After 49 years in family, Harrington sells plant
DENMARK TWP. — Jeff Harrington was comfortable with the buyers of his business, Harrington Seeds Inc. – owned by his family since 1973. And Dan Reinbold and his brother, Steve Reinbold, were pleased that Harrington was the seller. “Jeff was selling out and we’ve worked with him over I don’t know how many years,” said Steve Reinbold, 44, who with his brother purchased the seed business at 2576 S. Bradleyville Road on Dec. 30. The business was in the Harrington family for 49 years.
The Reinbold brothers, along with their uncle, Mike Reinbold, own Reinbold Organic Farms based in Tuscola County’s Almer Township. “Jeff has worked with our uncle and with our dad (the late Vern Reinbold) years back,” said Steve Reinbold, a 1997 Caro High School graduate. “This (purchase) just fit in. Jeff has a successful business and we want to keep going with what he has established. We want to live up to his standards, and produce the good quality that his name’s known for.”
Harrington’s father, the late John Harrington, a farmer, bought the seed business south of M-81 in 1973 from E.C. Korthals. Jeff Harrington has continued running the plant after his dad passed away. The plant contracts with conventional farmers in the region who provide seed for wheat, oats, barley, dry beans and soybeans. “Then we clean it, and package it and ship it (as seed),” Harrington said.
During the early 1990s, the plant began processing edible soybeans and edible dry beans, and still does so. In mid-January, 66.1-pound bags of edible soybeans were awaiting shipment to Japan, where retail buyers create tofu with the soybeans. While seed for wheat, oats, and barley is sold under the Harrington Seeds label, the plant also processes soybean and wheat seeds sold under another corporate label.
The Reinbolds became organic farmers – avoiding chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and not using genetically modified seed – in 1999. “Before their farm was organic, they grew seed for me,” Harrington said. “I have known the Reinbold family for 50 years. I did business with their dad and uncle before them.” Harrington, who lives about 100 yards from the processing plant he just sold, keeps working as a consultant at the plant to assist in the transition to new ownership.
High-quality seed is the result of a number of factors, in his opinion. “First of all, we’re blessed by living in the Saginaw Valley,” Harrington said. “We’ve got very good soil here, and climate. That’s a good start. So you’ve always got a high test weight on the product itself – matter what it is, and that’s because of the ground.
“Clean fields, without weeds, also is a big part of it. We’ve got the old German heritage here, and there’s a lot to that. They take pride in their farms and that’s the way they operate. “Up-to-date cleaning equipment is part of it as well – and good management.”
Dan Reinbold, 45, a 1996 Caro High School graduate, said Harrington “has always maintained this facility very well, very meticulously.” The Reinbolds have hired Donnie Brabo, 41, a 1999 Akron-Fairgrove High School graduate, to manage their seed business, which will operate as Harrington Seed L.L.C. “Jeff has dealt with a lot of questions from us in the last few weeks,” Brabo said. “I’ve been in edible beans for quite a few years – managing facilities, on a lot bigger scale.
“I was about 14 the first time I ever started processing – soybeans. But as far as the management and taking care of the facilities, that wasn’t until, probably, 2010.” The processing plant employs four workers, including Brabo. Harrington said geography plays a part when making deals with farmers who grow seed for him. “I typically contract it ahead, but you can only freight this stuff so far, or then it costs too much to get it here,” Harrington said. “So we try to stay within a 50-mile range.”
The seed plant has undergone a few expansions since John Harrington bought it, and is now 24,000 square feet in area. While Jeff Harrington can impart strategies for running the processing plant, and mechanical or logistical details, he advised the operation is in good health. “It’s been a good business for 50 years,” Harrington said. “And prices of farm commodities are higher, and this business has always followed the farm income, so when that’s good, this is good.”