Jill Wheeler: Industry Veteran Committed to Making a Difference
“My first job working in agriculture was walking soybean fields and removing volunteer corn,” she says. “It can be kind of a nasty job, but growing up in a rural community, farming was the lifeblood of local economies.”
Wheeler always had an interest in the economic side of agriculture, which is apparent in her role as head of sustainable productivity for Syngenta in North America. She leads The Good Growth Plan in the region and supports its mission to improve the sustainability of agriculture and meet the challenge of feeding the world’s fast-growing population.
Where Journalism and Agriculture Meet
Wheeler graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in journalism, but found herself back in the ag industry.
“One of my first jobs was as a reporter at a weekly newspaper,” she says. “Twice a year, we had a special agriculture edition that included feature stories of what was happening in the area. I got to interview a lot of farmers and managers and really focus on the economic side of things.”
At Syngenta, Wheeler started out in marketing services where she earned an Effie Award for the launch of Rave® herbicide in the late 1990s. She moved to product marketing before assuming her current role.
“I have one foot in the world of corporate affairs, where I work with many external audiences,” she says. “The other foot is in our commercial operations and looking at what we can do within those operations to fulfill our commitment for The Good Growth Plan in our region.”
"Young people want a job nowadays where they are making a difference. There is nothing more exemplary of that than our Good Growth Plan. Where else can you work and make differences in people’s lives globally?"
Although Wheeler has moved on from a career in journalism, she hasn’t put her pen down yet.
“I’ve written children’s books for many years,” she says. “It plays into what I do now as I write about environmental topics. Sustainability has always been an interest of mine, and now I get to do it as my day job as well as my side job.”
It All Comes Back to Agriculture
Growing up on her family’s farm, Wheeler learned to value hard work and genuine relationships. Most importantly, she was raised with the attitude of helping out where people need you the most.
“Young people want a job nowadays where they are making a difference,” Wheeler says. “There is nothing more exemplary of that than our Good Growth Plan. Where else can you work and make differences in people’s lives globally?”
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“It offers endless opportunities, and I can’t stress that enough. I wish more young women knew that,” she says. “Agriculture is the lens through which we view some of the most compelling issues of our time. I feel extremely fortunate that I get to look through that lens every day and deal with everything from global food security to income equality, food safety, economic development issues and climate change. All of those key issues come right back to agriculture.”