Kelsey Vance: Syngenta Retail Sales Rep and Mentor for Women
That dedication still endures decades later, manifesting itself in a deep-seated love of farming and everything that goes along with it.
“I still love to run every piece of equipment I can—the combine is my favorite,” she says.
Like many young people in the ag industry, Vance grew up on a farm. Her father and uncle still plant corn, soybeans and specialty crops—including green beans and popcorn—on their farm in Tremont, Illinois.
“I always said I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up,” Vance says. “Either that or I wanted to work at the office of our local ag retailer. Those were my two dream jobs when I was a little girl.”
An Ag Career Cultivated
Fortunately for Vance, she ended up at Syngenta in a role that allows her to experience the best of both worlds. After graduating from Illinois State University, she was offered a position in the Syngenta Developmental Sales Representative Program in Nebraska.
She became a retail sales representative in southern Illinois, then eventually moved back home to Tremont. She now travels across her territory advising retailers and farmers on how to grow the best crops possible and maximize their return on investment. She has found that she can apply her experiences in southern Illinois and Nebraska to the unique challenges of her central Illinois territory.
“We fought a lot of weed resistance in southern Illinois,” Vance says. “It has now spread to central Illinois and has greatly affected the way my retailers and farmers make day-to-day decisions in the field. I hope that my experience will be valuable to them and we can take action against weed resistance sooner.”
Championing Women in Ag
She isn’t intimidated by that, but she does think her role comes with a certain level of responsibility.
“Agriculture has some of the best people in the world. We all have the same goal in mind: to feed this ever-growing population.”
“I might stand out as a woman, but that means people will listen,” she says. “If I don’t really know what I’m talking about, everyone is going to remember that. But I take it as an opportunity. I’m already standing out because I’m oftentimes the only woman in the room, so I want to make sure they remember me as the woman who knew what she was talking about.”
While Vance maintains a busy work schedule, she makes time to get involved in causes that promote women in the agriculture industry. She is part of the Illinois Agri-Women organization, which hosts the annual Women Changing the Face of Agriculture conference to help women understand the variety of career opportunities in the ag industry.
“I’m afraid many young ladies aren’t aware of the numerous opportunities available in the agriculture industry,” she says. “While cooking meals for the men in the fields and running to get parts are two extremely important roles, and two that I do quite often on our farm, these are not the only roles for women today. By bringing our unique perspectives to the conference rooms, capitol building and fields, we can make the industry better as a whole.”
At the end of the day, she defines her role in the industry not by her gender, but by the work she accomplishes through Syngenta.
“Agriculture has some of the best people in the world,” Vance says. “We all have the same goal in mind: to feed this ever-growing population.”
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