Beck Named 2014 Agribusiness Leader of the Year

Written by NAMA on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 , 8:19 am

SonnyBeck14NAMA is pleased to announce  Sonny Beck, president, Beck’s Hybrids, as the 2014 Agribusiness Leader of the Year. This award, which is NAMA’s highest honor, will be presented at the Opening General Session of the 2014 Agri-Marketing Conference, “A Fresh Perspective,” April 10, 2014, in Jacksonville, Florida. The award honors outstanding leaders in agribusiness, education, government service or other agribusiness related areas who exemplify excellence in agribusiness by their significant contributions to the industry.

Sonny Beck, president of Beck’s Hybrids, has led the company to unprecedented growth. As the largest family-owned seed company in the United States, Beck’s Hybrids is now the sixth largest seed company in the U.S. Under Sonny’s leadership, Beck’s Hybrids has experienced a 20 percent increase in sales each year for the last 20 years, doubling in size every four years.

As soon as Beck joined the family operation in 1964, after graduating from Purdue University, he never let grass grow under his feet. Always aiming at building closer, stronger relationships with customers, Beck immediately launched a couple of customer events that are now long-standing traditions.

It was in that same year, Beck started what is now called the Practical Farm Research (PFR)® program. Still today, the PFR program is unlike any other in the seed industry. Focused on farmer’s needs, hundreds of studies are completed at five Beck’s locations in an effort to look at how different management practices perform in different environments. The information is delivered to farmers across the Midwest in a 280-page summary book, website and field shows.

Beck has frequently stated that before 1992 Beck’s Hybrids was a seed producer who happened to do some marketing, but with the arrival of traits, Beck’s became a marketing company who happened to produce most of their own seed.

But it was not just traits that Beck and the Beck’s Hybrids team pursued. In 2001, Beck’s Hybrids was the first to market 100 percent of its seed corn with a seed-applied insect control system called FaSTart®. Over time the seed treatment evolved and in 2009 Beck’s Hybrids became the first seed company to put together a unique set of yield-enhancing products called Escalate® yield enhancement system. Escalate comes standard on all Beck’s corn, soybean, wheat and alfalfa products.

Beck’s dedication and passion for agriculture extends far beyond Beck’s Hybrids. He has played an integral role in leading several agricultural organizations, providing each with a unique leadership approach, ultimately guiding them to newer heights.




Hartz Named 2014 NAMA Marketer of the Year

Written by NAMA on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 , 8:18 am

jeffhartz14 NAMA is pleased to announce that Jeff Hartz, director of marketing, Wyffels Hybrids, has been named the 2014 NAMA Marketer of the Year. The NAMA Marketer award will be presented during the Second General Session of the 2014 Agri-Marketing Conference, “A Fresh Perspective” on Thursday, April 10 at 11:00 a.m. in Jacksonville, Florida and is sponsored by Agri Marketing magazine.

Jeff Hartz spent his first 6 to 12 months at Wyffels Hybrids just listening. He asked a lot of questions and attended a lot of meetings. He talked to employees, seed reps and customers…and even competitors. Through this intense discovery period, he defined what Wyffels stood for, how they are different than competitors, what the marketing team needed to focus its efforts on and new, strategic growth strategies.

Hartz has been instrumental in improving customer retention year over year. Each year his goal is to meet or exceed 60% of new customers’ business in year two. As of today, Wyffels Hybrids has reached 67% retention rate of new customers and 78% continued customer retention, the highest in the business along with one of the industry leaders, according to market research.

Hartz understood that Wyffels Hybrids is a challenger brand in a cluttered and confusing market. He took what he already knew through his years of experience about challenger brands and applied that knowledge, along with market research, to Wyffels. He also considered what he found to be true about the company’s products and people through his discovery process. Then, he built a branding document around that knowledge and insight that company leaders and all employees now use to help guide nearly every decision they make.

As the marketing director, Hartz oversees all strategic marketing efforts including advertising and public relations and the development of the Wyffels brand. He works closely with growers, the sales force and the National Sales Director to develop programs and materials that meet their needs and reinforce Wyffels’ position as one of the leading independent seed corn companies in the industry. His role is constantly evolving as a member of the leadership team.

