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Iowa Soybean Association honors soybean leaders at annual banquet

Article cover photo
From left: Dan De Vries, Dean Sponheim, Samuel Lane, Steve Hershner, Reed Burres, Carol Coleman (accepting on behalf of Dean Coleman), Robb and Jennifer Ewoldt, and Jon Hummel of West Bank. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Katie James, ISA public relations manager

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) recognized soybean industry leaders Monday, January 27 at the annual ISA awards banquet in Des Moines. Sponsored by West Bank, the 2020 Leadership Awards Banquet recognized seasoned farmers, industry partners and up-and-coming leaders who have gone above and beyond to serve and support soybean farmers and the agriculture industry.

The 2020 award recipients are:

Rising Star Award
Sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America, this award was presented to Samuel Lane of Mediapolis. Lane has actively been involved in representing farm families and agricultural issues. He’s an ISA collegiate Soy Squad participant, helping promote soybeans to consumers on ISU’s campus. He has also worked diligently to be involved in his family’s farm, working alongside his parents to learn the ins and outs of farming. As part of the Rising Star award, Lane received a $1,000 education stipend. After graduation, Lane intends to return to his family’s farm.

New Leader Award
Sponsored by Corteva, this award was presented to Reed Burres of Humboldt. Burres has exponentially grown his involvement with ISA over the last two years. After joining as a District Advisory Council member, he completed the 2018 ISA Experience program that engages soybean farmers who want to learn more about the association and consider future leadership opportunities. Impacting policy issues affecting soybean farmers is also a priority for Burres. He is an ISA Policy Advisory Council participant and served as ISA’s representative in the 2018-19 American Soybean Association/Corteva Young Leader Program.

Innovator in Production Research Award
Sponsored by John Deere, this award was presented to Dan De Vries of Prairie City. De Vries was recognized for his commitment to utilizing data and research to improve the productivity of his farm and the soybean industry. He’s collaborated extensively with the ISA research team the last five years. A sample of the work includes participation in soybean variable rate population trials, fertilizer, seed treatments and soybean cyst nematode trials. Not only has De Vries contributed to the advancement of production research at ISA, he has been a spokesperson for technology and conservation.

Environmental Leader Award
Sponsored by Agri Drain, this award was presented to Dean Sponheim of Nora Springs. A fourth-generation farmer, Sponheim is turning over soil quality on his Century Farm through the use of conservation practices instead of a plow. A long-time ISA member, Sponheim began strip tilling in 1999. In 2004, they started a custom strip till business and began strip cropping in 2011. He acknowledges there are places in Iowa that aren’t conducive to no-till but encourages farmers to give it a try and evaluate the benefits. Sponheim is a member of the Rock Creek Watershed Advisory Board. In 2014 the board began working with ISA to develop the first watershed project plan in Iowa linked to goals outlined in the state’s nutrient reduction plan.

Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer
Sponsored by Cargill, this award was presented to Steve Hershner of Cedar Rapids. Hershner has played a key role in the success of the Middle Cedar Partnership Project. It connects Cedar Rapids and the city’s water utility with upstream farmers and landowners to increase farming conservation practices that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in the Cedar River. With more conservation practices in place upstream, water quality is improved downstream before it reaches the residents of Cedar Rapids. Hershner and staff are setting a positive example for other municipalities to creatively meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Advocate for Iowa Agriculture
Sponsored by Bayer CropScience, the Advocate for Iowa Agriculture Award was presented to Robb and Jennifer Ewoldt of Davenport. The Ewoldts, with help from their two sons, Alex and Isaac, raise soybeans, corn and routinely share their love of farming with a variety of audiences. They take great pride in sharing their passion for agriculture with others. They host an annual “Picnic in the Pasture” for 300 people to learn more about life on the farm. Jennifer authors a bi-weekly column for the Quad-City Times detailing the many activities and events associated with operating a family farm. The Ewoldts have been recognized with an Eddy Award by the River Action, a group that fosters environmental, economic and cultural vitality of the Mississippi River. They were the first farmers to ever win the award, a recognition of the family's outstanding work in building relationships with groups outside of agriculture.

Legacy of Leadership Award
Sponsored by Stine Seed, this award was presented to the family of Dean Coleman of Humboldt. Coleman passed away last fall from injuries sustained in a farm-related accident. Coleman served as a director on the ISA board, chaired several committees and traveled the state, country and world promoting U.S. soy. At the time of his passing, he was serving on the American Soybean Association’s Board of Directors. The Coleman family has hosted several foreign buyer groups. Locally, the family has invited area school children to plant and harvest soybeans and corn. He held numerous ag leadership positions at the county level with Farm Bureau, county extension council and the fair board and was a board member for a biodiesel plant start up. Coleman is remembered for many things, among those is his dedication to the soybean industry and his legacy of leadership.

The ISA Leadership Awards are open for nominations each year and winners are selected by a panel of ISA farmer leaders. For more information about the awards program and the 2020 recipients, visit

Contact Katie James at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.