“‘Excellence’ is, in my opinion, a very appropriate word to describe Gary, both professionally and personally. His ensuing contributions to the sunflower industry—both as renowned breeder and as a partner in leading seed companies—have been numerous and profound. I enthusiastically endorse Gary for this very special honor.”
—Don Lilleboe, Editor of The Sunflower
Gary Fick graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1964, followed by a master’s in plant genetics in 1966. After Fick earned his Ph.D. in genetics at the University of California-Davis, Fick returned to his midwest roots, where he began and finished a journey of more than 40 years in agribusiness.
After six years as a research geneticist at ARS, USDA in Fargo, ND and adjunct professor in the Department of Crop and Weed Science at North Dakota State University, in 1977 Fick formed the seed company SIGCO Research in Breckenridge, Minn., with four of his colleagues—Fick was sunflower breeder and research director (and later, named president). With the advantage of hybrids—which Fick helped develop during his time with the USDA—and a good market for sunflower oil in world markets, SIGCO Research and the sunflower industry grew very quickly. NDSU estimated a $60 million benefit to farmers for the 1977 crop year alone from the use of hybrid sunflower varieties.
In 1990, Fick left SIGCO Research to form the contract research and consulting company Seed America, which later merged with Seeds 2000, a company Fick formed with several of his SIGCO colleagues. Seeds 2000 concentrated on developing new confection sunflower hybrids, NuSun oil hybrids and those with resistance to herbicides.
Fick has received the V.S. Pustovoit Award for Superior Achievement in Sunflower Research from the International Sunflower Association in Paris, France; the NCCPB Genetics and Plant Breeding Award for Industry; and the Gold Award from the National Sunflower Association in Mandan, ND.
Not only has Fick made significant contributions to agriculture and agribusiness world-wide, he is also an ardent supporter of the University of Minnesota, and in 2002 established the Fick Graduate Student Award, which provides supplemental fellowship support for graduate students studying plant breeding.