More than 150 years ago, Barney Funk, my great grandfather, immigrated to America in order to farm. Fighting on the side of the Union Army in our great Civil War, Barney lived through the Battle of Chickamauga and for his service was rewarded an honorable discharge, 40 acres of land, a mule and 13 US dollars.
Barney’s son, my grandfather, Edward J. Funk, was born in 1877. Ed Funk was bright, industrious, Christian – and a man who worked from morning till night. Ed and his wife Jennie Funk had 11 children. The children worked as all farm children do. They sold to their neighbors live chickens, fresh eggs, homemade cheese, pork and beef, and boxed ears of open pollinated corn that Ed had saved from the previous year’s crop. They would always be told “don’t sell anything you would not eat or use on our own farm.”
Ed and his sons founded a seed company – Edward J. Funk and Sons – with the goal to provide the best performing seed to their friends and neighbors. They raised the first crop of hybrid seed corn in the state of Indiana and soon expanded far across the Corn Belt.
Ed’s sons were industrious. Among them, my uncle Bernard was a sharp young businessman. My uncle Carl was a member of Purdue University’s inaugural class to study corn hybridization. My father Bill was a restless innovator who not only developed marketing programs still in use in the seed business today, but also created mechanical applications to spread liquid fertilizer, of which he was awarded multiple patents.
As a young boy, I would visit my Grandfather at his farm. At sunset, we would always sit on the side of the horse tank nearest the farmstead. Grandpa Ed would finish his workday with a cold beer but always had a Coca-Cola in a glass bottle for me. During this half hour, my father Bill and my uncles would also congregate to receive life lessons from Grandpa Ed. Life lessons around the horse tank! I heard my grandfather tell my father, Uncle Carl, or Uncle Bernard that you never sell anything you raise, be it animal or seed, that you would not consume or plant on your own farm.
I took over the family business, Edward J. Funk & Sons Incorporated, in 1975. I started my career in field and plant production so very early seed quality, warm and cold germination, genetic purity, self and off-type plants became an early passion and I have lived and breathed to have the highest standards possible.