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2015 Ag & Food HR Roundtable Roundup



The 2015 Roundtable featured excellent networking, loads of valuable information sharing and a great turnout! More than 230 human resource professionals, college career services staff and industry association representatives gathered in St. Charles, MO, August 4-6, 2015. Thanks to our host, Monsanto, for selecting the beautiful venue at Lindenwood University near historic downtown St. Charles.


Michael Turley of Osborn+Barr, set the tone for the conference with the keynote topic of branding. He discussed changing the overused message of “Feeding the World” through agriculture to something unique and company-specific to attract upcoming generations to the industry. Following that, Eric Spell,’s president, moderated a panel featuring Don Boggs of Kansas State University, Melissa Harper of Monsanto, and James Young of Cobb-Vantress in which they discussed human capital. Relocation and millenials were hot topics within this discussion. Attendees then enjoyed a welcome reception hosted by CHS at the Ameristar Hotel and Casino.


Wednesday, as usual, was a full day. Bob Grace of The Leadership Effect started off the day with a discussion about cultural fit. Since employees most commonly leave an organization when they don’t feel appreciated or feel that they don’t fit with the organization, cultural fit is indeed important. Grace gave the advice to ensure whether or not a candidate is a good fit by giving a realistic idea of the job, such as describing a day in the life.


The next discussion featured a panel dedicated to the issue of student recruitment. Mike Gaul of Iowa State University moderated the panel that featured Jill Cords of Michigan State University, Paul Gagnon of UCONN, Drew Ratterman of Dow AgroSciences, and Nichole Smith of Bunge. This unique panel shed light on the perspectives of both university professionals and agribusiness recruiters. Points of discussion included how to engage students outside of career fairs and increasing diversity within organizations.


Before attendees split into their chosen concurrent sessions, Mike Gunderson of Purdue University Center for Food and Agricultural Business gave the day’s final words on performance management. He suggested moving away from an annual performance review to a more frequent discussion to invest in employees and help them grow. The evening was topped off with a fun networking dinner sponsored by BASF & Bayer Crop Science at The Foundry Art Centre.


On Thursday we kicked off the final day with a discussion on diversity recruitment. Panelists Kathleen Lee of the Employment & Disability Institute, Edward Romero of Texas A&M University - Commerce, and Tracy Snider of Novus International each brought their unique perspectives on the advantages of hiring individuals with disabilities and veterans, Hispanics, and women, respectively. Evidence was brought up to support the idea that inclusive workplaces are more productive, and attendees were invited to ask questions related to the challenges they were facing in their own workplaces. Jackie Bass of Christensen Farms moderated this panel.


The remainder of the conference session time was filled with a variety of concurrent sessions that participants were able to choose from. There were sessions just for university/college staff, small and mid-sized organizations, large organizations, sessions focused on recruiting and sessions on HR management. This year also featured the new Military Recruitment workshop add-on, packed with information on sourcing military talent and successfully interpreting their experiences.


We enjoyed meeting with new and returning attendees at the 2015 Ag & Food HR Roundtable. Join us for this one-of-a-kind networking and educational event for the agricultural industry; mark your calendars and plan to attend next year’s Ag & Food HR Roundtable, August 2-4, 2016 in Johnston, Iowa hosted by DuPont Ag & Nutrition. To take advantage of all the conference offerings, be sure to register early.