Hartz became active on a national scale with NAMA when he joined the Careers Committee in 2008 and provided value to that committee for three years, motivating future members of the ag marketing industry. He also encouraged one of his team members to join the committee, securing a continued commitment from Wyffels Hybrids.

His work as vice chair, then chair of the Best of NAMA Committee in 2012 ensured members received recognition for the outstanding work accomplished. He also served as a national awards judge in 2010 and 2014. As a former advertising creative copywriter, Hartz has always had an eye for excellence in marketing communications efforts and thrives on applauding the creative efforts of his peers, realizing that some of the best work in today’s marketplace is coming from those in agriculture.

Fall Conference Amazing Success

Written by NAMA on Friday, September 27, 2013 , 8:02 am

13fallgate2The 2013 Fall Conference was a big success with nearly 200 attendees in St. Louis at the Ritz-Carlton.

The Gateway Ag Tour kicked off the conference with a visit to the Monsanto Chesterfield Village facility and Chandler Hill Vineyards.

Keynote speaker Dr. Benjamin Akande opened the Fall Conference with a discussion on “Leading From Where You Are.”  He shared thought-provoking ideas and suggestions on how to be an effective, results focused leader within your organization.

Afternoon breakout sessions on the first day of  Fall Conference targeted agri-marketers ready to move up the career ladder and included in-depth topics such as mobile digital strategy, dealing with data storage in the Cloud and an Addy-winning case study.

The day ended with a networking reception at the new offices of  Brighton Agency.  Attendees enjoyed appetizers and cocktails courtesy of Brighton.

13fallbillickFormer NFL head coach Brian Billick was the morning keynote speaker on day two.  Billick,  Super Bowl winning coach for the Baltimore Ravens and now an analyst for Fox Sports, talked to us about the essential elements for success that make up any dream team – on the football field or in the workplace. Listen to snippets from his talk – Billick1 or Billick 2.

13fallpanelMorning breakout sessions included topics on climate change and agriculture, baseline agriculture outlook and a panel discussion on the need for a new farm bill.

At the closing lunch, NAMA presented the 2013 Professional  Awards of Excellence.  These awards honor NAMA members with hands-on responsibility in marketing  and communications, public relations, product/species management and sales.  Congratulations to Gary Sakin – Monsanto, Linda Romander – broadhead., Zach Hetterick – Case IH, and Jay Carlson – Penton/Farm Progress.  Listen to the audio presentation of the PDA awards.

A perfect closing to the Fall Conference was  Tom Wilson, Monsanto US Marketing Lead, Deeds, Traits and Chemistry.  Tom provided a view of what ag is facing today and what lies ahead.

13fallgavelThis meeting also marked the passing of the gavel from 2013 NAMA President Paul Redhage, FMC Agricultural Products, to incoming president Kenna Rathai, Kenna B. Rathai Communications.  Listen to Passing of the Gavel remarks.

An ABEF fundraiser was added to the conference this year to raise funds and create awareness about ABEF and how the foundation funds and supports student opportunities. This effort raised over 13fallabef$1000 that will go towards  scholarships, internships, student competitions and more to agri-marketing students across the country.  Attendees could purchase squares that referenced “ABEF” trivia  for a chance to win a $25 gift card to Starbucks or Best Buy.

A special congratulations to our incoming  executive committee members!  Scott McClure – Brighton Agency and Amber Harrison – United Suppliers, Inc.

View photos from the Gateway Ag Tour and the Fall Conference on Flickr or





Meet the 2013 Professional Development Award Winners

Written by NAMA on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 , 10:21 am

Gary Sakin

NAMA is proud to introduce this year’s recipients.  Congratulations!

Marketing Communications – Gary Sakin, Monsanto
Gary joined Monsanto in November of 2006, and has made impactful changes to how Monsanto approaches branding, measures marcom impact, and engages with its audiences. Currently, Gary is a key member of Monsanto’s U.S. Marketing Leadership Team, serving as Director of  Advertising,  and is involved in providing strategic recommendations and counsel that includes Monsanto’s seed, biotechnology, prescriptive agriculture and chemistry brands. He manages multi-agency relationships, oversees tradeshow contracts and participation, identifies and monitors industry trends and their impact on Monsanto marketing objectives, drives overall brand planning, and helps guide Monsanto’s significant overall advertising presence.

