Agriculture may be the most important industry there is. It’s the basis of food production and therefore, the basis of human life. Yet, more than 10,000 years after the birth of agriculture, humans are still learning how to produce food more efficiently. Constant changes in the environment and technology can drastically alter food production, which is why farmers and ranchers need help staying up-to-date on the latest agricultural developments. “Farmers are very smart,” says Brad Ruhkamp, owner of Havre’s Wild Horse Seeds. “They need a place that understands growing conditions, seed varieties, and what’s going to work best in a given area.” At Wild Horse Seeds, Ruhkamp and his staff help farmers select seed varieties that will provide the best coverage for the least amount of money. Whether a customer is buying five bags of seed or 100, each is treated with topnotch customer service, and if an employee doesn’t have an exact answer to a customer’s question, they put in the time to find out.
Wild Horse Seeds carries products designed to produce the best possible result with seed conditioning, seed cleaning and precision seed treating. These services protect seeds from diseases and give them the best chance of surviving from planting until harvest.
Cleanliness and treatment of seeds greatly increases the likelihood of a successful crop which is why cleanliness is central to Wild Horse Seeds’ business operation. “If you walk into a seed plant and it isn’t clean, that’s a bad sign,” says Ruhkamp. “Our facility must be clean at all times. If an employee isn’t busy with something else, they’ve got a broom in their hand.” In addition to a strict daily cleaning schedule, Wild Horse Seeds power washes the facility from top to bottom annually to ensure the quality of its products. The hard work doesn’t go unnoticed either; many patrons have asked Ruhkamp how they manage to keep the place so incredibly clean.
Wild Horse Seed’s patrons come from all over Montana, and sometimes even further than that. Because the plant has built such a strong reputation, its not uncommon for out-of-state farmers to pick up Wild Horse Seeds. “We have a customer who comes every year from Wyoming,” says Ruhkamp. “One time I asked him why he drives all the way to Havre for seed. He said he never has to worry about what he’s picking up, he knows its quality.”
Ruhkamp is proud of his seed plant’s reputation and he’s worked hard to earn the respect of farmers around the region. Long before he was the owner of Wild Horse Seeds, he was a general laborer at the plant, which was at the time called Macintosh Seeds. “I started in 1983 doing basic stuff, mostly cleaning and bagging seed,” he says. Ruhkamp worked his way up from there, becoming a foreman, then a system manager, and finally, the plant manager.
After eight years of managing, Ruhkamp learned that the family running Macintosh Seeds was ready to move on from the business. “I realized that I was either going to have to go out on my own or find a new career,” says Ruhkamp. “I liked what I did, so I got financial backing and bought the company in 2002.” He changed the name of the plant to “Wild Horse Seeds” to reflect its location along the historical Wild Horse Trail (which was used for bootlegging whiskey between the United State sand Canada during Prohibition).
Montana farmers trust Ruhkamp and his staff at Wild Horse Seeds, which is a huge commendation considering what’s at stake. So much of farming is left up to chance – weather conditions, insects, market prices – which is why farmers need every advantage.
“We are a small, family-owned business and we don’t consider farmers accounts; they’re people,” says Ruhkamp. “Farmers contribute to all of us. Every time we eat a meal, a farmer or rancher has helped us.”
Ruhkamp wants to return the favor.