History Even as a child growing up in Thorsby, Alberta, seeds played an integral part in Nicholas Hannas' life. In the post depression years, young Nicholas walked from farm to farm selling packaged garden seeds which he consigned by mail order from Golden Medal Seeds.
His association with the seed industry continued in 1949 when he was hired as a warehouse worker for Steele Robertson Limited in Edmonton. Shortly after, he was asked to become a seed buyer where his territory included the entire province of British Columbia, most of Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan and the main crops purchased were clovers and fescue. Seed buying in the 1950's was tumultuous and full of challenges as Nick will attest. He was fired a number of times by his manager, only to be rehired each time by the owner, Aubrey Robertson. Robertson also had his son Bill, currently the executive vice-president of the Canadian Seed Growers Association, placed with Nick for 'hands-on' experience. As it turned out, Nick and Bill were thrown out the first place they called on.
In February of 1956, Nick decided to leave Steele Robertson and move to Vancouver with the intention of starting a garden center situated somewhere on the King George Highway. On his way to the coast, he stopped in at Lacombe, Alberta to visit a customer, Stu Chapman, the owner of Lacombe Seeds. When Chapman was informed of Nick's plans, he offered to sell all of his stock to Nick, which consisted mainly of garden seeds and supplies and Nick could assume the business. Without hesitation, Nick accepted.
Hannas Seeds' first sale was a 15 cent package of tomato seeds and we still have that first 15 cents in a picture frame. Hannas Seeds began selling forage seed on a consignment basis with seed supplied by Steele Robertson and Foster's Seed & Feed of Beaverlodge, Alberta. With his reputation and previous successes as a seed buyer, Nick continued to buy seed in the Peace River area for other companies for a few years after starting his own seed company. He worked tirelessly, and well past retirement age, until his passing in April 2014.
The initial growing pains of the company were somewhat alleviated by the presence of Doris Ballantine. Ballantine was a senior seed analyst for the government and was residing in Lacombe at the time that Hannas Seeds came into being. She began to work for the company in many capacities and her analytical expertise proved to be invaluable over the years. Ballantine continued to provide her service to Hannas Seeds until her passing in May 2008.
Business grew steadily each year. By the early 1960's, the company was successfully wholesaling forage seed to local feed dealers, elevators and fertilizer outlets. As a result, Hannas Seeds built new facilities, which included expanded offices and a larger warehouse, and moved to the present day site. These facilities were enlarged five years later to accommodate the ever increasing demand.
By the 1970's, Hannas Seeds purchased a grain cleaning plant in Clairmont, Alberta and converted it to primarily a fescue cleaning facility. This allowed the company to develop an export market, which at present includes such countries as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Japan. In addition to the plant purchased at Clairmont, there was another cleaning plant located in Smoky Lake, Alberta, grain processing outlets in Lacombe and Spirit River which were later sold to Cargill Grain and Continental Grain, as well as the purchase of Crown Seed & Feed, a company that was formerly based out of Calgary and owned by Lloyd Robertson, brother of Nick's former boss, Aubrey Robertson.
Today Hannas Seeds, a division of Hannas Trading Corporation, continues to process and ship forage seeds throughout North and South America, Europe and the Pacific Rim. Hannas Seeds strives to provide a complete line of turf grasses, native grasses and has a total garden center and nursery in Lacombe in order to meet the specific requirements of its diverse clientele.
The growth, expansion and success that has been prevalent in the 60 years that Hannas Seeds has been in business, can be attributed not only to a loyal customer base but also to key personnel, who through their dedication, expertise and devotion, enabled the company to fulfill a dream that began in 1956 and will continue into the 21st Century.