Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ferry Morse Seed RIP

The 53-year-old Ferry Morse Seed Factory in Fulton, Kentucky that started sending seeds in the mail seven generations ago hand-delivered a letter to nearly 200 factory workers just after lunch. It stated their position was terminated, effective immediately.  Jiffy Products owned and operated the factory. But now, Massachusetts-based Plantation Products owns the home and garden division of Jiffy, and in turn, owns Ferry Morse.  The parent company Jiffy is based in Norway. The Jiffy brand is traded in the professional grower business and at retail.  In Canada the company operates under the brands of McKenzie and McFayden.

Indiana state officials were notified May 18 that Ferry-Morse Seed Co. was bought out by Seed Holdings and will close its operations across the country, including a distribution center in Fremont IN that at one time employed up to 50 people.

Ferry-Morse's White City, Oregon garden seed distribution center will close by the end of the year.  It is unknown if the Macon GA plant closed.

According to local news reports, most of the facilities had used enterprise zones, which offered a property tax abatement and other financial incentives to the company.  It's now in question if the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested through these means is lost.  Local towns and the states may be left holding the bag (an empty one), along with empty buildings and most importantly lost jobs. 

Seed Holdings released this statement May 30, 2012:

Seed Holdings Inc. and Jiffy International announced today the successful completion of a transaction in which Seed Holdings has acquired from Jiffy International substantially all of the assets of Ferry-Morse Seed CoSimultaneously, Jiffy has taken a majority shareholding in Seed Holdings. The transaction also included the acquisition of A.E. McKenzie Inc. of Canada.

 Seed Holdings is the shareholder of Plantation Products LLC, a merchandiser of flower and vegetable seed packets and the owner of the Home Gardening brands NK Lawn & Garden, American Seeds, Fredonia and Plantation Products.

 Today’s news release about the acquisition of Ferry- Morse Seed Co. affects the company’s plant in Fulton KY, but there were no specific details in the news release about the future of the local plant.
Ferry-Morse was founded in 1856 and is one of the leaders in the U.S. market for consumer seed packets.

 “It is expected that the combination of the three companies will create significant synergies including optimized logistic solutions and exciting product development,”

Seeds Holdings Inc in Laurel, MD (headquartered in Norton MA in the current location of Plantation LLC) is a private company categorized under Fruits and Vegetables-Growers and Shippers.  Records show it was established in 2011 and incorporated in Maryland.  Seed Holdings is also the shareholder of Plantation Produce LLC, a merchandiser of flower and seed vegetable packets, the owner of several home gardening brands:  American Seeds, Fredonia, Plantation Products and NK Lawn and Garden.  Ferry Morse and McKenzie include the Green Arbor, Lilly Miller, McGayden and Pike Seed brands.  Both companies will be marketing seed starting products from Jiffy:  Jiffy-7, Jiffypot and Jiffy-Mix.  The new company will continue to sell under the Jiffy brand and may launch additional lawn and garden products under the Jiffy brand. 

Jiffy International AS produces and supplies plant propagation products and containerized substrates to professional growers. The company has manufacturing plants in Holland, Norway, Denmark, Spain, the United States, Canada, and Sri Lanka. Jiffy International AS was incorporated in 1977 and is based in Kristiansand, Norway with sales offices in United Kingdom, Germany, Kenya, and France. Jiffy International AS operates as a subsidiary of Johan G. Olsen Shipbrokers A/S.

Johan G. Olsen Shipbrokers A/S provides ship broking services to ship owners, charterers, and operators in Norway and internationally. It engages in contracting, selling, purchasing, and chartering offshore supply vessels, drilling rigs, and specialized ships. The company was founded in 1912 and is headquartered in Kristiansand, Norway. As of June 30, 2006, Johan G. Olsen Shipbrokers A/S operates as a subsidiary of Pareto AS.

In 2006 the Pareto group bought all the shares in Johan G. Olsen Shipbrokers AS.  The Pareto group is one of the leading players in the Norwegian financial services market. The company was established in 1986.  Pareto offers a broad range of brokerage services related to equity, debt and partnership units, including management of new issues.  The company has offices in Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, Kristiansand, Bryne, Tønsberg, Stockholm, Malmø, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore and New York.   A quote from their web page:  "We demand responsibility, integrity and a high ethical standard of our employees. Pareto is an independent operator and our aim is that our approach should always be innovative, creative and different."

I don't often do investigative reporting - mostly I'm happy to talk garden.  In this case, when I first read about the closing of the Ferry Morse Seed factory in Kentucky and how it was done, something sounded fishy.  The old saying "If it smells like fish, it's usually a fish" rather loosely applied to "If it sounds fishy, it's usually fishy."  That "fish" apparently resides in Norway.

Without knowing the reasoning (and it might be logical and good business - or not) it appears Pareto doesn't demand responsibility, integrity and high ethical standards when acquiring other companies.  To close a business with "Surprise!  Hope you had a good lunch, now go home and never come back." and "Sorry your tax payers' cash is lost but not my problem." seems to contrast their own words.

The photos are old Ferry catalog covers.   

Ferry Morse Seed Company was, at one time, the largest seed producing company of its kind in the world.  It is yet another garden seed company that has either closed, been acquired by a non-garden entity, or watered down to the point it is only a shell as far as products.  I could go into a whole speech about:  "This is the outcome of foreign ownership and their lack of care for the products, employees, US tax payers and customers." but, I think this series of events tells that story in a full way. 

1 comment:

  1. in 2011 the Jiffy Group lost around 45 billion dollar, I'm sure they need the money....