In the last 2 years, Gary has led efforts to create a digital vision for Monsanto that includes efforts ranging from external and internal communications to online measurement of both digital and traditional media and customer reach. He also has provided support for efforts as diverse as the 100th anniversary of the DEKALB brand to the successful launches of new products and technologies.

Gary serves on the Advisory Board for the Marketing Supply Chain Institute, a dedicated knowledge center focused on benchmark studies, cost audits and competency assessments, content aggregation, report publication and syndication, peer-to-peer interactions, best practice development, vertical industry analytics, and global models and frameworks for strategic sourcing and supplier management.

NAMA has tremendously benefitted from Gary’s energy and imagination, both personally and professionally. He has served as a Best of NAMA judge at both the regional and national levels for multiple years, and encouraged both Monsanto and agency personnel to volunteer as regional judges. He is chair of the 2014 Agri-Marketing Conference Committee, leading the committee as it identifies topics and speakers in support of the professional development of conference attendees. Gary also helped shape sessions as vice chair in 2013 and served as a session moderator in 2012 and 2013.

Linda RomanderPublic Relations – Linda Romander, broadhead.
A senior public relations manager at leading agribusiness marketing agency broadhead., Linda has achieved a great deal since her arrival in 2005. Since day one, she has fast become the go to resource for clients seeking sound PR strategy and vision, as well as a mentor for our firm’s younger staff and teams.

At broadhead., Linda is a long-time and deeply trusted counselor for the Almond Board of California (ABC). Since 2009, Linda has spearheaded content development for ABC, deploying more than 300 pages across ABC’s grower and handler websites (, Linda is now working on re-branding ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program, including an outbound initiative to inform almond growers of the program and its value for them.

Linda is overseeing the creation of several industry pieces for the California Avocado Commission (CAC). The CAC came to broadhead. after witnessing the food safety communications program for ABC. Projects assigned include assisting in the development of the CAC’s sustainability program and Good Agricultural Practices/Good Harvesting Practices program, which serve as resources for California avocado growers to help them make their operations as efficient as possible.

Linda first joined the National Agri-Marketing Association in the early 1970s. In addition to helping develop regional and national Best of NAMA winning work, she has held a variety of leadership roles, including serving as president of the Western Pacific Chapter. Linda is currently a regional director for Region I. In the more than 40 years she has been involved with NAMA, she has participated in NAMA programs and has consistently provided leadership at the local and regional levels. Linda has always been an outstanding voice for the agriculture industry and has led by example for countless fellow NAMA members.

Zach HetterickProduct/Species Management – Zach Hetterick, Case IH
Zach has distinguished himself in the past two years, leading the charge at Case IH for the Livestock/Hay/Forage business as Livestock Marketing Manager. While in this role, he has successfully spearheaded several new product launches, including the Case IH LB4 large square baler, and current launches for the WD3 series windrower, DC3 series disc mower conditioner, and RB565 round baler. In addition, he’s overseen Farmall marketing managers in successfully launching the Case IH Farmall B CVT, C, and U tractors. These may seem just like ordinary product launches, but for livestock producers, this equipment will meet their unique needs for versatile, rugged equipment, and Zach keenly understands and communicates to others the impact this equipment can have to a livestock producer’s operation.

In addition to successful product launches, Zach has confidently weathered internal Case IH business model changes directly affecting the livestock/hay/forage area. The livestock/hay/forage division has recently added eight new livestock/hay/forage specialists out in the field to assist Case IH dealers and customers, and Zach has played an integral role in this effort.

Zach has been invaluable to the growth of the mutually beneficial working relationship between Case IH and Farm Bureau, both on state and national levels. He has overseen the expansion of the Farm Bureau discount program, allowing farmers in many states to receive $300 to $500 off when purchasing qualifying Case IH equipment from participating dealerships, including tractors, hay tools and utility vehicles that can boost their productivity and add value to their operations.

