Iowa Soybean Farmers and Kirk Leeds

Heart, soul and thankfulness

November 1, 2023 | Aaron Putze, APR

“The budget numbers you review are important, but I won’t remember any of them. What I’ll remember and treasure are the relationships.”

And with that, Lindsay Greiner officially retired as an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) director.

Steph Essick, Morey Hill, Jeff Jorgenson and Chuck White joined the Keota farmer in sharing poignant farewells during an ISA board meeting held earlier this fall. Wayne Fredericks, a past ISA director, was also recognized for his service as an American Soybean Association (ASA) director.

Iowa Soybean Farmers

Recollections shared by retiring directors are a tradition when ISA’s farmer leaders gather each September. One by one, they take the floor to share experiences and reflect on their years of service.

It’s a trip down memory lane as they tell stories about trade missions and budget discussions, soy industry milestones and approving initiatives that have ultimately flourished to the benefit of soybean farmers here at home, across the country and globally. Spouses and family members attend, plaques are presented, shutters click and tears shed.

Without a doubt, September’s board meeting is by far my favorite ISA board meeting.

Ironically, after pouring their heart and soul into representing fellow soybean farmers (some for a decade or more), retiring directors devote the lion’s share of their farewell addresses to giving thanks.

At the top of the list is family. Serving on the ISA board requires time and attention. Farmer directors are called away from their farms and families 40-50 days a year (double that if serving as president). Inevitably, that means missed ball games, meals, birthdays, anniversaries, not to mention time away from the field for planting and harvesting. Time away diverts attention away from matters centric to the farm and family to serving the industry’s collective good. It’s a major concession, but one they readily make.

Many also extend their appreciation to fellow directors.

“Some of my best friends are on this board,” said Jorgenson. “These are friendships that’ll last a lifetime.”

Others salute the staff they support and depend upon. “ISA is an awesome organization and I wish every farmer knew how hard employees work on their behalf,” said Essick.

While giving thanks for the opportunity to serve, retiring directors encourage their colleagues to savor the moment.

“As you all embark on another year — whether your first or last — enjoy your time and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way,” said Hill.

ISA has many strengths: an entrepreneurial staff, outstanding culture, disdain for the status-quo, propensity for collaboration and a relentless drive to innovate.

But what sets ISA apart is its farmer leadership.

And few have done it better than Fredericks, who retired after serving nearly 15 years in state and national soybean leadership roles.

“When you look at a tombstone, there’s the date you were born and the date you die,” said Fredericks, who, with the support of his wife Ruth and soybean family, has courageously battled cancer for more than a year.

“And in between is the dash,” he continued. “Use that dash to the best of your advantage and don’t put off tomorrow what you should be doing and considering today.”

Wise words indeed, and a call for action and thanksgiving.