Raised in Central Illinois, I was surrounded by agriculture. I have very fond memories of trips to my grandparents house to play and help with their pygmy goats. I learned that electric fences hurt. I also enjoyed visiting local fairs to watch my grandpa show, and driving the backroads through miles and miles of soybean and corn fields. My parents weren’t directly tied to agriculture as I grew up but, being from Decatur, we were surrounded by agriculture and agribusiness giants like ADM and A.E. Staley. I remember the very distinct smells of the corn processors when traveling through certain parts of the city and even in our own neighborhood if the wind was blowing just right.
I started my professional career at Cargill in Bloomington, Illinois. Loading rail cars and trucks with soybean meal isn’t glamourous by any means, but, the role and the company provided me with a strong foundation for growth. I spoke with many local farmers and some larger feed mills on a day to day basis. I built relationships and learned about their stories, concerns and challenges. I also learned that I liked the relationship development side of business and pointed my career path in that direction.
Over the last 20 years, I have held multiple roles selling food ingredients to large global CPG food production companies. I’ve worked for for multiple companies and sold salt, vinegar, wine, starches and high intensity sweeteners. Each role allowed me to look at agriculture and the food production process from a different angle and exposed me to best practices from several organizations. I’ve been fortunate to watch trends develop, work with research and development teams on new projects, help develop the marketing of those new products and eventually celebrate the launches to consumers. We have also been fortunate to move multiple times throughout my career from Central Illinois to Michigan and then back to Northern Illinois.
Enter Valley Proteins, a new state and a new market…
Two years ago, I received a call from a recruiter. He told me about a great company and how beautiful Virginia is. My wife, Katie, and I spent many hours discussing the pros and cons. We also have three teenage daughters. I am sure you can imagine some of the talks we had about the potential of moving. There were plenty of “spirited” conversations as we weighed the options. I am so blessed to have such an amazing family that was up for the experience of trying a new state and tackling this adventure together.
We took a leap of faith and I started a new role as a National Account Manager with Valley Proteins. I wanted to get back to a family owned business that values building long term relationships. Valley Proteins provided me an opportunity to learn that rendering has an amazing story focusing on sustainability and innovation. According to the North American Renderers Association, “all U.S. landfills would be full in four years without rendering, posing a serious public health threat.” That was a sizeable wake up call for me to learn there is a side of the agriculture industry and supply chain I was not aware of.
VALOR has also provided me with an opportunity to think differently about my relationship with agriculture. I’ve realized that I have been removed from the individual farmer relationship side of the business for too long. I found that I’d stopped looking at the agricultural supply chain in its entirety and had forgotten some of the pieces. I realized how much I valued those relationships and culture. I am incredibly excited to continue on this path and I am looking forward to meeting so many great people tied to Virginia agriculture.