The History Of Sunflower
Charles Fleming and Orland Hazen formed a partnership in 1941 and bought the Sunflower Express Truck Line. Then in 1945 they bought the patent rights to the "Diamond Packer", and in a small garage in Beloit, KS, they started production.
The Diamond Packer was a series of cast wheels that had 5 diamond shaped heads and weighed 50 pounds per wheel. The Packer made a series of diamond shaped holes in the ground and was usually pulled behind moldboard plows or discs to prevent wind and water erosion. Sunflower eventually sold this product line to a company in southwest Kansas and it is still being built today. All of Sunflower's first products were produced under the name of "Diamond". This name was later changed to "Sunflower", which as far as anyone knows, went along with Sunflower Express Truck Line and also the state flower of Kansas, a very hardy plant.
The company was starting to grow, and in 1946 moved to a larger facility within the Beloit city limits.
Sunflower, known as the "originators of flexible tillage tools", saw the need for flexible equipment to follow field contours and terraces. In 1961 Sunflower introduced the three section, flexible stubble mulch blade plow. This was Sunflower's first flexible tillage product and the first flexible plow on the market. The first year 10 blade plows were produced, and the following year sales grew to 600 plows. Flexibility over a one piece or rigid tillage tool was what the market wanted.
In 1964 Sunflower's continued growth caused the Company to move again to a larger facility on the outskirts of Beloit, KS.
The success of the flexible blade plows created an increasing demand in the market for additional flexible tillage tools. Sunflower introduced a flexible chisel plow in 1967, and in 1968 Sunflower added a flexible offset disc to their growing line of products. These first tillage products were crude by today's standards but worked reasonably well in the field.
Charles Fleming was named President of Sunflower in 1969 upon the death of Orland Hazen who was serving as President at that time.
In 1971 the entire tillage line was redesigned to add more sales appeal. This helped Sunflower gain momentum in the high plains area. The main sales territory for Sunflower at this time was Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Missouri, South Dakota and Nebraska. Sunflower went through several years where sales and earnings were doubling every year.
In the mid seventies, Sunflower's Director of Engineering, Richard Worick, came up with an idea of combining a regular two-section offset disc with another left handed version making a double offset disc with four sections. This idea was patented in 1975 and production started. The four-section disc is very popular today and used across the nation because of its unique flexing ability. Sunflower is still the only company to manufacture a four-section disc. Besides introducing the world to the unique flexing disc, 1975 found Sunflower again needing more space so another move was made, but this time to a brand new modern factory built just outside of Beloit's city limits (Sunflower's current location).
Sunflower started expanding its sales territory after the 1975 move to include the corn belt. The first product produced for this market was a coulter chisel (Trash Mulcher). The first try was pretty much a disaster, but ideas from farmers were brought home and new designs were built. The next time out was very successful and soon other models followed.
Sunflower remained a family owned company until 1976. At that time, it was sold to SOS Consolidated (later known as CORE Industries Inc.) of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. This was a good union because Sunflower was able to continue to work in the areas of research and development even when business was down, such as the mid-1980's. With CORE at their side, Sunflower was also able to offer terms to its growing number of dealers in the wheat belt, corn belt and Canada. This ability coupled with expanded engineering and new technology raised Sunflower to another level.
The first international shipments for Sunflower came in 1977 when blade plows and chisels were exported to Australia. Exports have been a good supplement sales avenue for Sunflower, but the North American Farmer has always been Sunflower's most loyal and best customer.
Again in 1981 Sunflower needed more space, so additions to the offices and manufacturing plant were constructed.
In 1982 Bill Laas was named president of Sunflower.
A line of field cultivators was introduced in the early 80's to continue the growth of Sunflower. Land Finishers (one-pass tools) were then added in 1984. This time period also saw Sunflower exporting to Australia, South Africa and Canada.
CORE wanted Sunflower to continue to grow by adding more product lines and to look for acquisitions. In 1986, Sunflower purchased the Flex-King Blade Plow line from Flex-King in Quinter, KS, along with the "Flex-King" trade name. In 1987 all assets of the Richardson Manufacturing Company, Cawker City, KS, were purchased. This facility is used today to manufacture finishing attachments and grain drills.
In 1990 Gerald Meier became President of Sunflower.
The next addition to Sunflower came in 1993 when the Best Grain Drill line from Best Manufacturing Company of Jonesboro, AR, was purchased. By purchasing the drill line, Sunflower finally had something to offer the "no-till" farmer who was not using tillage equipment.
With the continued growth of the product line and sales numbers, Sunflower underwent another plant expansion in 1996. This expansion doubled the production capacity.
In 1997, the parent company Core Industries was acquired by United Dominion Industries (UDI), of Charlotte, NC. Later in 1997 UDI grouped Sunflower Mfg. Co., Inc., Beloit, KS, Feterl Mfg., Salem, SD, and Richardton Mfg., Richardton, ND, together to form the UDI AG Group. Sunflower's President was appointed UDI AG Group Division President.
Sunflower's sister company, Richardton Mfg., acquired A & L Grain Carts of Claremore, OK, in 1998. Sunflower elected to market the Grain Shuttle under the Sunflower name with the familiar red and yellow paint scheme and markings.
Utilizing corporate synergies, Sunflower began marketing Feterl grain augers and Richardton dump wagons in 1999 to a portion of their dealerships.
Sunflower products are sold in most of the United States (approximately 750 dealers) as well as Canada, Taiwan, Australia, England, and Saudi Arabia. In early 1999, Sunflower exported 100 rippers to Romania and a number of products to other foreign countries.
In the spring of 2001 United Dominion and all their companies were purchased by SPX Corporation of Muskegon, MI. In the summer of 2001 Richardton Manufacturing was consolidated into Sunflower. Sunflower began manufacturing the Dump Wagon and Grain Cart product line. In December 2001, Feterl Manufacturing was sold, leaving Sunflower as the sole company in the Ag Division. In November 2002, Sunflower was purchased by Agco Corporation. Sunflower was named the Planter and Tillage Division of Agco Corporation.
Sunflower has become known around the world today as a producer and marketer of top quality products with exceptional customer support. Quality and service are what today's farmers expect from their equipment and what Sunflower continues to provide.