Father and son Dean and Mike Coleman

(Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

The Coleman leadership legacy

March 15, 2021 | Ann Clinton

The roots of the Coleman family’s involvement with the Iowa Soybean Association (SA) run deep. A third-generation farmer, Dean grew soybeans and corn with his wife Carol and son Mike. Carol and Dean engaged in programming, including on-farm research early on. Soon, Dean was involved with leadership. He served as an ISA director including the offices of president, vice president, treasurer and at-large. He also served on the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) board of directors. 

Dean, who passed away in 2019, was honored posthumously with the ISA Legacy of Leadership award in 2020. 

What did you think when Mike won the Innovator in Production Research Award? 

Carol: I was so proud to hear this … and I couldn’t help but laugh, too! You see, there was a time when Mike wasn’t such a fan of ISA Research. Mike’s dad Dean was usually involved in several research projects at a time and we had many plots in our fields and we’d need to carefully navigate around those. It drove Mike crazy. But it didn’t take long for him to recognize the value and how we benefited from the data we collected. 

Mike: Dad was so involved with ISA, beyond research, and it just became a part of our family of our farm. Now, I can’t imagine not being involved with some type of ISA research project. 

How and why has involvement with ISA been important? 

Mike: Dad always wanted to do nearly every research trial. He was so interested in different application rates, replications and how the weather affected it all. And we talked a lot about that work on our farm and what he learned at ISA meetings. We have such a great relationship with ISA’s staff. For me, it’s a good place to go for information. 

Carol: For Dean and me, I look at all of the close relationships and lifelong friendships we developed through our involvement. Dean loved talking to farmers from across the state and around the world. As he learned more about soil types, production practices and more, he always said meetings were such eye-opening experiences for him. And as much as he loved to learn, Dean loved to teach. He would jump at any opportunity to talk about farming or ISA with groups or reporters. 

What does the ISA leadership legacy mean to your family? 

Carol: Dean loved every minute of his time serving the state’s soybean farmers. It simply became a way of life for him. From those first research plots, to serving on the board, and with ASA, to learning from farmers, he loved every minute of it. I know he wouldn’t have ever given it up. 

Mike: I still think of the buses filled with international visitors pulling up the drive. We’d have some of the biggest soybean buyers in the world riding along in the combine, and they wanted to know about our farm. It really hits home when you realize that what we do right here at home has these global implications. I appreciate that opportunity to be a part of those conversations. Serving Iowa soybean farmers through ISA was Dad’s true passion. He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, people listened.


ISA Leadership Awards are presented annually to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding work on behalf of Iowa soybean farmers and the farming profession. Highlighted in the March 2021 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review are four families who exemplify the true legacy of leadership within the soybean industry. This story was originally published in the March 2021 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.

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