Q&A with Jeff Shaner: Don’t Make Decisions Based On Fear

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Jeff Shaner, regional seed and technology manager and soybean product lead at AgVenture, shares advice on soybean selection and travel destinations.

Seed World: What is your favorite book?
Jeff Shaner: Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. I have read this book in its entirety at least seven times throughout my life. I first became acquainted with it in seventh grade, and the heartbreaking true stories keep bringing me back.

SW: What’s one piece of seed technology that you’re excited about?
JS: The current state of molecular breeding. Our camp calls this AYT4.0. The ability to lock in key defenses while identifying those areas of the genome that bring yield…it’s heady stuff that all farmers can benefit from. The annual genetic rate of gain is accelerating while the time it takes to get a new variety from inception to market is shrinking.

SW: Something you’d never travel without?
JS: Another person who will be overjoyed with whatever it is we are up to. For me the great thrill in any experience is watching someone else having the time of their life. This is true if I’m taking in Niagara Falls, watching a broadway show, or studying soybean research plots. Everyone likes to be around people who are as fired up as they are.

SW: One thing you look for in soybean seed varieties?
JS: It’s like asking if I can tell everyone the meaning of life. The good news is that I absolutely can! In the soybean world the answer is: there is no “one” thing. Every region of the country has different soils, climates, pests. My job is to help AgVenture Regional Seed Companies build a great product line-up to meet the needs of their area. I need to know all of the one things. To accomplish this to the best of my ability I talk directly with breeders, I study a lot of research locations in a lot of states, and I work with a great team of dedicated professionals.

SW: Do you have a goal for the year?
JS: I love teamwork and see the value in the well-being of each member of the team. I have these goals that are ongoing:
· For our customers to have a great experience with the products we have selected for them
· For our independently owned AgVenture Regional Seed Companies to prosper
· For my boss and coworkers to find value in the work I do in partnership with them.

SW: Favorite place to travel?
JS: I cover about 30 states in my business travels each year, so I get around. I’ll give you a short list of small treasures they can easily get to:
· Crane’s Orchard at Fennville, MI. I’ll pass up a dozen other orchards to get to Crane’s. Apples the size of grapefruit. It’s a magical place for me.
· G&M restaurant in Baltimore. Crab cakes like nothing else you have ever had.
· Camp Sonshine, just south of Lincoln, NE. It’s not a tourist destination. It’s just a place where a group of outstanding folks pour their hearts into making lives better for 100s of young people each summer. My family gets involved there each year.

SW: One piece of advice you’d give to people looking to buy soybean seeds?
JS: Do not make your business decisions based on fear. These fears are varied and may involve: fear that the coming crop year will have unfavorable conditions, fear that next year will be just like the past one, fear because of what your neighbors might be doing. Soybean genetics are improving now at a greater pace than ever before. Take a genetics-first approach and you will get solid defensive characteristics coupled with top yield potential. In every region of the country no matter what the weather is like, there are farmers who are above average and those who are below. Above average producers are farming for maximum profit based on what can be.

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