FRUSTRATED at having to work for somebody else and continually thinking that "I could do this myself - but much better", a decision was made to give it a go and in 1967, Mike Pearce "went on his own".

Mike had been working for Dunns Farm Seeds for sometime and had built up a sound customer base throughout Dorset and Somerset working as a crop consultant in both farm seeds and agricultural chemicals. Backed up and fully supported by his customers and employing just one man to do the seed mixing and deliveries, Mike formed Pearce Seeds Ltd and based himself at Crossways Farm on the Marston Road, near Sherbome.

The company quickly gained a reputation for service and quality, which created both growth and success and it was in 1985 that the company's now managing director Ken Tuffin, joined them as sales manager from Christopher Hill - an RHM company based in Poole - a move that was preceded by a new company base a few miles down the road at Anchor Farm where they remained until 1998 when they moved to their current base at Rosedown Farm, near Sherbome.

Their product portfolio has, for many years, revolved around farm seeds and agchem and whilst they were one of a number of companies in the 80s and 90s that had their own grass mixing plant that provided individual mixtures for individual customers, they are now in the minority - probably being only one of perhaps three retailers in the whole of the south west who continue to offer this service. Director Tim Rutter said the reason for this was quite simple.

"We buy huge amounts of grasses as straights. Grasses that we have personally seen in our own local trials. Grasses that we know will perform well under our local conditions in both yield and disease resistancy and we formulate bespoke mixtures for our customers based on local knowledge.

"The only "off the shelf' mixtures that are stocked is the Superley range that was purchased from the ex NIAB Trials Officer John Jemmett back in 2000 - part of that range being organic.

"All our customers are safe in the knowledge that when they buy a mixture from us, it is a mixture that they need to buy from us, not a mixture that we need to sell to them. It is all part of our company philosophy of service and quality. We will never waiver from that principle," added Tim.

From its humble start with just two people and trading in just two counties, Pearce Seeds has grown into one of the largest independent agronomy-based companies in the whole of the Westcountry where it now employs a total of 15 agronomists who cover the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire and Hampshire and while seed and agchem are still the mainstay of their business, their portfolio has been improved upon with the inclusion of fertilisers and lime - the latter proving to be really successful as soil testing and general fertiliser advice had been allowed to drop off over the past 15 years or so due to the reduction of farm advisors within the fertiliser industry.

This is a sector that Pearce Seeds identified as being woefully short of agronomic advice and is yet another example of their total commitment to service - with a further example being an agronomist that is fully involved with top fruit.

The number of orchards has been on the increase for several years now, but there appeared to be no-one to service them.

The gap in the market place was duly identified and subsequently, service is now available from Somerset through to Kent.

In addition to the comprehensive set of grass trials at Rosedown where they are also looking at white clovers and the general compatibility of clovers with individual grasses, they also have an on-going series of forage maize trials, at various locations, where they are not just trialling the more widely known material, they are also working with a number of maize breeders where they are able to test new material over say two to three years before they even come onto the market.

Robert Baker, maize trials officer for Pearce Seeds is now responsible for seven sites on varying soil types, some of which includes both forage and grain maize - the results of which prove to be extremely popular with virtually the whole of their customer base as growers know that these trials are conducted in an extremely professional manner and under local conditions.

Customers are also invited to Rosedown for an Open Day, an event which has proved to be very popular with local farmers and is where everyone can both see and hear individual presentations about the general on site activity and also the up-to-date progress reports on all the current trials. The company is also represented at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show, the Melplash Show, the Dorchester Show, Grasslands SW and the South West Dairy Show in October.

Over the past 20 years or more, agriculture has witnessed numerous changes - some of which being on farm with others being in the supply industry.

We have seen the split up, amalgamation and even the demise of some national companies and whilst they do not have the same overheads and expenses of the nationals, some of the smaller and local companies have also suffered as a result of the general belt tightening within agriculture.

Pearce Seeds have stood firm and weathered the storm and where belt tightening with other agricultural companies has resulted in a reduced level of service at the farm gate, they have bucked the trend somewhat by actually increasing the levels of agronomic expertise by employing more people - the type of people that the farmer actually wants down his farm lane, part of this exercise being the incorporation and takeover of Mike Simpson's Vale Crops, Colin Watts Arable Services and Brian Thomas and Tim Henderson's B & M Crops.

There are also a number of ancillary companies within the Pearce Seeds Group such as Pearce Sporting Services - a company that for the last seven years has been a major distributor for BOCM specialist feeds in the south east which includes game feed, dog and horse feed. They also supply rearing equipment for gamekeepers and all gamekeeper requisites, with their colleagues within Pearce Seeds providing both technical and agronomic back-up on game cover crops.

Most years, an area of land at Rosedown is set aside for game cover trials where they are currently working alongside Dow Agrosciences in order to try and establish the compatibility of various chemicals with individual game cover crops.

Clyst House Agri-Services was purchased from John Sanford in 2004 and now retails fuel and heating oil to both farm and domestic customers alike.

Animal feeds have been added to their portfolio where they can now offer a whole range of feedstuffs to the livestock sector, including nutritional advice and service. Sherbome Processing Ltd specialises in cereal and breeding trials and is currently the largest organic cereal seed and pulse supplier in the country.

The breeding trials have already been successful as a joint project with KWS has resulted in a new winter wheat variety called Sherbome which has exhibited quite superb resistance to fusarium and has already gained a good reputation on farm as being the wheat variety to grow should there be any risk at all of disease.

They have developed a high profile in the wholesale seed market, with contract crops being grown throughout the south of England. The seed is processed at four locations in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset and is largely distributed by their own transport.

Whilst working on a bio-fuel project last year, an opportunity arose in which they could exploit the potential of a specific variety of oilseed rape that demonstrated superior taste and cooking qualities and, as a result, a number of companies from Fortnum & Mason to farm shops are marketing products that contain this particular oil.

As this rather tasteful' variety of rape is grown locally, a cold press and bottling plant has already been installed at Rosedown in order to keep "food miles" down to an absolute minimum.

"The success of this company has been built on quality and service," said, managing director, Ken Tuffin. "All the staff have worked extremely hard to gain a deserved reputation of a company that provides our customers with a quality product complemented with a first class technical back-up - and long may that continue," he added.