2015 ASA DUPONT YOUNG LEADERS
A COMMITMENT TO the environment, their community, and agvocacy are just some of the reasons Dave and Rhonda McEachren were selected as the participants for the 2015 American Soybean Association (ASA) DuPont Young Leader program.
PHOTO: THE MCEACHREN FAMILY: DAVE, RHONDA, MASON AND SAMANTHA.
ASA, its 26 state affiliates, Grain Farmers of Ontario, and DuPont work together each year to select producers for the program. As the Canadian participants, the McEachrens will have the opportunity to strengthen their natural leadership skills, expand their agricultural knowledge, and develop strong peer relationships with other soybean growers.
“I’m excited to take part in this training program,” says Dave. “A lot of the training I have been involved with in the past has been regionally focused, so this is unique in that I will get the chance to work with growers from across the U.S.”
“I hope to improve my leadership skills and meet people that are in the same business and learn from their experiences,” adds Rhonda.
The McEachrens farm 2,300 acres and operate their own grain drying and storage facility in Glencoe along with Dave’s father, John, and his uncle, Earl. Each owns and rents their own portion of that land, but they work together as one operation on the day to day farming tasks. They grow a rotation of corn, soybeans, and winter wheat with roughly a thousand acres planted to soybeans each year. The family has practiced no-till with all three commodities for the past 25 years.
“Between no-till and incorporating cover crops into our cropping system, our goal is healthy soil,” says Dave. “Through our practices we have reduced soil erosion, denitrification, and run-off. The fuel savings alone with no-till are great for the environment, in addition to the reduction in our use of fertilizers and herbicides.”
Rhonda plays a role in environmental stewardship on the farm. “I am always advocating for ways to reduce costly inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides on the farm, so when we started looking into cover crops, I was very supportive of their use. We are also working on a plan to transplant trees from fence lines that are being cleaned up and cleared,” she says.
In addition to his work on the farm, Dave is also a Pioneer seed dealer. It’s a business he grew up with and recently took over from his father.
“The agronomy, sales, and negotiating training I have received as a seed dealer have helped me out with aspects of my farm,” says Dave. “I always feel there is room for improvement no matter what you are doing on the farm or in the community.”
Dave and Rhonda’s community involvement includes the local fair board (the Glencoe Agricultural Society) and the volunteer fire department. Rhonda served with the fire department for five years before stepping down to raise their two children Mason and Samantha. Dave is involved in training other firefighters and is a member of the Technical Rope Rescue Team which specializes in grain bin rescue and extraction.
Dave is also currently a Grain Farmers of Ontario delegate in District 4 (Middlesex). His participation in the ASA DuPont Young Leader program will help him develop skills he can use in this role as he becomes more involved in committees.
The McEachrens also hope the program will help them with their agvocacy efforts. “Agriculture needs people to stand up and tell their story,” says Rhonda. “Consumers need to be educated on where their food really comes from.”
“Whether it is with the media or talking one-on-one with consumers, it’s important to give the right message to consumers and give a clear message about what’s really going on in agriculture,” adds Dave. “There is a lot of misinformation out there and we have a huge job ahead of us to inform consumers about what is really going on in the countryside. Hopefully the skills I gain with this program can help me share that message.”
Dave has recently become active on twitter (@DeereDave). “I’m sharing some of the things we are doing on the farm that are different, such as cover crops. It’s a great tool to educate people that there is always something going on at the farm and that we are doing some interesting research and trying out new ideas to help our business and the environment.”
The need to educate consumers is something the McEachrens identify as one of the top issues affecting the soybean industry. In particular, they feel more needs to be done to inform the public about the scientific process involved in approving GM crops to reassure them about food safety. They also feel more education is needed around the numerous products that can be made from the commodities they grow.
“Especially soybeans,” says Dave, “they have so many uses that the general public isn’t aware of. When you share with them that Henry Ford was one of the first to use soybeans to derive plastics for his automobiles, they often don’t believe you. That’s an example of an exciting opportunity to share with our consumers the vast benefits of agriculture and specifically crop production.”
Dave and Rhonda will begin their leadership training this November with four days in Johnston, Iowa at the DuPont Pioneer headquarters. The program will continue at the end of February with training held in conjunction with the Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show in Phoenix, Arizona.
2015 marks the 31st year of the ASA DuPont Young Leader Program. If you are interested in learning more about this program, or participating next year, contact Valerie Gilvesy, Grain Farmers of Ontario Member Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 226-979-5581. •