In the holiday season of a historically difficult year for the United States of America, 2001, Pure Seed founder and President Bill Rose wanted to send a message of hope to his employees and the surrounding area.
The method he chose was one that resonated with him and many others amid the Christmas season: a large star, high in the sky, shining brightly over the Pure Seed facilities on Barlow Road in Canby and the surrounding farms, homes and countryside.
Over the years, the tradition has continued, with Pure Seed employees climbing the ladder more than 50 feet into the air to reinstall the star, which stays lighted each night from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
Rose’s daughter, Crystal Fricker, the current president of Pure Seed, says the tradition seems all the more appropriate this year — at the end of another year marked with unprecedented challenges, strife and sadness for many.
“It’s just kind of a symbol of hope, I think, for all of our people and especially this year,” Fricker tells The Canby Current. “Just trying to bring a little spark of Christmas for people in the area.”
Rose, who turned 90 this year, loves the Christmas season and all that goes with it, especially the religious significance and meaning behind the holiday and many of its traditions, Fricker says. The family’s home farm in west Woodburn has an identical star — situated atop an even taller tower.
The family-owned company typically hosts a large Christmas party for staff and loved ones, and though the festivities were canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pure Seed still set up its tree in an outdoor courtyard to spread a little cheer.
For Pure Seed, the star symbolizes much more than the founder’s personal convictions — it’s a symbol to staff and the world about the principles and philosophy the company seeks to uphold.
“Ethics, honesty and integrity are very important to us,” Fricker explains. “When you buy our seed, we want you to know that what you see on the label is what is in the bag.”
Among employees, management has sought to facilitate a culture where it’s acceptable to talk about personal feelings and beliefs without taboo.
“We’re trying to make it OK, that whatever your spiritual beliefs are, it’s OK to talk about,” she says. “It’s OK to pray if you want to.”
Such an approach may seem a little strange for a company that, while family-owned and relatively small (about 80 employees), is a global leader in a competitive industry, regularly doing business across the United States and in places as far as China, Europe, the Middle East and South America.
But Fricker says it has helped foster a workforce that is incredibly tight-knit and supportive of one another. That has been especially important in 2020.
“This year, we’ve really seen how important it is to support each other,” she says. “With people quarantining and not able to see their friends and loved ones as much as they normally would, we have all been really trying to care for one another and support each other as a family.
“You know, not everybody has a good day every day. I think that’s how were going to get through this is being there for each other during these difficult times.”
2020 has not been the easiest year for Pure Seed, with the double whammy of Covid-19 impacting the global economy as well as local operations — and the destructive wildfires that raged across the region and much of the state in late summer.
“That was probably the most challenging time,” she recalls. “We had a lot of our employees who had to evacuate their homes, or couldn’t work outside because of the smoke. We made it optional. We had the vice president of our company out here spraying down pallets so they wouldn’t burn.”
The timing was not great, as the company was in the midst of what would normally have been one of its busiest shipping seasons. Unlike with Covid-19, clients overseas and on the East Coast were not acquainted with and understanding of the Beachie Creek and Riverside wildfires.
“They were screaming for seed,” she recalls. “I had to write memos and send them pictures so they would know what it was like out here. But then, we had other clients that said, ‘We didn’t even notice. We always get our seed on time.’
“Our crew always steps up when times are tough, and they have really done that this year. We’ve been blessed to continue to serve our customers.”