A year working at the Lincoln Country Club during college also helped make Jim Girardin Jr. a self-proclaimed turf guy. “That’s really what got me excited about being a golf course superintendent.” From 1985 through 1994, Jim Girardin Jr. was a golf course superintendent at Riverside Golf Club in Grand Island, and it looked like he had established a career for himself apart from Arrow Seed.
As irrigation was introduced to the area in the 1960s and 70s, cropping practices and patterns changed and much of that seed production moved away. But Arrow Seed stayed. “Our business really fits the area now because we’re primarily a forage-based company, and the ultimate consumers of our products—the beef cow, the dairy cow, the cow-calf pair—are here,” he said.
In the 1940s and 50s, the agricultural landscape in the area was primarily dryland farming, and there was significant seed production for alfalfa, clovers and grasses. “It made sense to locate a seed company in Custer County,” Jim Girardin Jr. said.
He also credited the university’s breeding programs for their instrumental role in developing crops important to Arrow Seed: native grasses, small grains, soybeans and buffalograss. According to Jim Girardin Jr., the buffalograss breeding program at Nebraska is “light years ahead of any other program in the country.” Without a doubt, investing in the science behind the seeds is one of the secrets to the success of Arrow Seed. The basic products when the company started were alfalfa, clovers, pasture grass and small grains. In addition to those forage seeds, Arrow Seed now markets a turfgrass seed line for applications in golf, lawns, parks and sports turfs along with native grasses and wildflowers used in conservation and habitat plantings. The company’s newest product lines—food plots, cover crops and field peas—utilize many of the same species, just in a different way to a different consumer. Referring to the seeds selected for the food plots, Jim Girardin Jr. said, “We have a lot of experience in all of those plants; we’re just adapting them to a different kind of livestock.” Similarly, the cover crops used to improve soil health are oftentimes the same species used for forage.
Leonard Girardin moved his family to Custer county in 1946 to manage the Broken Bow Division of a regional seed company he would rename Arrow Seed.
Jim Girardin Jr. said he probably wasn’t fully aware of everything that made up Arrow Seed in the 60s and 70s, but he had a pretty good idea. “I learned to sweep floors and stack seed very well,” he said. Despite his sweeping and stacking skills, Jim Girardin Jr.’s future in the family business seemed somewhat unlikely because of his severe allergies. “I had hay fever pretty bad, and all of the seed dust made working around the plant very difficult back then.”
However, the small-town seed company called him home, and son followed father into the business. After several years working side by side, Jim Girardin Sr. turned the reins over to Jim Girardin Jr. in 2011. “I would like to thank my father for the opportunity he gave me and for growing the company from the 1970s to the 2000s. He really taught me the meaning of being a seedsman—one who not only sells seed but helps the customer select the best seed for their needs and provides sound advice for using the seed successfully.”
“There are tremendous opportunities in ag today, if one is willing to look outside the box for those value-added services and products.”
When the original seed company went bankrupt in 1954, Leonard Girardin recognized the potential of the Broken Bow locale and purchased the division he had been managing. Leonard Girardin owned and operated Arrow Seed until his passing in 1977. At that time Jim Girardin Sr., who came to the business after he graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1959, took over. “It was his lifelong career, passion and love. Well, the business and my mom,” said Jim Girardin Jr.
Alumni Spotlight – Arrow Seed “There are tremendous opportunities in ag today, if one is willing to look outside the box for those value-added services and products.” ARROW SEED is