Iowa soybean farmer in field

Wayne Fredericks served as president of the Iowa Soybean Association in 2015. Though now retired from farming, he continues to share his knowledge with other farmers. (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / File Photo)

Wayne Fredericks - A legacy of leadership

February 5, 2024 | Bethany Baratta

Though a self-described “accidental conservationist,” Wayne Fredericks’ legacy of leadership within the soybean industry is anything but a coincidence.

Fredericks was recently recognized as the recipient of the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Legacy of Leadership Award. The award, sponsored by Stine Seed, is presented to an ISA member who has established a history of leadership and has taken an active role in advancing the goals of ISA.

ISA CEO Kirk Leeds presented Fredericks with the award in Osage, where Wayne and his wife Ruth reside. Leeds and Fredericks reflected on the two decades of time they’ve spent together traversing the state, country, and globe, promoting the soybean industry.

But perhaps the most impactful visit for Leeds was the trip to the family’s farm.

Farmer speaking to group in Iowa

“I can remember the first time I came to your farm,” Leeds says. “We were out on the patio, and you were talking about the changes you were making on your farm. It was almost a reverence about the soil and what you were doing to improve your farm.”

Over the years, those changes would include a litany of conservation efforts, including no-till, strip-till, cover crops, pollinator habitats, waterways, windbreaks and a nutrient bioreactor. Wayne and Ruth earned the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) National Conservation Legacy Award in 2022. Wayne also took on the role of “conservation champion” through the Front40 program, a platform for Iowa’s conservation-minded farmers that aims educate the public on the practices already in place and encourage the next generation to raise the bar in what’s possible.

Fredericks served the soybean industry for nearly two decades. He served as president of ISA in 2015, and as a director on the ASA board. His participation in research trials — more than 100 replicated trials — and his willingness to share the results with other farmers made him a highly sought after keynote presenter. His ability to show — and not preach — made him an effective leader.

Leading by example

Over the years, Wayne’s leadership has inspired others to raise their voice and lead by example just as he did.

When ISA President Suzanne Shirbroun joined the ISA board, Fredericks, knowing Shirbroun’s background in agronomy and pest management, recommended that she serve on the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) board. He was confident her participation would benefit soybean farmers and the NCSRP board.

Farmer speaking at podium

“The NCSRP board has been one of the highlights of my tenure on this board,” Shirbroun says.

He saw the potential in each board member and sought to put them on committees and in roles they would be best suited.

“He was instrumental in guiding the new board members in the directions he thought we should explore, and he did a great job,” Shirbroun says.

His quiet confidence paid dividends to soybean farmers as he ushered in new board members and visited representatives in Des Moines and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He didn’t need talking points or cheat sheets during his conversations — he spoke from experience.

“I enjoyed working with young farmers and giving them the confidence to step up and tell their story,” Wayne says. “You’re here for a purpose and you are selected because you have this background and information — and a message to tell.”

A living legacy

Wayne completed his 50th and final harvest on the farm in 2022. His retirement from actively farming afforded four other farmers the opportunity to farm.

Conservation leases help guide the next generation toward practices that preserve the conservation efforts Wayne and Ruth established on their acres.

“This is an opportunity to teach and share with them what could be done,” Wayne says. “Many times, it’s not about the money, but about the opportunity. For me it’s about maintaining and spreading opportunity.”