Employee-Owned & Operated
February 1, 2022
Amy Marlatt, Secretary/Treasurer
In 2017 as Mark and Joyce Denzler were planning for their retirement, discussions began for an employee-owned 1st Choice Seeds. Mark and Joyce Denzler saw the value in creating a pathway to ownership for their employees to continue the work of 1st Choice Seeds. The simpler path, and undoubtedly the more profitable path for the Denzler’s, would have been to sell the company to another seed brand. We are grateful to Mark and Joyce for the opportunity to continue the mission of being the most customer-responsive seed company in our region.
In 2018, Brian and Amy Marlatt began purchasing stock in a multi-year process that transferred majority control to the Marlatt’s with a group of team members holding minority shares. Over the next 3 years, ownership was transferred from the Denzler’s to a group of 12 employees. We are excited to share that all eligible employees have purchased company stock. “The show of support from teammates and their customers through this transition has been so appreciated. We feel a great responsibility to do the best we can for our team and our customers” says Amy.
Brian thinks back to being a 20-year-old sales and agronomy intern riding around with Mark Borden learning the seed business. “The fact that Mark Borden, who has called 1st Choice Seeds his working home for a decade, trusts me enough to support me as the leader of this company and to even invest in it is the best compliment I can think of,” says Brian. Since assuming majority ownership, Brian says his perspective has changed. “Now I focus on making sure the team is taken care of, not just the customers.” Brian’s motto is that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the rest.
Check out what a few of the new owners of 1st Choice Seeds have to say:
“1st Choice Seeds is first and foremost a family. I feel that is why 1st Choice is successful. We treat everyone as family which makes this business successful. I want to be a part of the family so when the opportunity came to invest in this “Family Business” I had to jump at the chance. My wife was all in as well so the decision was easy. I look forward to the years to come with 1st Choice Seeds.” – Blair Kramer, Operations Lead
“Being an employee-owned company, and getting to be a part of that, makes serving the customer even better! I’m always looking for my customers to succeed, but that also helps the company and myself too, which makes them that much more important. I’m not just looking to meet a short-term goal for my customers, I want them to have long term success and stick with 1st Choice Seeds!” – David Woodruff, Seed Specialist
Our best review may have come from 10-year-old Nathan Woodruff, son of Seed Specialist David Woodruff. On the way home from our sales kickoff this year Nathan told his dad, “My first job is probably going to be working at 1st Choice, and I’m probably going to work there until I’m 95. Max (Brian & Amy’s son) will probably be the manager by then.” Thanks, Nathan, that’s the goal!