Gifts From The Goldsmiths

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While March 26 was the opening day of the California Spring Trials, it also marked the end of an era, as the Goldsmith family officially retired from half a century of breeding beautiful bedding plants.

Syngenta Flowers, which purchased Goldsmith Seeds in 2008, hosted a special tribute reception and endowed two scholarships in the family’s honor–the Glenn Goldsmith Breeding Excellence Scholarship for $7,500 annually and the Goldsmith Seeds Floriculture Business Advancement Scholarship for $7,500 annually. These are significant funds that will attract bright new professionals to advance our industry.

Goldsmith Seeds was founded in 1962 by Glenn, who had been a breeder for PanAmerican Seed and decided to set out on his own, with wife Jane and their four boys, ages four to nine. They reglazed old greenhouses that were full of weeds in Gilroy, Calif., and Glenn began his breeding programs. His first introduction was Bright Butterflies snapdragons, which were an open-faced flower form and an All-America Selections winner.

 Glenn also started what would become the California Spring Trials by inviting customers out to see his new varieties in 1967. Friendly competitors in California soon followed suit. Today, more than 35 plant introducers and breeding companies from all over the globe roll out their new introductions in California.

It was fascinating to learn how early predecessors of Syngenta Flowers had a hand in helping Goldsmith Seeds get started. One of Glenn’s first breeding projects was Sprinter geraniums for Sluis & Groot. Glenn also sold his vegetable breeding lines to Northrup King. And Vaughn Seed, a broker that is now Syngenta Horticultural Services, bought a 24.5 percent interest in Goldsmith Seeds for $2,450. All three companies are now part of Syngenta, so things have come full circle.

Glenn was known for his lifelong curiosity in breeding, trying new approaches and a drive to offer the best in each class or genus. He acknowledges achieving breakthroughs more challenging now than in the early days. “Almost everything that is worked on has to be better, thoroughly tested, proven and approved by a committee,” he says. “In the early days, the only hybrids were petunias. Everything you did was better.”

Investing In People

One common thread throughout the Goldsmith story is the difference they’ve made in the lives of their employees, customers and communities.
“Glenn has been an inspiration to several generations of plant breeders who he has helped through teaching, coaching and mentoring,” says Mitch Hanes, Syngenta Flowers’ head of research and development in Gilroy. “If he met a person looking for a job who was a good quality individual, he would hire them, whether there was a position available or not. He knew the person would contribute to the company.”

Goldsmith Seeds was ahead of its time with wellness programs that encouraged sports and physical fitness activities on company time. In 1992, the company was the first California-licensed agricultural firm to provide on-site, company-sponsored child care.

One place Goldsmith has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people is Guatemala, where it has had seed and cutting production farms. In addition to providing education, medical care and sports facilities and programs, the Goldsmiths helped employees achieve dreams many of us in America take for granted–owning a home, buying a car or sending children to college.

Two lucky college students will be selected to get the Goldsmith scholarships from Syngenta Flowers. “We really appreciate the scholarships in our family’s name,” Jane says. “We need nice young people in this field.”

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at donofrey@gmail.com
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