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After a century, Crookhams ‘very proud’

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Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2011 12:30 am | Updated: 8:13 am, Thu Feb 2, 2012.

CALDWELL — Crookham Company, a local business that specializes in sweet corn, onion and popcorn seed production, celebrates its 100th anniversary as a family-owned business this year.

“I’m very proud,” said Mary Crookham, who runs the company with her brother, George Crookham.  “All of us kind of consider ourselves more (as) stewards of the company, and we just want to … leave the company in a better position when we … hand it over to the next generation. Each generation prior to us has always built upon it and expanded it and left us a very good base to continue on.”

Crookham Company began when Mary’s great-grandfather, George Crookham, traveled from Iowa to Idaho to the family of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg, to whom they are related.

“He saw the potential in this valley … for production,” Mary said. “So he moved out here and started producing popcorn that he would ship to the West Coast because it was so much closer than the Midwest.”

Now the company has expanded to sweet corn and onion seeds, and has pioneered many of the new hybrid sweet corns people enjoy today.

“They approach plant breeding a little differently than the rest of the industry,” said Dean Cotton, the production and sales manager for Crookham’s customer, Seedway. “I think they’re probably responsible for the majority, if not all, of the advancements of sweet corn in the last 30 to 40 years, particularly in eating quality.”

Crookham has planned three events to celebrate the centennial. One event took place Friday night, hosted by the Caldwell Night Rodeo in the O’Connor Field House, catered by Goodwood Barbecue and accompanied by live music.

After dinner Friday, the guests also attended the rodeo.

Crookhams has customers from Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, and “about every continent except Antarctica” attended, Mary said.

Four generations of Crookhams were represented, including the youngest generation of  adults who hope to someday take leadership of the company.

Cotton thinks the small, family-oriented structure of Crookham’s leadership is what has enabled the company to be so successful.

“They don’t have a lot of corporate structure saying you got to reach this goal or that goal, so I think it allowed them to be a lot more flexible,” he said.

He also appreciates the way he’s been treated by Crookham’s staff over the years.

“They are one of the most cooperative companies we’ve worked with,” he said. “They’re very customer oriented.”

Mary attributes the success to several factors, including Idaho’s climate, the company’s innovation with breeding hybrid seeds and the supportive community in Canyon County.

“We have amazing growers in this area,” she said.

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