HAVRE, Mont. – Brad Ruhkamp is proof that with a little hard work and some dedication, the American Dream is still possible. It all started for Ruhkamp back in 1983 when he went to work for Macintosh Seeds in Havre. Starting out as a general laborer, he worked his way up the ranks, eventually becoming the plant manager. At about that time, the Macintosh family that had been running the plant was looking to make a change.
“In 2001, I approached the Macintosh family about selling the plant to me and they were interested, so in June of 2002 we got the deal put together and my wife and I bought it,” Ruhkamp explained.
Ruhkamp’s son joined as a part owner shortly after and the business name was changed to Wild Horse Seeds because of its proximity to the Wild Horse Trail, a notorious path that connects Havre and Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
The name wasn’t the only thing that Ruhkamp changed about the business. Originally, the business had dealt primarily with small grains and feed sales, but he wanted to shift the business’s focus in a different direction. In addition to cereal grains, Wild Horse Seeds also does some custom harvesting of native grasses, they offer custom cover crop mixes and they also sell a plethora of other seeds, including but not limited to, lentils, mustard, garbanzo beans and peas.
Over the years, while Ruhkamp and his family worked to expand Wild Horse Seeds’ offerings, equipment was upgraded along the way. With newer, more efficient equipment, Wild Horse Seeds became noted for the cleanliness of their plant and the quality of product they are able to deliver. That attention led to the business doing some custom processing of ancient grains, such as spelt and kamut, in addition to their other seed plant duties.
With so much happening at Wild Horse Seeds, Ruhkamp says there is hardly ever a dull moment. Depending on the time of year, if the crew isn’t busy cleaning and processing seeds, there is harvesting to be done in the mid- to late summer and on into fall, trade shows during the late winter keep everyone busy and of course early spring and late summer are dominated by seed sales. In between all of that, maintenance of the plant must be done.
“One of the things we do here is not lay anyone off during the winter time. There is always something to do,” Ruhkamp said.
When it comes to fall seeding varieties, Wild Horse Seeds sells mainly winter wheat, offering growers upwards of 12 different varieties. Additionally, Wild Horse Seeds is a part owner in the Montech Seed Group, a Montana-based group of seedmen dedicated to bringing the latest in seed technology more directly to the growers.
Through Montech, Wild Horse Seeds offers Brawl CL Plus, a hard red winter wheat, and Jet, a new winter wheat variety noted for its high yielding capabilities. According to Ruhkamp, Jet will be offered to growers for the first time in the fall of 2020. In addition to those private varieties, Wild Horse Seeds will offer several public varieties of winter wheat including Loma, Northern, Decade and the popular solid stem, Warhorse.
Wild Horse Seeds has many services to offer customers, but they are mindful of their company’s strengths and have built a strong enterprise focused around seeds. Ruhkamp will be the first to admit, knowing your limits is key to running a quality business. Wild Horse Seeds is more concerned about customer service and relations and less worried about diversifying their business and offering products they are not knowledgeable enough about to sell efficiently.
For Ruhkamp, his favorite part of owning a seed business is being able to act as a sounding board for producers in the area. He enjoys being able to listen to growers talk about their seeding goals and offering advice if and when it is needed.
“The people coming in and talk to you looking for advice, so when the advice you offer pays off for them, that is really more satisfying than anything,” he concluded.
Wild Horse Seeds began as a family business and they remain as one today, with customer care and quality service still at the forefront of their business model. And with that, they always strives to offer growers the latest and greatest seed varieties.