building a supportive team, risking new ways of doing things, and having a strong passion for pursuing her goals have been some of the keys to achieving success as a grain farmer for Kelsey Banks.
Banks has been selected as the Ontario representative for the 2024 American Soybean Association (ASA) Corteva Agriscience Young Leader Program. As an affiliate member of the ASA, Grain Farmers of Ontario sends a soybean farmer or farming couple to participate in the program each year.
Banks farms 300 acres on a rotation of corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola. In 2023, she had 200 acres planted in soybeans. She is currently running share-cropping arrangements on two farms — one in Orangeville and one in Renfrew County.
“Custom work wasn’t a right fit for my operations because I wanted to be more involved and working directly with a good partner on the farm,” explains Banks. Sharecropping allows her to play to her strengths and experience as an agronomist and implement new practices to improve soil health.
“We are working towards being more efficient, creating and implementing crop plans and management that work best for the environment and us,” she adds.
Over the past decade, Banks has gained experience with food grade soybean seeds, crop inputs, and land management. She sees the increasing global demand for food grade soybeans as one of the top challenges and opportunities for the soybean industry and the farmers who are willing to help meet the demand.
“I think there should be more information shared about the food grade soybean market, the benefits both agronomically and economically,” she says.
Banks currently balances her farm work with an off-farm job as an agriculture advisor and buyer with Ceresco in eastern Ontario.
THE YOUNG LEADER PROGRAM
The Young Leader Program is held in two phases. Phase 1 took Banks to the Corteva Global Business Center in Johnston, Iowa, at the end of November. She will continue the program from February 27 – March 2, 2024, in Houston, Texas. This second phase is held in conjunction with the Commodity Classic, giving the participants additional opportunities to network with agri-business and other commodity groups.
Young Leaders are encouraged to involve their spouses or partners and complete the program as a couple. Banks hopes that her partner, Billy DeJong, will be able to accompany her for the second phase as she recognizes the importance of his support for her farming aspirations.
“I knew Kelsey would be a great representative of Grain Farmers of Ontario because of her passion and dedication for moving the industry further and helping those in the industry,” says DeJong.
Banks has a goal of not only expanding the land she farms but also expanding her involvement as a leader within the agriculture industry. She currently serves as a delegate for Grain Farmers of Ontario’s District 13 (Prince Edward, Lennox, Addington, Frontenac, Lanark, Leeds, Grenville, Renfrew, Ottawa) and is involved with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.
“I think there is opportunity to bring back leadership skills that can influence how I am able to help growers here in Ontario,” says Banks. “I’ve seen how different organizations and programs are run, and I think we can merge some of those farm resources together.”
BUILDING A NETWORK
The Young Leader Program focuses on leadership, communications, and issues-based training but also builds a strong peer network, generating increased business success and stronger community involvement. Banks is keen to make those connections with other farmers and learn from them.
“I want to learn what others are doing on their farms and what other opportunities they are seeing in their area,” says Banks. “From an agronomy standpoint — they might do things a little differently, and that insight and knowledge is something I hope I can share back home.”
The Young Leader Program targets soybean farmers who are in their beginning stages of leadership development and keen to take on a greater leadership role within their community and the organizations they serve. Participants are not necessarily young in age.
If you are interested in participating in the 2025 ASA Corteva AgriScience Young Leader Program, applications will be accepted beginning in July 2024. Please reach out to Rachel Telford, manager of member relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.soygrowers.com for more information. •