Jane Ade Stevens served Indiana’s corn and soybean commodity groups as chief executive officer since 2010. However, she began leaving her mark on Indiana agriculture long before.
Here is Indiana Prairie Farmer’s exclusive interview with Stevens while she was on staff, helping with the transition to new leadership as she is retiring at the end of the year:
How did your personal background prepare you for working with the Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Corn Growers Association? I grew up on a grain and livestock farm near West Lafayette and was active in 4-H. I was one of seven students in ag communications at Purdue University at the time. My career started with Edward J. Funk at Kentland; then I was editor of the Hoosier Farmer for Indiana Farm Bureau. I worked for Elanco, then returned to Farm Bureau in broadcasting. By 1991, my husband, Roger, and I operated a consulting business. We worked for several Indiana commodity groups. I was on the ground floor, working with farmer-directors, when the soybean checkoff began.
What allowed you to be successful as CEO? Each group has dedicated directors and officers who are also passionate about these groups. Working together, we developed strategies, and everything we did was geared toward carrying out these strategies successfully.
I’ve always believed that the more of our own corn and soybeans that could be used in Indiana, the better off our farmers would be. That’s why we promoted the livestock industry and biofuels.
What do you view as major accomplishments? On the corn side, our efforts promoting ethanol paid dividends. Today, Indiana has 13 ethanol plants and will soon have 14.
Second, for several years, our corn and soybean groups joined with livestock commodity groups to sponsor a livestock forum. Leaders of all commodity groups and Indiana Farm Bureau still meet regularly to discuss growing the livestock industry. Other states don’t understand how we did it, because they can’t duplicate it. It’s all about being on the same team.
What are major accomplishments on the soybean side? Support for the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center at Purdue was a joint effort for both corn and soybean groups. Each group contributed significant funds. The Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds helps soybean farmers tell their story to consumers. Plus, we celebrated 25 years with the soybean new uses competition at Purdue this year.
What do you see as challenges for Indiana agriculture? For your commodity groups? The challenges are intertwined. We obviously have challenges with foreign trade. Farmer-leaders spent 40 years building up our export business. Now some of it must be rebuilt. It’s important to continue looking for new markets.
We must also continue supporting research efforts at Purdue. The goal is to support high-quality corn and soybean research which will pay future dividends.
Will Indiana agriculture still see you? Absolutely! I will do consulting work. However, I plan to spend time with my granddaughter in the Virgin Islands.
I’d like to also say how grateful I am to the farmers of Indiana for allowing me to be part of what we’ve been able to accomplish together. Hopefully, together we’ve made things a little better for everyone.