Iowa soybean farmer and advocate

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

Remembering Curt Sindergard

June 29, 2023 | Jeff Hutton

The smoke from his cigar would gently waft in the air as the sun glimmers on a glass of bourbon in his hand. For Curt Sindergard, it was a great way to end the day at the golf course or an even longer day out in the field.

But his love of golf, cigars and bourbon could never match the passion he had for agriculture and the friends he met along the way.

Sindergard, a former two-time Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) president, passed away June 17 following a 17-year battle with kidney cancer. He was 63.

ISA leader

Sindergard, started farming with his father before he graduated high school in Rolfe. He raised soybeans and corn with his wife, De, and was a seed dealer for DeKalb and Latham for 28 years. He was active on several boards and commissions, most notably for the ISA.

He served 18 years on the ISA board in different capacities, including as a District 1 board director, at-large interim board member, treasurer (2002), president-elect (2003 and 2006) and president (2004 and 2007-08). He also served on all four of ISA’s board committees.

In 2004, the ISA and the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board voted to move toward a unified board. Former ISA Board President John Askew says Sindergard was an instrumental player in helping ISA make the transition to the unified board.

“Curt was my closest advocate and my conscience, someone who made me better,” says Askew. “We both served ISA during a time of great turmoil. We both realized we were all soybean producers, not just association members and checkoff members. It used to be very separate and with that, very contentious. For the future of both boards, we needed to be one unified board. Curt, with his great skills, helped to bring both boards together and create one board. We needed a loudmouth, me, and a calming influence, Curt, to move this process ahead. We were a team.”

Askew was not alone in his admiration of Sindergard.

“We’ve lost a trusted friend and advocate from the ISA family, someone you could always count on, to lead, lend support and act with integrity,” says Ray Gaesser, a former ISA president who served alongside Sindergard on the ISA board. “He showed what courage meant and made a difference in this world and for our family. I will always remember him with my highest regards and respect.”

Sindergard knew the importance of driving production domestically, and how that could translate to growing global soy relationships and sales.

“I remember Curt as a driven individual always interested in the promotion of soybeans and as an advocate of any legislation that would be effective in opening the world to trade and the greater usage of our soybeans,” says Larry Marek, who also worked with Sindergard on the ISA board. “He was effective through his work on committees as well as holding various ag-related government positions. He was always positive and pleasing to work with. I'm sure he was conscientious with his equipment and was aware of the capabilities and the limitations of any given piece of farm equipment. He was very knowledgeable and an interesting individual to visit with. He will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with De at this trying time.”

Sindergard was known for his care for his farm – including his land and his equipment. He was named a member of ISA’s inaugural Front 40 class, which recognizes Iowa’s conservation-minded farmers.

“Curt was meticulous with everything from his presidency at ISA to his vehicles and his farm equipment,” says John Heisdorffer Jr. “From what I understand, other farmers would line up to buy Curt’s used equipment when he would trade. As his vice president (at ISA) he showed me everything I needed to know to do my job when I became president. He will be deeply missed by myself and many others whose lives he touched.”

Voice of Reason

Sindergard served with numerous organizations, commissions and local boards including the Rolfe City Council and Economic Commission, the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. (FCIC), QUALISOY Board, Iowa Grain Quality Initiative, the Iowa Grain Indemnity Fund, USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. He was a PRO Cooperative board member and served on the Pocahontas County Economic Development Commission, acting as its chairman for several years.

He also was very active with the American Soybean Association (ASA) serving in numerous capacities including: ASA board member (2002-11), Strategic Planning Committee (2005-10), Qualified State Soybean Board (QSSB) Chairman (2008), Demand Committee (2010-13), Public Affairs Committee (2003-11), the ASA Membership and Corporate Relations Committee (2002-03), Commodity Classic Committee (2005-07) and the Commodity Classic Joint Venture Grower Committee (2005-07).

“He represented corn and soybean producers on the FCIC Board of Directors and helped develop policies that protected farmers,” Askew says. “He was the voice of experience and reason that helped produce revenue protection that is our current method of risk management for farmers. He was always looking out for producers, whether at ISA, ASA, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship or his local community.”

In 2015, Sindergard was honored with ISA’s Legacy of Leadership Award. The award noted his 18 years of service to the board, as well as the ASA, Soy for Life Foundation, Environmental Stewardship Foundation and the FCIC. The award demonstrated Sindergard’s vital leadership and insight during his years of service on the board and contributed to setting forward thinking objectives to improve the competitiveness of Iowa’s soybean farmers.

‘A good one’

Funeral services for Sindergard were held this week at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Rolfe, where he was a longstanding member and served on various committees and offices.

ISA CEO Kirk Leeds spoke at the funeral, mourning Sindergard’s passing and the impact he had on the soybean industry.

“After a long and courageous battle with cancer, Curt’s passing is a big loss for the Iowa Soybean Association and the soybean farmers of Iowa,” Leeds says. “He was a passionate ambassador for all things soybeans, and I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to work alongside him over the past 20 years. I am not sure you could find a soybean farmer who did a better job representing our interests in Iowa, nationally in Washington, D.C. and in critical markets across the globe. A consummate professional who was always focused on making things better, my dear friend will be missed by us all.”

Askew says Sindergard was a humble man, always quick to laugh and made the whole room feel at ease.

“We both discovered a love of cigars and bourbon together - to slow down and enjoy being together,” he says. “If you find a friend like that in your life, cherish it. Thirty-five years later after we met, we could always start up the conversation that we left off with laughter and hugs.”

Askew says Sindergard’s passing has been difficult to accept.

“I’m still trying to figure out why he is gone,” he says. “I will miss his love of life, his love and interaction with De, his wife, and the huge impact on my life. He was a good one.”

Cards may be sent to: De Sindergard, 401 Grant St., Rolfe, Iowa 50581.