KNOXVILLE, Ill. — Has Wyffels Hybrids had its best year yet?
Bill Wyffels Jr., company president and son of the seed corn
company’s founders, said the past year has been successful, but with the next
generation of Wyffels arriving, he hopes the best is yet to come.
“We’re excited to have another generation in the business,
and the baton is getting warmed up,” he said.
Wyffels spoke at the 10th annual Corn Strategies conference.
Each year, the company hosts the midsummer event to bring some of the most
current information on global economics, agricultural outlooks and national and
world politics to their customers.
“It’s our effort to bring value to the producer in the way
of knowledge and strategic thinking that is free,” Wyffels said.
This year, the event was held at Wild Rose Farms LLC, the
family farm of the Humphreys and Ramp families in rural Knoxville.
“The idea is to move it around from time to time and expose
our organization a little bit more to people who don’t know anything about us.
We try to move it within 100 miles of where we’ve never been before on the map,
alternating with the location of the Farm Progress Show,” Wyffels said.
Wyffels said the idea behind Corn Strategies is to bring
that knowledge at a time when producers can use it before harvest and to provide
farmers an opportunity not only to get the latest information on economics and
ag outlooks, but to network.
“I think producers, in many instances, learn from producers.
We’ve got a lot of folks here. It’s that time of year when they’ve wrapped up
the spring rush, and they have a moment or two to reflect and relax and maybe
think a little bit about some different things,” he said.
Wyffels said that despite a shift to soybean acres this
year, the company has had a great year.
“Acres shift in the U.S. frequently. Our business has been
only corn for the last 25 to 30 years, so those shifts in Iowa and Illinois are
more gradual and corn and soy acres. It hasn’t impacted us as much as we
expected. There are areas where continuous corn has been real heavy for some
years, and people have cut back due to insect pressure and have gone into more
of a rotation. It certainly didn’t impact our business growth this year,” he
Wyffels introduced the next generation, the third
generation, to enter the family business.
“I am so happy to say now that we have three of the third
generation who have joined the company,” he said.
Wyffels introduced his youngest son, Blake Wyffels, who
works in market research, and his oldest son, John, who joined the company in
March and heads up the finance administration section. Bob Wyffels’ son, Jacob,
joined the company two years ago and works in supply management.
“If you look around here, there’s a lot of youth, and that’s
important in a business, to bring that energy and that dynamic thinking outside
the box technology because that’s what’s going to be a bigger part of
agriculture in the years ahead. We are excited about the future and the
opportunity of our business,” Wyffels said.
He reminisced about the business that famously started as an
effort not to build a better corn seed, but to breed a better oat.
“Oats was the thing that got us going. It was an innovative
father who worked with a county Extension agent who kept bringing new and novel
ideas to our farm. Dad was the guy always willing to try something new. Bob and
I grew up around that, and we’ve seen that over the years. From that kitchen
table, which was the office and also the place where everybody met, we’ve grown
up from there,” he said.
He also commented on the long working relationship between
himself and his brother, Bob.
“We’ve kind of grown up around this business and worked with
each other since — well, forever. For two brothers to get along for this long
and have the respect and the ability to think through and do things has been a
marvelous thing,” Bill Wyffels Jr. said.
Wyffels emphasized the impact of independence and how being
able to stay an independent and family-operated business has been an asset for
the company and its customers.
“We believe much in the idea of independence and being
privately owned. The ability that gives us as owners to make business decisions
that aren’t governed by 5,000 people who are stockholders, to do something that
isn’t always based on a quarterly earnings report as opposed to what’s important
for the people we want to serve and the ones we love to serve,” he said.
The personal touch and the family connection has resulted in
“We had a great year last year. It was probably our third-
or fourth-largest increase in the company’s sales, but we also grew our customer
base by nearly 7 percent plus our customer retention is probably the highest in
the company’s history. We have probably 55 district managers, and 44 of those
increased their sales this past year,” Wyffels said.