Steve Wilkens: Helping Connect Growers to Leading-Edge Solutions

A small-town dairy farmer’s son grows up to become an agronomist who develops global crop innovations.
Steve Wilkens
Steve Wilkens
For children in most agricultural families, their farms are their playgrounds and classrooms. This was the case for Steve Wilkens and his siblings, who spent the majority of their early years playing, learning and growing on the family’s dairy farm in southeast Wisconsin.

“I got involved as soon as I could,” Wilkens says. “Between my mom and dad, we were always on the farm.”

Although his family mostly raised cattle, his father and grandfather sparked an interest in growing more than just livestock. That passion for growing things caused Wilkens to pursue a career in agronomy and would ultimately lead Wilkens to his current role as an agronomy manager for Golden Harvest® in the Central and Eastern Corn Belt.

“I think I was maybe five or six and my grandpa always raised a large garden,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘This is really cool.’ And not long after started my own.”

Wilkens’ brother was more mechanically inclined and took over many of the machinery-related jobs around the farm, driving Wilkens focus and interest into crop sciences. After earning a master’s degree in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wilkens went to work for a competitor company before moving to Syngenta. After several roles with the company, he has settled in to his current job.

The Busier, the Better

As an agronomy manager, Wilkens works hard to find new innovations for growers through research and trains agronomists, resellers and customers alike through on farm trials and the Syngenta Grow More Experience sites.

The position creates a busy year: He plans new plots in the winter, plants in the spring, collects data and trains in the summer, and assesses the results and starts planning again in the fall. On top of that, he helps set the direction for agronomy at Golden Harvest throughout the year. Wilkens enjoys the fast pace and the demands of the role and finds the help he’s able to give growers rewarding.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to work with progressive growers. They understand the potential of the seed they are putting in the ground, and they work to maximize its yield and potential.”

Steve Wilkens
“I really get immense enjoyment out of working with growers to create a plan, piece it all together and ultimately help them be successful and grow their operations,” Wilkens says. “To me, the most rewarding part of the job is receiving a call or message from a grower who has just harvested a field where the yield exceeded their expectations.”

Finding the Competitive Advantage

Growing up, Wilkens recalls there being more farm auctions than anyone could attend, as many growers in the region failed to keep their farms going. It instilled the value of hard work, competition and ingenuity at an early age.

“If you want to pursue this type of career and lifestyle,” he says, “you have to be willing to work hard, find your competitive advantage, and go with it.”

That drive to find the next big thing is a key part of Wilkens’ job. He says he enjoys being on the leading edge of the industry and getting to see firsthand what’s coming down the research pipeline at Syngenta. For him, the Grow More Experience sites and the farms he visits are still outdoor classrooms where he can learn and teach others about promising new solutions for growers.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to work with progressive growers,” he says. “They understand the potential of the seed they are putting in the ground, and they work to maximize its yield and potential.”