Meet the 2015 Future Giant

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Samantha Sisk doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t feel connected to agriculture. Growing up in rural Danville, Ind., and participating in the National FFA Organization and 4-H cemented her decision that she had found her calling.

“I was a 10-year 4-H member, showing cattle and pigs,” recalls Sisk. “Additionally, I was active in the Danville FFA chapter and participated in career development events such as public speaking, parliamentary procedure and the essay contest. The continued support of my parents, my small-town upbringing and involvement in so many activities helped to establish the foundation that would encourage me well into the future.”

After earning a degree in 2010 from Purdue University’s College of Agriculture in agricultural communication, which she says provided “a perfect balance between my interests in communication — writing, speaking and design — and my passion for agriculture,” Sisk held various ag-related positions.  She served as an intern with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Indiana Pork, DuPont Pioneer and as a marketing specialist for AgriGold.

Today, Sisk is corporate communications manager for AgReliant Genetics, LLC, the third largest corn seed company in the U.S., which is headquartered in Westfield, Ind. She was recently named 2015 Future Giant of the industry by Seed World at the American Seed Trade Association’s 132nd Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., in June.

The award recognizes an early career individual who demonstrates the ability to make a significant impact on the seed industry. Nominations were judged by Seed World’s editorial board and based on leadership, industry involvement and success in their area of specialty.

“To me, it affirms that the steps that I’ve taken so far have been in the right direction,” says Sisk, who feels both honored and humbled to receive this award. “I hope I was selected because others have faith that my continued pursuit of progress will further advance the industry to which so many have dedicated their lives.”

Tom Koch, vice president of research at AgReliant Genetics, certainly thinks so. As one of Sisk’s nominators, he says, “Although it’s still early in her career, Samantha has shown a true love and dedication for the seed industry and its people. “Her passion for our company, the seed industry, and agriculture in general is very evident. She simply deserves the recognition.”

While many awards give proper recognition for past achievements and efforts, Koch says, “This is one of the few that reward not only current hard work and dedication, but also recognize future potential for contribution. Samantha has the potential to positively impact and even change the seed industry. Not many have the company CEO’s ear and attention when speaking as Samantha does, even when so early in her career.”

None of this comes as a surprise to Tracie Egger, assistant director of academic programs at Purdue University, and another of Sisk’s nominators for this prestigious award.

“There is nothing more rewarding for me than to see my former students achieve their goals and be recognized for the amazing qualities I know they possess,” Egger says. “Samantha served as an ag ambassador for three years and helped me immensely with different events and at numerous prospective student recruitment activities. She also took part in the College of Agriculture Leadership Development Certificate Program and traveled on an industry immersion trip that I led to the DuPont Pioneer headquarters in Johnston, Iowa.”

Sisk was photographing mechanical detasselling with the AgReliant Genetics production team when a team member snapped this photo.

Sisk was photographing mechanical detasselling with the AgReliant Genetics production team when a team member snapped this photo.

Varied Responsibilities

As corporate communications manager at AgReliant, Sisk is responsible for both internal and external communications. She edits the company newsletter, assists in event preparation, develops internal presentations and material, and has various photography assignments, among other tasks.

“I collaborate frequently with the corporate marketing and brand marketing teams to help improve our business,” she says. “I’m responsible for maintaining the company’s website, overseeing social media content, writing press releases, facilitating media interviews and other public relations functions.”

Sisk says every day at the office is a little bit different and, depending on the time of year, days in the office can be few and far between.

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel to our many research, production and brand locations to meetings,” she says. “I’ve also been fortunate enough to visit our counter-season growing locations in South America and one of our parent companies in Europe.

“Whether it’s creating a presentation, proofreading an article or working with our many industry partners, the cross-departmental nature of my role is always dynamic and challenging.”

Kathy Mayberry, general counsel for AgReliant Genetics and another nominator of Sisk for the award, says Sisk plays an important role in shaping the company’s communications plans.

“Samantha brings out the best in all of us through her unique combination of technical skills and practical good judgment,” Mayberry says. “We have come to depend on her intuitive understanding of our customers and other seed industry professionals.”

Sisk is also heavily involved in the Future Seed Executives (FuSE), a subcommittee of ASTA’s Management Skills Committee. FuSE provides a unique opportunity for those with seven years or less of experience in the industry to build a network and learn more about the seed business.

Additionally, she is a member of the recently formed ASTA Communications Committee, which is comprised of representatives from more than 20 member companies, all with the common goal of developing and implementing key messages on behalf of the industry.

ASTA President Andy LaVigne has watched her grow through her work at AgReliant and in her leadership positions within FuSE.

“There are two things about Sam that stand out for me,” he says. “She always has a smile on her face, and she is a good listener. She will take in a great deal of information and provide comments only after she’s analyzed the options thoroughly. I can see her leading a company in this industry or serving as a future chair of ASTA.”

And if that weren’t enough, Sisk is also involved with the Mid-America chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association, calling it a great opportunity to learn from others in the ag industry, specifically from a marketing and communications perspective. “It’s important to stay on top of the current and emerging trends in the industry, and NAMA facilitates some great year-round webinars and meetings to help stay informed and relevant,” she says.

What’s Next?

As for the future of the seed industry, Sisk says with the majority of consumers being distantly removed from the farm and a major disconnect between growers and end-users, it is more important than ever for the industry to get its word out.

“Industry members and farmers alike need to be carrying a unified and consistent message to consumers, conveying the science and precision, addressing the misunderstandings and providing more insight into the process of getting products from the farm to the families that consume them,” Sisk says.

She adds that technology will play an even larger role as the seed industry continues to use and develop new technologies.

“But we will do so with an increased transparency that will be critical in the short-term, with the ongoing mission of continuous seed improvement and innovation that will feed and fuel the growing population,” Sisk says.

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