By Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor
Joe Spahr had no idea, when he started selling Cornelius seed corn in 1962, that he would still be doing it 50 years later.
“It was just a little side line,” Spahr said.
Spahr was honored Thursday, Sept. 13 by the Cornelius company, as part of a customer appreciation supper held at the Monticello Conservation League.
He first learned about the company in 1960, when his father won a bushel of Cornelius seed corn at a state corn-picking contest. Gilbert Cornelius, then president of Cornelius Seed, presented the Spahr family with a bag, and the family bought another bag.
The family planted the corn in 1961.
“That was the best corn we had that year,” Spahr recalled.
“The next year, Gilbert came and wanted to know if I wouldn’t sell corn. That’s how we got started,” Spahr said.
Over those 50 years, Spahr has watched a dramatic expansion of seed corn varieties.
“When it first started, (the price list) was on a little recipe card,” he said. “That had everything we needed to know to sell seed corn.”
Now, Cornelius publishes a 24-page booklet listing the varieties and traits.
“Joe has seen a few changes over the years,” said Mark Grosskruger, sales manager for Cornelius. “Nowadays you have to have a slide rule, with all the different traits you can use.”
At the appreciation supper, Grosskruger presented Spahr with a certificate for his achievement, noting to those in attendance that “he’s been a dealer longer than I’ve been alive.”
Spahr started farming in 1959, milked for six years, and them moved to a different farm where he fed cattle and kept sheep.
He and his wife Sandra finally sold the farm to the Garry Zumbach family in 2010.
“I don’t have a plot anymore. I don’t grow any, but I kept on selling seed corn,” Spahr said. “The Cornelius family is a wonderful family to deal with.”
“We’re a family operation, starting our 78th year of business,” Grosskruger said. “The fifth generation (of the Cornelius family) is now involved.”
Joe and Sandra have been married for 53 years, and he became a member of the Monticello Conservation League the same year they were married. He has served as the organization’s treasurer for more than 15 years.