Two Madison businesses are among nine organizations which were to have been honored on Tuesday at an Acts of Excellence celebration in Watertown.

Organized by the South Dakota Hall of Fame, the Acts of Excellence program recognizes individuals and organizations which help to build a culture of excellence in South Dakota.

The celebration was scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. on the Lake Area Technical Institute campus in Watertown, but it has been postponed as part of a nationwide effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday morning, the state of South Dakota had 28 positive cases.

Both Mustang Seeds and Montgomery Furniture were nominated by retired Associated Press reporter Terry Woster.

"I've been doing a few Acts of Excellence submissions for two or three years now," Woster said in an email message. "It's kind of a nice program to recognize people and groups that are doing good things in South Dakota, people who are trying to bring excellence into their lives and their work."

Connection to agriculture

Woster said Mustang Seeds interested him because of the company's connection to agriculture.

"Nearly 60 years in a business, providing basic agricultural needs, never getting content, but continuing to try to improve and expand -- it just seemed to me that was a pretty compelling story," he wrote.

As he began to research the company, he found the article published in The Madison Daily Leader when Mustang Seeds entered into partnership with GDM, the company based in Argentina which is doing research which could result in improved soybean production in the area. That, too, intrigued him.

"I found that fascinating, that a local company would go global in that way and still remain a family business essentially," Woster said.

Mustang Seeds is described on the South Dakota Hall of Fame website in this way:

"Ray Schultz family founded Mustang Seeds in Madison in 1963 with a mission to provide quality small-grain seed to area farmers. For more than half a century, the family and the company have remained true to that mission, with a range of products that includes corn, soybean, alfalfa, pasture grasses, oats, native grasses, cover crops and sorghum. Cover crops have surged in recent years, due, the company says, largely to education about soil health and carbon sequestration.

``Since its founding, the company has expanded to neighboring states with a market footprint from Montana to Wisconsin. It has added steadily to its product line, and recently it formed a joint venture with another family-owned genetic company, GDM Seeds, based in Chacabuco, Argentina. The linkup gives Mustang Seeds access to exclusive genetics and a broader range of seed products.

``The Madison-based company, now overseen by CEO Terry Schultz, pledges to remain focused on its customers, basing its product offerings on customer choice as it has since its formation in 1963. GDM uses gene editing in its research and production, which results in an improved product that is not classified as a GMO (genetically modified organism)," Schultz said in an article in The Daily Leader.

"In the article, Schultz quotes a GDM executive as telling him that the difference between a publicly-traded company and a family-owned business is that `They live for the (business) quarter. Families live for generations.' That remains the Mustang Seeds philosophy."

Existed before statehood

Woster said he has been familiar with Montgomery Furniture "for years and years." He has even purchased furniture from the business, most recently a sofa and chair.

"When I saw somewhere on their website that they were established in business before South Dakota's statehood, it hit me what an amazing run that is for any business. It was a natural to submit for recognition," Woster stated in an email message.

Montgomery's Furniture is described on the South Dakota Hall of Fame website in this way:

"Before there was a state of South Dakota, there was a Montgomery Furniture. For more than 130 years, Montgomery Furniture has served South Dakota families. And for all of that time, the same family has owned the business and has been a significant presence in the business community of South Dakota.

``In 1884, George H. Montgomery left Vermont, heeding Horace Greeley's advice to `go West, young man.' In 1888, a year before South Dakota became a state, Montgomery reached Alexandria, where he established the furniture store and a funeral home. The business grew and prospered, and in 1902, Montgomery and his brother-in-law, William Ryburn, built a two-story building in downtown Alexandria, housing the store, a bank, a law office and the Masonic Temple.

``Montgomery died in 1922, leaving his business in the hands of his son, W.R. Montgomery, and his son-in-law, Gilbert Loomer. A fire in 1964 destroyed the original building, but the family rebuilt. That new building houses Montgomery Furniture today.

``Over the years and over the generations, the business expanded, with locations in Madison, Howard, Arlington, Sioux Falls and Mitchell, offering furniture, home accessories and flooring. Currently, Clark Sinclair and son Eric of Madison are co-owners. Eric is the fifth generation of the hardy family that arrived in Dakota Territory, put down roots and stayed.

``Greeley's full quote, sometimes forgotten, was `Go West, young man and grow up with the country.' The family that started Montgomery Furniture and continues to operate it today certainly has done that."

The other organizations being recognized this year are Dawn Leuning's fourth-grade class at Deubrook for a recycling project; restoration of the Goss Opera House in Watertown; Lake Area Technical Institute's internships for the Electronic Systems Technology, Robotics and Aviation Maintenance Technology programs; preservation of the Melette House in Watertown; a resource guide for traditional Lakota and Dakota games produced by South Dakota State University Extension; the Terry Redlin Art Center; and WW Tire Service with locations throughout South Dakota.