Zach has stepped up his NAMA involvement in the past year, attending various events to improve his professional expertise and build his professional network. In addition, he has served as an excellent Case IH representative and has helped build and maintain positive business relationships through his NAMA participation. In April, he joined the Badger NAMA Board of Directors, and is already contributing value to the group by offering new, refreshing ideas, agricultural business perspective, and enthusiasm. He also serves as a Best of NAMA co-chair for the Badger chapter and is assisting with planning for special events and professional development opportunities for his fellow marketing colleagues.

Jay CarlsonSales – Jay Carlson, Penton Media – BEEF Magazine
As regional sales manager for BEEF magazine and its digital communications properties, Jay is arguably the nation’s top marketer on a volume basis of print and online livestock advertising. He has been a key innovator in U.S. livestock publishing, developing a number of key instruments and programs that continue to meet the needs of both U.S. livestock producers and U.S. product marketers.

Among these is his role in the creation of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, the most successful weekly newsletter in livestock publishing; American Cowman, a digital newsletter and website for small-scale U.S. beef producers; BEEF Daily electronic newsletter; and BEEF Vet, a spring 2012 startup print publication for U.S. beef cattle veterinarians that began running quarterly in 2013.

Jay Carlson has long been a top promoter of livestock publishing in North America. He was awarded the Ed Bible Distinguished Service Award in 2006 for his record fundraising efforts on behalf of the Livestock Publications Council (LPC) Gala.

Jay has been a member of the MoKan chapter since 1987. His NAMA duties and recognitions include: Chapter, Agri-Marketer of the Year chair; Chapter, Careers chair; National Agri-Marketing Conference Trade Show Committee member; Chapter, Recognition chair; Chapter, Special Projects chair; Chapter, 2nd/3rd Vice President; Chapter, Membership chair; National Membership Committee member, vice chair and chair; and Chapter, President. Under his leadership, the chapter earned the Gold Outstanding Chapter award.

Nominate Your Peers For An Award Of Excellence

Written by NAMA on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 , 1:29 am

The Professional Development Awards of Excellence honor NAMA members based on outstanding achievement in each of the Professional Development Areas (PDA). Awards of Excellence will be presented in the areas of (1) Marketing Communications, (2) Product/Species Management, (3) Public Relations and (4) Sales.

The deadline for submitting nominations for the Professional Development Awards of Excellence is July 26, 2013.  These awards will be presented at the 2013 Fall Conference, September 17 – 18, at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis, Missouri.

Below is a list of the past Awards of Excellence recipients:

Marketing Communications
2012 – Troy Schroeder
2011 - Margaret Fogarty
2010 – Scott McClure
2009 – Lou Ireland
2008 – Paul Redhage
2007 – Pete Kovac
2006 – Steve Engle
2005 – Bev Larson
2004 – Neil DeStefano
2003 – Sarah Vacek
2002 – Ken Anderson
2001 – Doug Headley

Product/Species Management
2012 – Kevin Bien
2011 – Stephanie Gable
2010 – Elena Lindemann
2009 – Gary Robertson
2008 – No award was given in this area
2007 – Klaas Okkinga
2006 – No award was given in this area
2005 – Dennis Gehler
2004 – Wendy Elliott
2003 – Brian Markwardt
2002 – Tony Klemm
2001 – Tony Solon

Public Relations
2012 – Justin Funk
2011 – Chuck Zimmerman
2010 – Sue Otten
2009 – Deron Johnson
2008 – Beth Andersen
2007 – Greg Smith
2006 – Barry Nelson
2005 – Janice Person
2004 – Kendal Frazier
2003 – Mike Ricciuto
2002 – David Buchholz
2001 – Ken Gordon

2012 – John Rozum
2011 – Sue Lee
2010 – Marvin Kokes
2009 – Pete Weil
2008 – Vernon Benes
2007 – Bill Heffron
2006 – Anita Vanderwert
2005 – Margaret Wallace Oldham
2004 – Allen Barkve
2003 – Cliff Becker
2002 – Bob Deiss
2001 – Tom Taylor

Nominees for the Awards of Excellence must be NAMA members. Nominators should target individuals with direct planning and execution responsibilities in the respective Professional Development Area from agribusiness and related companies. If you have any questions regarding these awards, please contact Jenny Pickett at

To download the nomination form in an Adobe .PDF format, visit

You can also fill out the form on-line at

Another Record Breaking NAMA Conference

Written by NAMA on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 , 7:36 am

Once again NAMA is pleased to report that we exceeded last year’s attendance numbers and brought even more agri-marketers to Kansas City for the 2013 national conference with a total of  1,248 professionals and students from across the country.  This is the highest attended conference since 2000!

