cooperative | About Us

Our Heritage

Southern States Cooperative is is a retail agricultural cooperative serving the agronomy, energy and farm supply needs of its members and customers across eight states in the Southeastern United States. The Richmond, VA-based cooperative serves a wide range of farm inputs including: fertilizer, seed, livestock feed, pet food, animal health supplies, and petroleum products, as well as other items for the farm and home.

The cooperative was founded in 1923 as Virginia Seed Service (VSS) when Virginia farmers were unable to buy seed guaranteed to grow in the Commonwealth and soon expanded to include feed, agronomy inputs, energy and farm supplies. In the early 1930s, the cooperative became known as Southern States. In 2020, Southern States joined GROWMARK to leverage the advantages a broader cooperative system would bring to its members, Southern States continues to operate 87 company-owned retail locations and maintains a working relationship with 44 locally-owned Southern States cooperatives.

Our History

In the early 1920's Farmers in Virginia were unable to buy seed guaranteed to grow in the Commonwealth. Despite scientific findings about the correlation between the quality of seeds and the quality of crops they produced, commercial seed handlers continued to sell poor-quality seed. In 1923, about 150 farmers met in Richmond, Virginia, to take steps to remedy the situation. With $11,000 in capital, two employees and a second-hand typewriter, the company that would become Southern States was born.

These 150 farmers, calling their cooperative Virginia Seed Service (VSS), found that pooling their resources enabled them to procure seeds better suited to Virginia's growing conditions.

VSS began distributing feed in 1925, added a fertilizer service in 1926 and started handling farm supplies and petroleum products a few years later.

In the early 1930s, VSS was looking beyond Virginia and changed its name to Southern States Cooperative. Soon other states were served including Delaware and Maryland in 1934, West Virginia in 1941, Kentucky in 1945 and North Carolina in 1986.

Improvements in service also came quickly. In 1948, the cooperative established its first hybrid corn research program. Six years later, realizing it could no longer rely solely on college research, Southern States helped establish a chain of feed testing and research farms located across the country. And in 1960, Southern States and ten other regional co-ops formed a national seed-breeding research organization, FFR.

In October 1998, Southern States continued its growth by acquiring the wholesale and retail farm supply system of Gold Kist, Inc. The acquisition effectively expanded the co-op's territory into the Southeastern part of the nation.

Two years later, Southern States purchased the wholesale business of Agway consumer dealers and assumed all dealer marketing, development, operations, distribution and logistics for this business. The acquisition included a dealer network in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, and a customer service center in Syracuse, N.Y., as well as distribution facilities.

For the next 20 years, Southern States operated as both a wholesale and retail supply cooperative serving more than 1200 retail outlets across 21 states.

In response to an evolving agricultural marketplace and desire to focus on its strengths serving its members, Southern States sold its feed manufacturing business to Cargill Animal Nutrition in 2017. In 2020, GROWMARK acquired its wholesale energy and wholesale agronomy businesses and a new entity, Agway Farm & Home, LLC, was formed to serve its wholesale farm supply business.

Today, Southern States is an agricultural cooperative focused on providing profitable growing solutions and reliable energy expertise to its members and customers based on the specific needs of the local community.

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