Calling All Emerging Leaders


IPSA looks to mentor the next generation of young professionals with its upcoming workshop.

For Independent Professional Seed Association (IPSA) executive director Todd Martin, mentoring the next generation of young seed professionals is crucial to helping the industry stay strong well into the future.

That desire to help facilitate the career success of up-and-coming industry leaders is what’s behind a new workshop scheduled during IPSA’s 28th Annual Conference taking place Jan. 10-12 in San Diego, California.

The Emerging Leaders workshop, to be held Jan. 11, has been developed around young seed business owners in attendance at the event — specifically, business partners and owners who will likely take on additional responsibilities at their respective companies in the future.

It’s being held in partnership with educators from Purdue University — namely, Michael Gunderson and Betty Jones-Bliss, associate directors at Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business.

“So many of our younger people play key roles in our industry, and we want to help them prepare for challenges going forward,” Martin says. “I’m excited. I think those who attend will really get something out of it.”

The four-hour workshop will cover a swath of management-related issues, including supply-and-demand drivers impacting the food and agribusiness marketplace, how to identify core competencies in your seed business, and identifying key result areas to build on established success.

“IPSA has developed a reputation for having sessions that help our members build their business, and this will be no exception,” Martin says. He adds that having Purdue onboard will take the workshop concept to a whole new level.

“Purdue has a strong reputation for continuing education for people in the ag business sector,” Martin says. “They were very eager to work with us.”

The Center for Food and Agricultural Business has become recognized as a leader for food and agribusiness executive educational programs in the United States. Jones-Bliss serves on the management team and manages the sales activities of the Center’s unique business model which operates based on the value provided to the marketplace. Gunderson, also a member of the management team, directs the research activities that the Center provides relevant business insights to practicing managers and executives.

“We’ve worked with the seed industry for 30 years, and it’s great to partner with IPSA,” she says. “The Center really focuses on core management areas around sales and marketing, managing talent, operations, growth strategy, all the topics designed to help businesses or organizations think about the future, and their growth and profitability. The seed industry has been a key industry for us.”

Good Value

The four-hour workshop will provide good value for those who enroll, Martin says, as the material is timely and designed to help students get the most out of the short time frame. Jones-Bliss notes the exerises will be hands-on and will result in ideas that can be taken back to the work environment and implemented.

One segment of the workshop session, called the Headline News Team Assignment, will have students break off into small groups to discuss and determine a potential industry-related headline that might be seen in the media five years from now. Based on the headline, the groups will discuss and brainstorm the implications for the seed industry, and more specifically, how their seed businesses will prepare and respond.

“We began planning the workshop thinking, ‘What can you do in an afternoon?’ We decided not to try and cover too many topics. The exercises are relevant and practical. We want to send people home with knowledge and tools they can use.”

The course fee, set at only $200, is intended to encourage participation, Martin says. “This is going to be the start of a conversation, not just a one-time thing. By keeping the cost low, we add value to our annual meeting. We’re not trying to make money on this — we want to offer an important service.”

For more information on the Emerging Leaders course and the upcoming IPSA Annual Meeting, visit


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