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Crites Seed Inc.

The First 30 Years
After managing a vegetable canning company in Ohio and later working as a seedsman based in North Dakota, Willis Crites was all too familiar with the erratic yields and quality of seed peas grown in the Midwest. Possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, he began to see this as a potential opportunity—if he could identify an area of the country better suited for seed pea production than the Heartland. In 1930 his search took him to the Palouse, a region of fertile soils and rolling hills stretching across portions of Eastern Washington and North-Central Idaho. Although at that time the Palouse was strictly a grain-producing area, Crites was convinced that the soil and climate were ideally suited for seed peas. His initial challenge was to entice a few prominent farmers to give peas a try. Using his considerable charm and promotional skills, Crites soon found a responsive group of “big field” growers who farmed in the areas around Moscow, Idaho, and Tekoa, Washington. In 1933, he and nine of those growers founded Crites-Moscow Growers, Inc., a cooperative, for the purpose of producing, processing, and marketing pea seed.
Crites Seed Inc.
The initial board of directors of Crites-Moscow Growers doggedly pursued two critical objectives: (1) to build a state-of-the-art seed processing and storage facility in Moscow, and (2) to develop a superior line of canning peas. The processing plant and warehouse were completed in 1936. Superlaska, a new high-yielding canner pea variety, was introduced in 1937 and achieved commercial viability in 1938. The success of Superlaska launched the young company on a rapid growth trajectory: the customer list grew quickly from 15 canners to more than 50, and annual seed production rose from 2 million to 5 million pounds.

Then, in 1943, the company lost its visionary and charismatic leader. Willis Crites died suddenly at age 57. Merle Stubbs, who had been serving as Director of Research, stepped into the General Manager position. He, along with Production Manager A.E. Koster and a dedicated, forward-looking board of directors, ably guided the company through the remainder of the decade. During the 1950’s, and 1960’s, Crites-Moscow Growers continued to strengthen its position as a supplier of pea seed mainly to the Midwest and East Coast canning industry.

 

Milestones Since 1965
1967
Tom Druffel joined Crites. He began as a field representative and retired 40 years later having served as Assistant General Manager, General Manager, and Chief Executive Officer—all the while maintaining day-to-day responsibility for western sales. Through his unwavering commitment to Crites's continued growth and success, Tom left an indelible mark on the company.
 
1975
Crites acquired the assets of Western Valley Seed Co. The purchase included a number of freezer pea lines, including the variety Scout. Prior to acquiring Western Valley, Crites had only canner varieties. Access to the freezer pea varieties, and especially to Scout, helped the company expand its market in the Western U.S. and gain a foothold in Europe.
 
1978
To help build its European sales, Crites entered into a marketing agreement with Royal Sluis, a prominent Dutch vegetable seed company founded in 1868. Royal Sluis agreed to represent selected Crites varieties in England and on the Continent.
 
1984
The half-century-old processing plant in Moscow, a wooden structure, was razed and replaced with a modern concrete and steel facility. The processing and seed treating lines were totally updated.
 
1996
Crites acquired exclusive North American marketing rights for the snap bean varieties of Pop Vriend Seeds, a leading Dutch vegetable seed breeder, producer and wholesaler.
 
1999
A Research Center was constructed in Moscow. The Center includes a greenhouse, a warehouse, offices, and workrooms.

1999
Crites entered into a lease-purchase agreement for a 10-acre parcel of land located near Quincy, Washington, on the western edge of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. The property contained a large steel-clad onion shed, which Crites converted into a modern pea processing and storage facility. This major investment was prompted by the gradual shift of a significant portion of the company's contracted seed pea acreage from the Palouse region to the irrigated Columbia Basin. Moreover, many of Crites's important customers operate in the Quincy area.
 
2001
The company began marketing sweet corn by forming an alliance with Snowy River Seeds (now HSR Seeds), an Australian corn seed breeder. Snowy River wished to expand its U.S. market, while Crites wanted to augment its product line. The partnership produced dramatic results. By 2010, the Snowy River variety Prelude had become the predominant sugary sweet corn genotype in the Northwest processing market.
 
2001
Crites entered into a working agreement with ProGene Plant Research to handle dry edible pea stock seed for ProGene customers in the Pacific Northwest.  This working relationship has expanded into supplying stock seed and commercial seed of ProGene dry pea varieties to customers throughout the U.S.   In 2002 the companies began cooperating on research.  The alliance between Crites and ProGene also includes ProGene's breeding partner, Plant Research (NZ) Ltd., based in Canterbury, New Zealand.  The three companies work together to bring high quality dry green pea varieties including Ariel, Aragorn and Banner to the world food market.
 
2008
Crites-Moscow Growers, Inc., the cooperative, was restructured and renamed. It became Crites Seed, Inc., a C corporation.
 
2009
An exclusive distribution agreement was established between Crites and Townsend Seeds International Ltd. of Christchurch, New Zealand. This agreement grants Townsend sales rights of Crites garden pea varieties in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, North Africa, Pakistan, and India. Townsend also serves as an integral part of the Crites supply chain by offering counter season production.
 
2010
Crites began producing (in addition to marketing) Pop Vriend bean varieties – while simultaneously conducting its own breeding program designed to complement Pop Vriend's by focusing on large-sieve lines. A new greenhouse to be used primarily for bean breeding was completed at the Quincy location.
 
Crites Seed Inc.
Corporate Office
212 West 8th St.
PO Box 8912
Moscow, ID 83843
Phone: 208 882 5519
Fax: 208 882 6464
Quincy Branch
16500 Rd 5 NW
PO Box 8
Quincy, WA 98848
Phone: 509 787 1446
Fax: 509 787 1617