Gina Sheets, Frankfort, is about to exchange an office space in Indianapolis for the mission field in Liberia. Her last day as Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture will be Jan. 3.
Sheets was named director during the first week of Mike Pence and Sue Ellspermann's administration in January of 2013. She was already working in ISDA in charge of economic development when the governor and lieutenant governor tapped her as the next ISDA director.
Recently, Sheets shared these thoughts about her year as director in an exclusive interview.
IPF: What comes to mind when someone asks about your top accomplishments?
Sheets: A trip to China to help open up possibilities for trade was important. So was work with promoting the 25th anniversary celebration with our sister city in Japan. We continued to promote the Indiana Grown brand in these efforts. These ventures give us the opportunity to showcase Indiana products.
IPF: Helping farming co-exist with others in the environmental arena continues to be important. What is ISDA doing there?
Sheets: We continue to promote the Certified Livestock Producer program. We now have 92 certified producers who have completed the entire training program, and we continue to offer more training sessions for those who want to participate. The idea is to give livestock producers the chance to go above and beyond to show their commitment to the environment. It can be about a six-month process to earn certification. The program is voluntary.
IPF: What other efforts has ISDA taken to promote Indiana agriculture?
Sheets: We began a marketing program to promote Indiana agriculture, and participated in conferences in cities such as Atlanta and New Orleans. It's an attempt to help retailers make connections and sell their products.
IPF: What direct advances in economic development have you made?
Sheets: Farbest Foods is the most recent example. The company just opened a new turkey processing facility in Vincennes. It will hire 300 people once the first shift reaches full capacity. These are new jobs. We are also working with other companies, including Dewig Meats in Ft. Branch. This meat processing business is ready to expand and considering exporting overseas. ISDA helps companies like work through the details.
IPF: What can ISDA still help accomplish?
Sheets: The Indiana Soybean Alliance invested in the Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fair, and it's used year-round for education. ISDA would like to expand our presence in the Normandy Barn and join in this effort. The Food and Agriculture Initiative announced recently is also very important, and ISDA will continue to support it. We also want to support FFA. There are 10,000 members, and it's an important part of ISDA.