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 Beck Family

Beck Family donates to build agronomy training and research center

Beck Family Photo With nearly 70 years in the seed business, an even longer connection to Purdue and a wish to contribute to agriculture improvement, the Beck family of Atlanta, Ind., is providing the lead gift to build a new training and research facility at the university's Agronomy Center for Research and Education.

The Beck Agricultural Center will provide space for classes, meetings and hands-on demonstrations at the agronomy farm. Purdue President Martin Jischke formally announced the gift Wednesday (Oct. 5) and celebrate completion of fund raising for the $5.2 million facility.

"The structure will play a major role in meeting urgent needs in agriculture today and providing a place to prepare for the needs of tomorrow," Jischke said. "The Becks have played a leading role in Indiana's farming success, and their farsightedness in making this new facility possible will be key to the state's increased commitment to the agriculture industry."

The agronomy center currently attracts more than 8,000 people annually for workshops and training programs. In addition, it serves 5,000 elementary through high school students and teachers every year for various classes. Many of these functions currently are held in tents or garage space on the property, located on U.S. 52 about seven miles northwest of the West Lafayette campus.

"Purdue has played a big part in training the Beck family ever since my father attended agriculture short courses there in 1929 and 1930," said Sonny Beck, president of Beck's Hybrids, the seed company his father and grandfather founded in 1937. "As we look to the future, we envision the Beck Agricultural Center being used to educate people with all levels of interest in agriculture, from kindergarten through high school and college, and adults in the farming community. In addition, it will accommodate agriculture and industry meetings."

An important component to furthering agricultural advancement is Beck's partnership with Purdue in ensuring that farmers have the best training, especially in new farming methods and plant and pest diagnostics, Beck said.

"Over the years, the Beck family and Purdue have had many cooperative efforts aimed at raising the level of each of our ships in the ocean that we call agriculture," Beck said. "We learn from the university's research, and they learn from our practical experience in the field."

More than 25 companies use the agronomy research center for field-oriented educational programs every year as agriculture businesses rely more heavily on land-grant universities for industry educational needs, said Randy Woodson, dean of Purdue Agriculture.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to have an immediate, positive impact on the agronomic needs across the state of Indiana," he said. "Sonny and his family have been leaders in adopting new technologies and in moving modern agriculture forward, so it makes perfect sense to have them involved in creating this facility. Purdue Agriculture is committed to working with producers and agribusiness leaders to grow the state's agricultural economy. The Beck Center will help us meet that goal."

The new center will be visible from U.S. 52 and located south of the present agronomy farm office. It will include classrooms with movable dividers, an inside equipment demonstration area, and Internet and remote broadcasting capabilities for distance education.

Beck's Hybrids began in 1937 when Lawrence Beck and his son, Francis, who had attended Purdue short courses, each planted three-acre allotments of seed corn from the university's botany department. Francis and his wife, Pauline, remained active in the business until their deaths in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

Francis Beck's business philosophy was to provide a 100 percent free replant agreement on every bag of Beck's seed corn. His son, Sonny, and Sonny's children continue that practice on all of the company's corn, soybean and wheat seed, which is marketed to farmers in Indiana, western Ohio, eastern Illinois, 10 counties in Michigan and eight counties in Kentucky.

Sonny Beck earned his bachelor's degree in agronomy at Purdue in 1962 and his master's in agricultural economics in 1964. His wife and company secretary, Glendia, attended Purdue and worked in the Department of Animal Sciences for several years while her husband finished his degrees.

Their sons, Scott and Tony, and daughter, Kim, are Purdue graduates and are all part of the company, along with Kim's husband, Todd Marschand, Scott's wife, Shantel, and Tony's wife, Tracey.

Additional funding for the new center will come from already existing Purdue College of Agriculture development funds.