Albert Lea Seed was founded in 1923, beginning life as a branch location of the Wedge Nursery in Albert Lea, Minnesota. One of the Wedge boys (Ralph) recruited his brother-in-law, a farmer, into the business back in 1923. That farmer was Lou Ehrhardt.
Lou soon purchased the retail side of the business realizing he liked the business better than he liked farming. He set up shop on Broadway Avenue in downtown Albert Lea in a corner slice of Gulbrandson Hardware. He sold farm seed, melons, goldfish, cut flowers, apples, Christmas trees whatever customers needed. Lou even resold potatoes that had been hit by an early frost after slicing off the bad parts.
He stored seed corn on cobs on the third floor of the Skinner-Chamberlain Building, which is now Brick Furniture. When hybrid corn was first released, it was in high demand. He decided he better prepare to meet that demand, so he had a drying and grading plant built on old Highway 65, now Stevens Street.
Meanwhile, Lou had corn hybrids produced, mainly in Waseca. Seed House employees would travel there to detassel corn, and among that first detasseling crew was a high school kid named George Ehrhardt, Lou's son.
Saturday nights were the big night for sales as farmers and their families made their weekly shopping trek into town. Founder Lou Ehrhardt always sharply dressed up in shirt and tie and established a legacy of great customer service.
At harvest, the corn was hauled to Albert Lea to be binned, dried, graded, and bagged at the new facility just in time, too, as Gulbrandson Hardware rented their entire building to Montgomery Ward. Lou consolidated the sales side into the new grading plant and even managed to mail out a seed price list each spring. The business continued to grow.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, young George returned home and continued learning the ropes of the seed game, eventually taking an active management role in 1950 with Lou. In 1974, the Ehrhardt's bought the old Smith Douglas fertilizer plant and became handy with sandblasters and aluminum paint to help restore the building, which remains the current location of Albert Lea Seed.
Back then, Tom and Mac Ehrhardt weren’t quite teenagers. Neither one of them thought they’d grow up to take over the business. Flash forward to 2019. Building on Lou Ehrhardt’s initial entrepreneurial vision of producing hybrid corn, Albert Lea Seed has grown into a well-recognized provider of a full range of conventional non-GMO and organic farm seed.
Our current owners, Tom and Mac Ehrhardt, grandsons of Lou Ehrhardt, currently operate the Seed House where you can still call and talk directly with them. When is the last time you talked with the owner of a huge multi-national seed company?
The Albert Lea Seed facility has expanded, the customer base has grown, and Tom and Mac still show up every day to help farmers select the best seed for their farms. Our legacy of one-on-one customer service is still very important to us.
Farmers and growers like you have appreciated our prices and respected our simple, fair approach to farm seed that doesn't involve hidden deals. We have expanded our genetic options, increased access to traits and seed treatments, and offer new financing and other services. Today, you will find elite genetics and leading-edge technologies from all the major genetic suppliers at prices up to 40% less than the major seed brands.
We maintain professional memberships with the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, America Seed Trade Association, Western Seed Association, Sustainable Farming Association, both the National and the Minnesota Corn and Soybean Growers Associations, and the Independent Professional Seedsmen Association. In addition, we are Certified Organic Processors meeting the National Organic Program standards for processing organically-raised grains, soybeans, and other field crops.
We have been located at our current location since 1976. Our plant is designed to process three lines of seed products simultaneously. The facility has expanded grain storage capacity of 350,000 bushels and maintains 100,000 square feet of warehouse space. Seed produced and conditioned by the Albert Lea Seed House has been grown and labeled in accordance with the rules and inspections established by the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association for certified conventional and certified organic seed.