In 1947, Orville Redenbacher and Charles Bowman purchased the George F. Chester & Son Seed Company in Boone Grove, Indiana. 75 years later, Chester, Inc. has become an agricultural giant in the Region, providing farmers with the equipment and technology needed to stay as profitable as possible.
The Chester & Son Seed Company served as the birthplace of “Chester Hybrids.” After starting the company, Redenbacher and Bowman experimented with tens of thousands of popcorn strains before settling on the hybrid kernel known as “RedBow.”
The popcorn business eventually took off, and Redenbacher and Bowman sold to a more mainstream company. “Chester Hybrids” then took on a slightly different role and became “Chester, Inc.”
“There were a plethora of things that we did, from selling snowmobiles to John Deere to building grain bins and irrigation which we still do today in our Agricultural Systems office in North Judson. The unique thing is that the divisions kind of spun off from agriculture. The farmers needed storage facilities to put their equipment in, so hence came the Architectural & Construction division. Later on, in the early ‘80s, the IT division was founded to help farmers track their inventories and actually teach the farmers how to use mainframe IBM computers,” said Rich Shields, director of marketing and business development manager at Chester, Inc.
The three divisions within the company each work together to provide farmers with the best setup possible for their property and goals. As technology evolved, so did the company.
In 1952, the Agricultural Systems division was formed, and sold small irrigation systems and a few types of grain dryers. The Architectural & Construction Services division was formed in 1969, when the company noticed a need for better architectural options catered to the farming industry. The Information Technology (IT) division was formed in 1981 and works to help clients learn how to use technology to streamline and grow their business.
Through the many changes in the farming and technology industry, Chester, Inc. has worked to adapt to best meet the needs of its clients.
“It’s a partnership, Shields said. “We make sure that we are there for our customers no matter what. One of the things on the construction site is we always try to build to suit and help them expand. We try to help them grow their business along with them.”
Employees at Chester, Inc. are dedicated to maintaining an open mind when it comes to learning new technologies and methods within the farming industry. Though the company has been around for 75 years, its employees ensure it never falls behind newer establishments.
“We have one guy that’s been here for 37 years. These people have worked very hard and diligently to stay certified and up-to-date on their special skill set. Adapting to technology is always a challenge, but we have a great group of people that are long-standing employees at Chester that are dedicated to being a trusted advisor and trusted partner,” Shields said.
Shields feels 75 years is only the beginning for Chester, Inc. Many companies in the industry fall flat as soon as a new wave of technology enters the scene, however, Chester Inc.’s dedication to progress and rich history has allowed the company to flourish over the years.
“I think it’s just been a great run for the company, and the company’s still very viable and sustainable. 75 years is a long time for any organization, but I think an organization that’s as diverse as Chester really signifies a lot of growth opportunities. In 75 years, we’ve really learned to adapt and progress,” said Shields.
Redenbacher and Bowman created the company to help them achieve their goals, and for 75 years, Chester, Inc. has worked diligently to do the same for its clients. Though the company has undergone major changes, the dedication to philanthropy and community service has remained the same and will continue to do so in the future.
“The future is going to be a mirror of the past. Charlie and Orville were entrepreneurs. They were philanthropists giving back to the community. I think that’s going to grow as we go on to generations ahead,” said Shields.
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