Anders Sorman-Nilsson kicked off the conference with a discussion of  his concept of “digilogue.”  Simply stated it’s taking the measurability of digital communications and combining it with emotion and accountability of more analog style outreach.  Analog is needed for transformation, digital for information.  He urged conference attendees to take advantage of new media tools to embrace the transparency being demanded by customers and use them to tell the real story of American agriculture.

Josh Linkner explained the virtues of creativity calling it the “currency of success.”  He noted creativity is 85% learned and shared simple ways to nurture creativity in the workplace.

Throughout the rest of the conference, agri-marketers enjoyed time to meet face-to-face with clients, attend breakout sessions on diverse topics like developing web content and monetizing social media and walk through the Connection Point Trade Show.  Attendees were encouraged to visit each of the 65 exhibitors to enter to win great prizes.  Congrats to Teresa Roof, Rosemary Schimek, Cait Schneckloth and Justina Frost, who each won an iPad Mini.

The Closing Brunch speaker, Damian Mason, had the audience laughing out loud with his special brand of humor.  Each attendee received a special departing gift from Mason – a bumper sticker carrying the words, “Agriculture: Because Starvation Sucks.”

During the conference, NAMA presented two distinguished awards. Thad Simons, President and CEO, Novus, accepted the 2013 Agribusiness Leader of the Year.  Steve Vandeberg, Director, Edectocide Marketing, Merial Limited, was named 2013 NAMA Marketer of the Year.

Congrats to  Best of Show Winner – Advertising, Beck’s Hybrids; and Best of Show Winner – PR, Minnesota Pork Board and Minnesota Pork Producers Association! Click here for a complete list of winners.

Visit NAMA on Flickr to see the full Agri-Marketing Conference album.

Vandeberg Named 2013 NAMA Marketer of the Year

Written by NAMA on Thursday, March 14, 2013 , 9:14 am

Steve Vandeberg, director, endectocide marketing, Merial Limited has been named the 2013 NAMA Marketer of the Year. The NAMA Marketer award will be presented during the Second General Session of the 2013 Agri-Marketing Conference, “Forging New Frontiers” on Thursday, April 18 at 11:00 a.m. in Kansas City, Missouri and is sponsored by Agri Marketing magazine.

Steve’s work in parasiticides pioneered a golden era for the cattle industry. He developed the launch campaign for IVOMEC® (ivermectin) – the iconic industry brand; thus creating the cattle endectocide category and one of the first 100 million dollar dose form cattle products in the United States. Steve has worked to maintain the IVOMEC Brand sales and margin in the face of branded competition and one of the most aggressive generic onslaughts seen in the industry. Steve continues to play key roles in groundbreaking work that grows awareness and sales – leading key product introduction efforts and authoring training materials.

Steve’s depth of experience grants him the knowledge he needs to guide innovative work. But, Steve doesn’t rest on past successes. He’s always staying one step ahead in the field, quick to share the latest findings with any and all. Steve is driven to make sure that veterinarians, beef and dairy producers and the media understand best practices and treatments for strategic parasite control. He is a tireless sponsor of industry conferences, and events and shares his 30+ years of knowledge in the cattle endectocide business.

Steve has been integral in creating tools and platforms to enhance producer knowledge. He developed and launched a new Merial dairy campaign and new EPRINEX® (eprinomectin) beef campaign relying on heavy digital advertising, digital producer contact and print. In November 2012, Steve led the charge to launch LONGRANGETM (eprinomectin). LONGRANGE is an innovative product for parasite control in cattle and the first in its category of extended-release dewormers. Steve leveraged his tenured experience within the cattle industry to create a dynamic and innovative marketing plan that focused not only on bringing LONGRANGE to market and raising awareness at launch, but first on educating producers on common misconceptions about deworming and reasons why current practices are not effective.

Steve has been a NAMA supporter for many years, participating in conferences and judging Best of NAMA.  Steve is also an active member of the American Marketing Association (AMA) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

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