Chief Officer of Strategy and Brand Management

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Comfortable being uncomfortable

September 1, 2023 | Aaron Putze, APR

Thirty years.

The number kept coming to mind as I walked the sidewalks and hallways of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) campus earlier this summer. My son Grant, a senior at Waukee High School, made a campus visit to the school where I received my degree in public relations and communications in 1993.

Thirty years?

There’s nothing like accompanying your child on a college visit to your alma mater to make you acutely aware that you’re a lot closer to age 80 than 18.Grant Putze visiting UNI

Traversing UNI’s classrooms, dorms, dining centers and green spaces was a trip down memory lane. While a few buildings had been razed and others renovated, a sense of familiarity quickly enveloped me. Before long, I was strolling campus as if I was again a student speeding to a class, student government meeting or the campus newspaper office to file my next story.

Familiarity is comforting and reassuring. But it’s got a downside, too. Spend too much reveling in the familiar and you risk becoming complacent.

Much like commencement, growth happens when you set sail for new horizons and continually test and challenge yourself and old ways of thinking.

Just like the soybean plant can add yield and protein when stressed, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) is at its best when we’re dissatisfied with the status quo, see a need unmet or a problem to be solved. Examples include:

  • Being a catalyst for the creation of the Midwest Research Collaborative, a regional approach to impacting policy acutely affecting Iowa and Midwest soybean farmers;
  • Connecting the wants and needs of soybean buyers, processors and food manufacturers with the varieties of soybeans farmers plant to better focus production research while ramping up demand and sales (check out;
  • Launching the Iowa Food & Family Project ( in 2011 to proactively engage with food-minded consumers about modern agriculture. Fast forward 12 years, and the nationally recognized initiative is fulfilling that mission while connecting at least once monthly with an audience of more than 140,000 consumers;
  • Being a founding member of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers ( The organization, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, has directly assisted thousands of livestock farmers grow their farms successfully and responsibly, to the benefit of their families, communities and soybean demand;
  • Standing firm on state and federal policy provisions to increase the growth of biodiesel production and demand; and
  • Building new alliances to expand adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and generate additional revenue for farmers with the launch of the Soil & Water Outcomes Fund® (SWOF). Founded less than three years ago by ISA, SWOF is serving farmers in 13 states and enrolling more than a quarter million acres. Last year, SWOF’s average payment to enrolled farmers for environmental outcomes generated by on-farm conservation practices was $34 per acre (learn more at

ISA is respected nationally and internationally because we’re most comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s how you grow, provide the greatest ROI for the farmers you represent and live your brand promise of being “Driven to Deliver.”