Seed apart.

“What has probably set us apart from a lot of companies our size is the tenure in which a lot of our employees have,” Harms said.

The company employs 20 to 25 full-time workers, though that number can reach up to 50 during harvest. Most of its employees have been with the company for more than 20 years.

Hoegemeyer says that’s a credit to a company culture where all employees feel like they have a hand in the company’s work.

“Our culture just has never had real strict management structures or anything like that,” Hoegemeyer said. “It’s always been very flat and we’re all involved in the decision making here, and it really helps us be pretty nimble.”

But Western Integrated Seed also credits its success to what Hoegemeyer describes as deeply connected network of ag stakeholders in the Dodge County region.

“It’s not just this business,” Hoegemeyer said. “There’s a big infrastructure in this area that supports it, of growers that grow seed for us, we rely on people that plant it for us, we have people that help us harvest, that help us truck. We’re really involved with a lot of people in the community and have great relationships with them and we’re all really in business together.”

“I think you see that in general in agriculture, there’s a lot of interconnected business,” he added.

The seed industry can be a complicated industry, with a growing amount of technology and significant gains in genetics. Looking to the future, Western Integrated Seed is concerned about a lagging agricultural economy -- but on the whole, it believes that Dodge County has a positive outlook.

“I think the poultry business coming in and creating a new corn market for everyone is going to be a positive,” Robertson said. “And I just feel like Dodge County is going to remain pretty strong.”

Looking into the future, the company is considering expanding into the Fremont area, though that decision is not finalized.

“We’re looking at the potential of an expansion into Fremont right now,” Hoegemeyer said.

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