Greg Hughes is sowing the seeds of success

Published 5:31 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

AHOSKIE – Who betters understands farming best practices other than someone who has worked in agriculture for the majority of their adult life?

At his warehouse space in Ahoskie, Greg Hughes stands beside of towering pallet of corn seed as well as a tub of REVLINE, a nutrient-boosting biological applied at planting time for corn, cotton, soybeans, and peanuts. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Perhaps that’s why Greg Hughes is a natural when it comes to selling crop seeds – specifically corn and soybeans – and ag-related supplies to farmers across eastern North Carolina.

Hughes, a local native, is currently the local representative for Tidewater Seed. While it also serves as his office, a warehouse in Ahoskie is a distribution site for the company. He explained that the seed and other ag-related products are shipped directly from the manufacturer to Ahoskie. That reasoning for that direct shipment is two-fold….one for the products he has sold locally and will personally deliver and the other is the Ahoskie warehouse serves as a distribution point for other regional dealers selling Axis seed and other products.

Axis Seed is based in Adel, Iowa.

Tidewater Seed, founded in 2013 and headquartered in Easton, Maryland, is the regional distributor for Axis. Tidewater Seed covers Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and part of Pennsylvania.

“This year we’ll have Axis Seed going to parts of Tennessee and West Virginia,” Hughes boasted of the company that is apparently widening its footprint.

After retiring with 30 years as a technician with the Hertford County Soil and Water Conservation District, Hughes, now at age 58, didn’t see himself as the “rocking chair” type. Instead, he initially began selling crop seed as an independent agent.

“That was okay, but when you get paid only by commission and then have to foot the bills such as building rent, liability insurance, delivery costs, and other business-related necessities, that didn’t leave a lot of profit,” he said.

Hughes left the independent ranks, taking a job with another crop seed retailer.

In the fall of 2023, Tidewater Seed contacted Hughes to see if he was interested in working with them.

“I wasn’t looking for a job at that time, but they came to me,” he recalled. “The owner called and we set up an interview the next day. They made me an offer and, long story short, here I am today.”

The “offer” included a salaried position, but more importantly, the company covers all of the “overhead costs” – paying the rent on the warehouse, covering the liability insurance, and providing Hughes with a company vehicle.

“That works good for me,” he said with a big grin.

Hughes and one other salesperson cover eastern North Carolina for Tidewater Seed. The company employs two salespersons in Virginia and seven that cover Maryland and Delaware.

Patrick Bilbrough is the company’s CEO.

“Tidewater Seed has grown into the largest Axis dealer in the country,” Hughes said. “With Axis, you’re getting a high germination, higher quality seed. To me, they are the cream of the crop as far as quality seed goes.”

Hughes has generated a base of customers across the Roanoke-Chowan area and the eastern part of the state. Plus he makes “cold calls” in an effort to grow that customer base.

“Whether or not I met them back when I worked in Soil Conservation, I treat all my customers the same way and that’s giving them the best service because they are buying the best seed and ag-related products on the market,” he said. “If they call, I’m coming to you, the same day if possible.”

He said one of the best ways to attract new customers is growing test plots, which are marked with the company’s signage.

“Farmers ride by and see our test plots and remark about how great they look. That’s great advertising,” Hughes stressed.

“I enjoy doing the test plots,” he added. “You purposely place them in areas that have different types of soil to see how that particular type of seed will react. Those test plots are also divided between irrigated and non-irrigated land.”

Hughes said there will be 12 test plots locally this year.

“That’s just the ones I’m doing,” he added. “We have a consultant out of Roanoke Rapids that also does test plots for us and other seed companies, and we supply seed for test plots that are done by North Carolina Cooperative Extension offices in Hertford, Bertie, Martin, Pitt, Edgecombe, Halifax, and Northampton counties.”

Some of those plots, he said, will be used to test experimental seeds.

“It can take up to three years to gauge the yield results from experimental plots,” Hughes noted. “There’s a lot of research performed on different varieties of seed before it winds up in a commercial bag.”

Genetic research – where knowledge is gained of molecular and computational biology, proteomics, and biotechnology to the field behavior, metabolism and commercial utilization of crop plants – also plays a role in today’s farming practices.

“Genetics have changed and yields have increased,” Hughes stated. “It’s gotten fine-tuned to the point where we’re able to tailor a seed and a growing plan that’s specific to certain soils and conditions.”

He said 2023 was a “great year” locally for corn harvest.

“I’ve never had any fields to produce over 300 bushels per acre, but I saw some of our varieties exceed that last year,” Hughes said, adding that most farmers raising dry land corn would be very pleased with 160-to-180 bushels per acre.

Through Tidewater Seed, Hughes can also offer other products, to include Meristem – a company that produces nutrient-boosting biologicals that are applied at planting time for corn, cotton, soybeans, and peanuts – and BOLDTIDE – a line of fertilizers, foliar fertilizers, starter fertilizers, and chemical fertilizers.

The company is diversifying its product portfolio by adding cover crop and forage seeds as well as offering drone-based agricultural spraying and seeding services.

For more information, contact Hughes at 252-209-7420.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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