How does a seed company celebrate 90 years of service to the cotton industry? That’s easy. You turn the celebration into a year-long family reunion and let everyone continue to reminisce about an amazing journey that began when patriarch George B. Walker started the company in the early 1920s. A part of this celebration occurred recently at the Capp Center in Stoneville, Miss., when family, employees and friends of the company gathered to talk about the past, present and future. The event lasted almost three hours. But, if allowed, the storytelling could have lasted all day. That’s how entertaining it was for everyone in attendance.
From the company’s earliest days when it gained an international reputation for seed quality and service to the cotton farmer, this is a remarkable story in the cotton industry. Some companies might have had difficulty having so many owners through the years. But, for Stoneville, its reputation and brand always seemed to persevere no matter if it was Calgene, Emergent Genetics, Monsanto or Bayer CropScience that owned the company.
It all started, of course, with George B. Walker in 1922 when he and three other men began a company that would supply seed for farmers in the Mississippi Delta. And it was a special occasion to have so many members from the Walker family in attendance at this luncheon. The stories were heartfelt and emotional as different family members came to the podium to talk about how important the company was to the family and industry.
The list of speakers at the luncheon read like a Who’s Who of cotton leaders. Steve Nichols (Bayer Agronomic Services Manager) and Don Threet (Bayer Eastern Region Sales Manager) served as emcees of the program. Others who spoke included: O.A. Cleveland (retired Mississippi State economist), Bill Meredith (USDA-ARS), Chip Morgan (Delta Council) and several members of the Walker family.
There were tears and laughter as everyone spoke of their affection for the Walker family and the major impact that the company had on the cotton industry in the United States and around the world. Perhaps Threet summed up the feeling of many in attendance. Even though everyone had to adjust when a new owner bought the company, it was a beneficial learning experience for all parties.
“The one good thing is that the Stoneville brand continues to stand for excellence,” he said. “That gives me a good feeling as I look back on the company’s history and its future going forward with Bayer CropScience.”
The cotton industry is all about tradition and relationships that stand the test of time. Stoneville Seed represents all of these qualities. We congratulate this company on its 90-year anniversary and offer our best wishes for the future.