Rising to the Challenge
Meeting the challenges the industry presents and a passion for all things seed keeps this year’s Future Giants of the Seed Industry award winner engaged and involved in the seed business.
Cassie Misch is this year’s recipient of the 2012 Future Giants of the Seed Industry Award, an award that recognizes leadership, innovation and commitment to the industry—qualities Misch has in spades.
Passionate and ambitious, at 27, Misch is already heavily involved in various industry associations. For example, she currently serves on the board of directors for the Indiana Seed Trade Association and the education committee for the Independent Professional Seed Association, while also juggling a chair position for the Future Seed Executives Committee’s Campus Connections program and the vice chair position for FuSE. In short, Misch is busy—but that’s the way she likes it.
No stranger to jumping feet first into whatever she pursues, Misch was also president of the Purdue University Cooperative Council, a cooperative housing organization, and was selected for membership in the prestigious Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society during her college years. “I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities in college and I wanted to replicate those activities by jumping straight into the seed industry,” says Misch. “I like meeting people and finding out how things work. I started that process with joining FuSE and from there the more people you know, the more opportunities there are for involvement.”
Selecting Purdue University as her campus of choice was an easy one for Misch—it had the food science program she wanted and it was only 60 miles from home. “When I went to college, I started in food science because I was interested in biotechnology, but I realized the program wasn’t what I thought it was. While still in food science, I took an agronomy class as an elective,” says Misch. “I enjoyed the crop and soil sciences aspect, so I changed my major to agronomy after one semester—leading me down a path I hadn’t expected to take.” The change in focus led Misch to three different internships at DuPont Pioneer in roles that focused mainly on corn research and product advancement.
Those three years spent at Pioneer, where Misch received high praise for her work in agronomic research, was also a way of getting her foot in the door. “When you’re in college, everyone is constantly reminding you that it’s not what you know, but who you know,” says Misch. And it seems they were right. “I didn’t know how right they were until it happened to me … Greg Gerard [JGL Inc.’s vice president of soybean licensing] came to speak to my seed technology class. Hearing my professors and advisors whispering ‘networking’ in the back of my head, I introduced myself to him after the class,” recalls Misch. “A few months later JGL had a position open and they asked me if I wanted to interview. Everything else is history.”
After she graduated in 2007, Gerard hired Misch as a licensing executive, responsible for selling, servicing and licensing seed companies with JGL soybean and wheat genetics. According to Gerard, Misch is well liked by her customers and has been successful in growing market share in her sales area, which has included Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Currently, Misch mainly licenses to customers in Indiana and Ohio, and also has the role of brokerage manager for the company.
“Cassie has shown great character and leadership in both college and her young career in the seed business,” said Gerard in his nomination. “Cassie has a passion for the seed industry and has achieved more than anyone I know in her first four years in the seed industry. She performs at a superior level, paying attention to detail in every role.”
In addition to these successes, Misch has also led the organization to the use of new and innovative technology for marketing to JGL’s customer base. Her roles as licensing executive and brokerage manager have put her in touch with more than 150 seed companies. Most recently, Misch has accepted the position of key account lead for soybean and wheat licensing for GreenLeaf Genetics, a subsidiary of Syngenta, with the acquisition of JGL in June 2012.
Seed World communications manager, Paige Collette, presents Cassie Misch with the Future Giants of the Seed Industry Award in June.
The Spice of Life
What motivates a young, passionate and talented individual like Misch to work in the seed industry? She’s attracted to something most career-minded individuals are searching for—variety. “One of the best parts of being in this industry is that I get to do and see and be a part of lots of different things,” says Misch. “There is such a diversity in this industry that I don’t think many people are aware of—science, sales, marketing, research, teaching—you name it and there is an opportunity. I am privileged to be able to see different aspects of a lot of different seed company businesses: how they work, what makes them tick and what will make them successful.”
“There is such a diversity in this industry that I don’t think many people are aware of—science, sales, marketing, research, teaching—you name it and there is an opportunity.”
— Cassie Misch
However, the challenges that working in the seed industry presents keep Misch engaged. “I don’t know what the future holds, but agriculture is an industry that has always been needed and will always be needed,” she says. “It can be challenging when it changes all the time, but that’s how it is and it’s great. It means things are always evolving, which provides new creative solutions.”
Being as committed to the industry’s future as she is, Misch has a few thoughts about the industry and where it’s headed. For example, she sees an increase in the use of traits, especially in the next five years in soybean technology, and five to 10 years in wheat. “More traits and stacks will bring new opportunities to the seed industry and to growers when it comes to how they manage their cropping systems,” says Misch.
Biotechnology aside, Misch also sees the industry providing more opportunities for teaching and education by showing farmers, growers and the industry at large new and innovative ways to do things. “I think the way people connect with customers will change a lot. Social media and how you market your product is a hot topic right now—not only will seed technology become more advanced but so will the changing technology of how you communicate with customers.”
The Future Giants of the Seed Industry Award is co-presented by the American Seed Trade Association’s Future Seed Executives Committee and Seed World magazine. The award is presented annually to an individual currently employed within the industry or in the graduation year of a post-secondary program with plans to enter the seed industry. Misch was presented the award at ASTA’s 129th Annual Convention in National Harbor, Md., in June.
Misch’s passion for the industry goes beyond the present and straight into the future. Heavily involved in the American Seed Trade Association’s FuSE Committee, Misch has organized and facilitated the Campus Connections Program two years in a row at ASTA’s Annual Convention. Watch a panel discussion involving the 2012 students and their mentors at SeedWorld.com.