October 25, 2020

Leadership Grows from Strong Roots: Meet Greg Guenther, MaxYield Board Member

Greg Guenther will never forget a summer day in the early 1990s when he crossed paths with Tom Urban, Pioneer Hi-Bred’s chief executive officer at the time.

“I was an intern, and I happened to meet Mr. Urban when I was walking across campus,” said Guenther, a Corwith-area farmer who was elected in 2019 to the board of MaxYield Cooperative. “He stopped me on the sidewalk and wanted to know who I was, where I was working, and how I liked the experience so far.”

That five-minute conversation left a lasting impression on Guenther. “I was a nobody, while he was the CEO. Still, he took the time to get to know me.”

That leadership style also influences Guenther’s role as a MaxYield board member. “The co-op is the biggest employer in many of the towns where MaxYield is located. It’s important to maintain strong connections to the communities and clients we serve.”

 

HOW HAS YOUR FARMING BACKGROUND INFLUENCED YOUR OUTLOOK ON LIFE?

I grew up on a farm near Corwith in Kossuth County. I was a curious kid who was always asking questions as I followed my dad around. “What’s this? Why are we doing it this way?” Dad was patient as he explained things to me. I still have that curiosity to learn more about agriculture.

 

HOW HAS YOUR AG CAREER GROWN THROUGH THE YEARS?

When I was earning my ag business degree at Iowa State University (ISU), I got an internship at Pioneer Hi-Bred in Johnston. That turned into a full-time job after I graduated in 1992. I worked with the seed crop planning team and later transitioned to field testing projects and data analysis in the research department. Later in my career I moved to eastern Iowa near Williamsburg to work with Holden’s Foundation Seeds, a division of Monsanto. Those experiences expanded my knowledge of seed genetics and also taught me a lot about how that part of agribusiness works.

 

YOU RETURNED TO THE CORWITH AREA TO FARM. WHAT HAS THAT EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?

Well, 2012 was my first crop year, and that was the big drought year. I figured there was nowhere to go but up after that. I do miss the days of $7 corn, though.

 

AS A FARMER, WHAT DO YOU APPRECIATE ABOUT MAXYIELD?

I have a full-time job in addition to farming, so I depend on the co-op to help me make important decisions for my operation and provide crop protection application services. I’ve worked for Illinois Foundation Seeds for nine years. I can remember when seed was fairly far down on the list of crop inputs; now it’s ranked more like number two. I need help to maximize the crop as it grows. MaxYield’s agronomy specialists help me put together a crop-protection program, so I don’t have to worry about the details.

 

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO RUN FOR THE MAXYIELD BOARD OF DIRECTORS?

You need to challenge yourself and be part of the solution. If you want to effect change, get involved. My fellow board members have been willing to help me learn and answer my questions. I’ve enjoyed meeting people from all over MaxYield’s trade territory. If you’re interested in running for the MaxYield board, go for it. It’s a good learning experience.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CO-OP NEEDS TO DO TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE?

One of the roles of a farmerowned cooperative is to provide collective bargaining for the members so they can get better prices on inputs. To operate effectively, today’s co-ops need top-of-the-line managers, team members and equipment. MaxYield is doing a good job with all three of these areas. Going forward, it’s extremely important for MaxYield to continue recruiting new talent at college career fairs, too.

 

WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE MAXYIELD MEMBERS AND CLIENTS TO KNOW?

I don’t think you can be a farmer without being an optimist. You hope that next year will be better yet. You also look back at the end of each year and ask yourself, “How could I have done things differently?”

 

If you have an idea or a question regarding MaxYield, contact me or any MaxYield board member. We appreciate your input and look forward to hearing from you.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Guenther and his wife, Janelle, met at ISU and have been married 25 years. Their oldest daughter, Elise, recently graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and is starting her teaching career in Schleswig. Their middle daughter, Lila, is a junior at South Dakota State University, where she is majoring in medical laboratory science. Their youngest daughter, Evie, will be in 8th grade in Algona. When Guenther has some free time, he enjoys traveling with his family. In 2019, the Guenthers toured northern Germany to do some “ancestry sleuthing.”

Share Your Thoughts

*