Brad Allen: Coming Full Circle

AgriEdge specialist connects with agriculture’s big family.
Brad Allen (right) shows grower Ken Dalenberg (left) a new update to the AgriEdge program.
Brad Allen (right) shows grower Ken Dalenberg (left) a new update to the AgriEdge program.
Despite a family history in agriculture, Brad Allen wasn’t always sure he would end up in the industry. His father’s family left a Kentucky tobacco farm during the Great Depression; his mother’s family still farms in (Kincaid), the West Virginia town that bears their name. When it came time to start his own career, Allen earned a business degree at Oklahoma State University and took the Law School Admission Test as a prelude to applying to law school. But he says his heart has always been in agriculture.

“Family is important to me—having that support system,” says the Oklahoma-born Allen. “That’s kind of what ag is. It’s a pretty big family.”

Now, as a Syngenta AgriEdge® specialist in central Illinois, Allen is in close touch with large-scale, high-tech farms—the type some may deride as “corporate agriculture” farms—that tap into the extensive data analysis and precision agriculture capabilities of the AgriEdge Excelsior® whole-farm management program.

“Despite the size of these farms, they’re still built around the people who are connected to the earth and to the environment,” says Allen. “I really respect that side of agriculture.”

Agronomic Roots

After graduating from Oklahoma State in 1997, Allen took an internship with a crop protection company. While there, he focused on precision agriculture and geographic information systems (GIS) in Illinois. Over the next several years, he built a career in the seed business, honing his agronomic knowledge across a broad swath of America, from South Texas to central Illinois.

AgriEdge specialist at @SyngentaUS comes full circle by connecting with #ag’s big family.

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In 2014, Allen’s fungicide rep from Syngenta, Michael Bierman, approached him about a job opening. Syngenta was looking for an agronomic service representative, and Bierman thought Allen would be a great candidate. Allen liked the idea.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Syngenta,” he says. “I was a customer for 15 years. Syngenta has great people and great products. Somebody is always a phone call, email or text away, so the service is always there.”

Allen was quickly hired and got to work, traveling extensively through Indiana and Illinois, pursuing his passion for agronomy and helping farmers succeed. In 2016, Syngenta offered him the chance to tie in his precision agriculture training and become an AgriEdge specialist. These days, his new position is bringing him full-circle to why he started.

“When I moved to central Illinois in 1997, I was scouting fields and ground-truthing a bunch of aerial imagery,” Allen says. “The first farm I walked onto was Ken Dalenberg’s Scattered Acres Farms. Exactly 19 ½ years after I first stepped foot into his field—my first field in Illinois—I had the opportunity to help Dalenberg find even more farming success. Basically, my life has come full circle in agriculture.”

Relationship Business

Allen says his experience with Dalenberg—a farmer widely renowned for his skill and progressive practices—illustrates the person-to-person connection that makes agriculture a unique business.

"I judge my success by how I’m helping others be successful. My day-to-day job is also my passion. I’ve always had a love for farming and agriculture."

Brad Allen
“He didn’t remember me, but he listened to me and has grown to trust me,” Allen says. “This industry is really about respect.”

Dalenberg pointed out a key aspect of the Syngenta approach to working with customers.

“We were working through the AgriEdge Excelsior program and Ken said, ‘I like the service model you’ve got—you’re more of an agronomist than a sales guy,’” Allen says.

That service model suits Allen as much as it appeals to his customers.

“I was really worried at first that the AgriEdge job was going to make me the ‘tech nerd,’” he admits. “But I still get to be an agronomist in this role. I still get to help my customers make the best decisions for their farm. That’s my heart and soul still. I think that’s why the program is successful—as specialists, we’re not just salespeople, but trusted advisers.”

Judging Success

Advising growers is rewarding, Allen says. He tells a story of working with an aggressive, young grower on a fungicide program.

“At the end of the day, I got a call from him sitting in the combine saying, ‘Brad, I’m glad we had that talk back in July and that I sprayed fungicides,’” Allen recounts. “His yield checks where he didn’t spray were 20 bushels off. He said he got a 20-bushel yield advantage from our three-hour conversation.”

For Allen, that’s what really counts. “I judge my success by how I’m helping others be successful,” Allen says. “My day-to-day job is also my passion. I’ve always had a love for farming and agriculture, and I always will.”