Andrews Seed named Business of the Year

Mike and Susan Kurth stand in front of colorful racks of seed packages behind the counter at Andrews Seed Co. Their business is Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year.

ONTARIO — Mike and Susan Kurth both moved to Ontario with their families when they were 9 years old and became firmly planted in the community.

The couple are now owners, along with Dave Polhemus, of Andrews Seed Co. Andrews Seed is being honored as Business of the Year for 2015 by the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce. The company, as well as other honorees, will be recognized during the Chamber’s annual banquet Friday.

Alvin Andrews started Andrews Seed in 1917, Mike Kurth said. John Stubstad purchased the business in 1955.

Upon Stubstad’s death in 2003, Polhemus and the Kurths assumed ownership of the business.

Mike Kurth began working at Andrews Seed while in high school and continued to work there while attending Treasure Valley Community College in the crops and horticulture program. The company always set his work schedule around his school schedule, he said.

“There was always something to hold me,” Kurth said, about why he stayed with the business.

Susan Kurth was planning to go into nursing when she decided to make the store her career.

According to an Andrews Seed ad printed in an Argus Observer publication celebrating Ontario’s 125th anniversary, Stubstad streamlined the business and added seed conditioning facilities in the adjacent 600 block of South Oregon Street. In the 1980s, adjacent property to the east was acquired from Union Pacific Railroad for grain storage and a second seed conditioning facility.

More properties were acquired with the purchase of the Dyer Lumber Co. site to the north, and the former Wilsons Warehouse Market facility on the west side of South Oregon Street.

During the mid-1990s, the nursery was added and garden center was expanded. It had been a wholesale and retail seed company with a small store, Mike Kurth said.

The full-service nursery is open year-round, and people come to buy live Christmas trees, Mike Kurth said, but they will see people walking around out in the nursery in January.

Although they sell a lot of nursery and garden stock, seed is a major part of the business. Alfalfa seed is the company’s lead product, and red clover is second, Mike Kurth said.

Local farmers deliver the crops to Andrews, where it is cleaned, processed and bagged. The store also offers a variety of grass seed, cereal grains, plus custom and standard mixes. Andrews also sells other grass and cereal grain seed produced in other areas.

In addition, the store offers hundreds of varieties of bulk flower and vegetable seeds. What-ever the product, the seed is naturally produced.

“We don’t carry any GMO seed,” Mike Kurth said, adding that the company does not buy from companies that produce genetically modified seed.

Andrews also carries organic seeds.

“Organic is becoming more and more important,” Kurth said.

Andrews’ inventory includes tools, organic fertilizers, weed and bug control, trees, shrubs and annuals, along with bird seed and bird feeders.

What is most important to Mike and Susan Kurth is that Andrews Seed continues to be a family-run business. Their daughters Laura LeBoutillier and Monica Murach are involved with the business.

Andrews Seed expanded the business’s community involvement with the Adopt-A-Pot program, which provides placed flower pots in the downtown Ontario area and keeps flowers and plants in them year-round, with the help of donations. It also started the Pumpkin Palooza, a fall community event. Those projects are spearheaded by LeBoutillier, Susan Kurth said.

Their son, Joseph Kurth, who teaches at Treasure Valley Community College, also works on the farm seed side of business.

“It’s really our entire family involved,” Susan Kurth said.

Their employees also are an important part of the business, the Kurths said.

“Without them, none of this would be possible,” Mike Kurth said.

Those employees include Robert Douglas, Juan Pena, Victor Flores, Robyn Percifield, Grant Esplin and Gary McLean. There are seasonal employees as well.

“I feel very humbled to receive an award like this,” Mike Kurth said of the Chamber’s recognition.

His wife added that they are grateful to live in the community. Mike Kurth agreed.

“I felt the community support for us is the reason we are still relevant,” he said. “We hope we are relevant to them.”

Larry Meyer is a news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4813 or by emailing larrym@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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