A life long advocate of agriculture

ISA CEO Kirk Leeds presents Wayne Fredericks with the Legacy of Leadership Award (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Penning—and living—the ISA values

February 15, 2024 | Bethany Baratta

Nestled within a values statement hanging on several walls of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) office lies this tenet: Fact-based and data driven. Always going where the data leads so we do the right things for the right reasons.

It’s a statement that ISA CEO Kirk Leeds attributes to Wayne Fredericks, a former ISA president. Fredericks, 72, recently passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.

“This was Wayne’s value statement,” Leeds told those who gathered earlier this week for Wayne’s funeral service. “He would challenge me with, ‘Kirk, do not fear sharing information and going where the data takes us. We may not always like what the data says, but we must use the data to identify things that need to be improved.’”

Wayne not only penned the values statement, he lived it. He participated 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.

“Saddened doesn't come close to expressing how we all feel about the passing of our dear friend,” Leeds says.

Wayne’s family asked Leeds to eulogize Wayne at his funeral last week. With a soy trade mission to Bangladesh also on the calendar, Leeds considered canceling his trade mission participation. But thinking about Wayne’s passion for the industry, he kept his travel plans.

“I know what Wayne would want me to do—that was to go and continue the important work in promoting soybeans and Iowa agriculture,” Leeds said in his prepared eulogy presented at the funeral on his behalf.

Leeds presented Wayne with ISA’s Legacy of Leadership Award in November in Osage, where Wayne and his wife Ruth lived. There, they reminisced on the two decades of time they’ve spent together traversing the state, country and globe, promoting the soybean industry. They didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time the two would visit face-to-face.

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, Wayne, 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 the board and soybean farmers.

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

Wayne 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 said during his ISA Legacy of Leadership Award acceptance speech. “You’re here for a purpose and you are selected because you have this background and information — and a message to tell.”

Hundreds of people have offered their words of support upon learning the news of Wayne’s passing. It’s difficult to count how many have been impacted by his leadership. Perhaps harder, still, to count the acres that have been positively impacted by his leadership in conservation.

“I will never forget the first time I visited Wayne on his farm as I listened and watched him speak with a sense of reverence about his farm and particularly the soil,” Leeds says. “He was determined to leave the farm and that beautiful black soil better than it was when he first started farming. It was a commitment that he never forgot and upheld his entire life.”

Learn more about Wayne’s life and legacy.