Sarah Hovinga

Feeders Are Leaders: The Need for Constant Leadership in Modern Agriculture

When one thinks of career fields that need great leadership, what areas come to mind? Computation? Politics? Energy? What about agriculture? Ag probably isn’t a career path that conjures up images of pioneers, of innovators, or of amazing scientists for the everyday person. I would say that they don’t know Ag.

Agriculture requires imagination, a love for the environment and for people, and a spirit of perseverance. People in agriculture have huge risks, and societal trends to contend with. Traditionally, growers had to deal with weather and equipment, and what this meant for their harvest and return on investment. That is still a huge reality today. Nowadays, on top of this, they deal with the added complexity of global trade agreements, consumer preferences that change every year, ever-increasing regulation, and cutting-edge science and technology, just to name a few differences from what I would call classical farming and business models.

Is the need for leadership in Ag becoming clearer? Think of how we live our modern lives day-to-day. In the United States, for example, we have the luxury of going to the grocery store whenever we want, to buy practically whatever we want. People have the ability to order groceries straight off of their phones: organic, grass-fed, free-range goodies, you name it. But does the average person really understand or care how we can find so many options and exotic produce year round? Are they aware of the huge leap forward science and technology are introducing in agriculture, allowing farmers to manage their land more sustainably than ever before? Most likely not. With a gap as large as this between where food comes from, and the people consuming it, leadership is more crucial than ever.

Sarah Hovinga
Sarah Hovinga
Sarah Hovinga,
Senior Scientist, Biologics Project and Product Support, Disease Management, Bayer Division Crop Science

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”, and was he right! It seems easy: plant a seed, give it some sun, water, and you’re good, right? Yes, that’s right for starters, but there is so much more. The “more” part in agriculture is what has to be explained to most urbanites in a way that they can relate to, digest, understand, and appreciate. And that takes leadership. It also requires perseverance grounded in moral principles and driven by the reason behind why you do what you do every day, but also empathy to connect with the human spirit and what binds us together as people. A willingness to approach the subject openly and honestly, letting your passion shine through, and yet to be patient enough to understand that people don’t fully comprehend what you do. And that’s ok. That’s why we need agricultural leaders.

Urban development and growing cities enabled many advances and have helped improved lives. It has also disconnected us from the land and our basic source of nutrition. It might take time to reconnect cities to the understanding and acceptance of modern agriculture, but we cannot just wait. The time is now to engage and explain, to listen and to learn. To discover the many opportunities agriculture offers even to city millennials. Leadership is a constant journey of knowledge and stepping outside one’s comfort zone to gain appreciation and perspective. If we agriculturalists expect others to understand what it is we do, we owe it to them to reciprocate. This helps us to connect to others who may not necessarily think and know the same things that we do, but in the end, still manage to have a civil conversation about a topic like modern agriculture.

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Markos Legas
October 25, 2017 - 05:19 AM

Millions likes for your article.

"When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge".

C.P. Cavafy

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Pedro Faria Jr
September 14, 2017 - 05:46 PM

Excelent article Sarah. It's about time to change the way agriculture presents itself to the public. Very few people outside the Ag World understand what is going on to make it possible for them to eat everyday...

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Giuseppe Messi
September 13, 2017 - 02:10 AM

Mi scuso se scrivo in Italiano ma sono italiano.
Traduttore non potrebbe rendere in fedeltà.
Concordo pienamente nella necessità di dare una identità ai prodotti agricoli: raccontare al consumatore la loro storia e la vita di chi li produce. Raccontare il territorio, non è sempre possibile produrre vicino ma la provenienza da territori più vocati ne garantisce una qualità superiore. Complimenti per l'articolo.

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Plínio Peixoto
September 12, 2017 - 03:16 AM


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