Sowing Seeds of Hope, One Unit at a Time

By Shannon Latham

On a bright September day in 2009, Bill Latham was doing what he loved: harvesting research plots on his Iowa farm. When he paused the combine to tell his sons he felt pain in his abdomen, they immediately knew something was wrong. Bill, who was president of Latham Seed Company for 34 years, hardly ever missed a day of work — much less during harvest. He was, as son John Latham fondly recalls, “the workhorse of our family.”

Bill Latham in the Latham research plots, late 1970.

John and his brother, Chris Latham, rushed their dad to a nearby hospital. Shortly after, Bill was transferred to Mayo Clinic. Within a day, he was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). The Latham family was forever changed.

“We could see the look on the doctor’s face and knew it was serious,” recalls Chris Latham, the company’s CFO. “We didn’t know what AML was, but we learned very quickly.”

John adds, “For most people, that kind of diagnosis could be a death sentence. But thanks to medical advancements and a stem cell transplant, we were able to enjoy another six wonderful years with him.”

In 2015, Bill Latham passed away from AML. His cancer story has been the “why” behind the Lathams’ mission to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society and its work to bring hope to other families.

“Cancer has really affected us,” says John, whose mom, Linda, is a three-time cancer survivor. “Everyone knows someone who has been personally affected by this disease. We know firsthand what a gift hope can be.”

Photo to right: Bill and Linda Latham on their wedding day. 

Campaigning for a Cure

For more than 75 years, Latham® Seeds has served farmers with the latest seed genetics, highest-quality products and unparalleled hometown service. But Bill Latham’s death spurred a new way to serve: funding the treatment and research of cancer.

One in three people are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and the disease affects millions of others. The Latham Family is no exception. That’s why — for more than a decade — the company has been a proud supporter of the American Cancer Society (ACS), beginning with its involvement in Coaches vs. Cancer. As die-hard Iowa State fans and basketball enthusiasts, the Lathams began sponsoring the Cyclones Charity Stripe event for Coaches vs. Cancer in 2013. Eventually, they expanded their support to the Hawkeyes’ program, too. Each season, the company donates money to the ACS for every free throw made by a Cyclone and Hawkeye player.

Pictured above: Jerry Broders, Latham District Sales Manager, and Jamee and Anthony Erger, Latham Dealers.

One game turned into years of support — with Latham Seeds giving more than $65,000 to the ACS.

“Our family’s experience gave us a new appreciation for all the lifesaving research, treatment and support provided by the American Cancer Society,” says John Latham. “After my dad’s stem cell transplant, he and my mom stayed in the Gift of Life Transplant House. They truly felt surrounded by caring people, which meant the world to them and our entire family.”

Latham Seeds’ partnership with the ACS was further deepened last year when the company launched a campaign called Seeds of HOPE in celebration of its 75th Anniversary. The Seeds of HOPE campaign is simple but earnest. Through its dealer network within six states, Latham is donating proceeds from the sales of three select hybrids to the American Cancer Society.

The goal? To raise $75,000 within a three-year time period for the American Cancer Society. Thanks to Latham Dealers, customers and employees, the company raised $25,000 in its first year and is on track to meet that goal.

The Man Behind Latham’s Mission

Bill Latham returned to the family seed business in 1966 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He became president of the company founded by his father, Willard, in 1947 and managed the business with brothers Bill and Don. Another brother and owner, Tom, left the company to serve as a U.S. Congressman in 1994.

Photo to right: Latham Seed Plot Days in the early 1980s.

Under Bill’s management, the business grew into one of the most successful soybean seed producers in the upper soybean belt, with a dealer organization in seven North Central states. Bill served as president of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and the president of the Independent Professional Seed Association and Iowa Seed Association. Bill and his wife Linda have two sons, John and Chris. Both, along with John’s wife Shannon, are now owners of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.


Last year, ASTA honored Bill with its prestigious Heritage Award for his impact on the American seed industry. Being recognized with this award puts Bill Latham in the same company as Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the World Food Prize.

Bill’s wife, Linda, and son, John, accepted the award at ASTA’s annual Leadership Summit in Sacramento, California. (picture on right)

"We're so proud of Dad for being a leader in the seed industry for more than 30 years," John says. "He knew how important the industry is for feeding the world and enjoyed being a part of it. Most of all, Dad was proud of our company and us. He knew our generation would carry on the tradition of Latham Seeds."

Help Latham Sow More Seeds of Hope for the ACS

Extra time with loved ones battling cancer can make all the difference to a family, as the Lathams know all too well. After Bill’s diagnosis in 2009, he was still able to meet his youngest granddaughter, make memories with his other four grandchildren and pass down business advice to his two sons.

“The American Cancer Society provided our family with the best resources, support and so much hope,” says Chris. “That’s why we’re committed to raising cancer awareness and funds to help others.”

Learn more about Seeds of HOPE, ways you can get involved and how you can donate.


About Latham Hi-Tech Seeds:

Latham Hi-Tech Seeds is a third-generation, family-owned company that markets hybrid seed corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cover crops under the Latham® brand name across the Upper Midwest. Committed to helping farmers grow their legacies while keeping rural communities strong, Latham Seeds markets its products through a local farmer-dealer network. More information about Family-Owned and Farm-Proven Latham Seeds and its products is available at