When Randy Minton, Indigo’s Ohio-based Senior Regional Business Director, isn’t juggling a multitude of management responsibilities at Indigo—from recruiting and driving sales to shaping our grower offers—he and wife Becky keep busy with four children and eight grandkids ranging from 10 months to nine years of age. Still, he finds time to golf, fish, hunt, target shoot, and bike. He's also a seasoned world traveler—having visited farms in Hawaii, Austria, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Great Britain, and Canada—and an avid DIYer, “constantly building” items for the family. His latest handiwork? A four-spot feeding table for his niece who gave birth to quadruplets in January of this year.
In the past weeks, Randy has significantly ramped up hiring for his team, but he set aside a few minutes to chat with us, delving into agricultural innovation, millennial farmers, the merits of corn, and much more.
TO START OFF, COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
As a kid, growing up in a small rural community in southern Illinois, I knew people who worked at Pioneer, so I wound up doing some support work: putting up field signs, moving seed, those kinds of things. I graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s of Science degree; I was a biology major, specializing in genetics and development. My hope was to enter med school, but when an offer for a full-time job with Pioneer Hi-Bred was presented to me, I shifted my path.
I was a district manager for Pioneer for about six years. In a sales coordinator position, I worked with supply, marketing tools, and the sales team in Illinois and Wisconsin. I then moved to Missouri and became the field sales manager for southern Iowa, Missouri, and southern Illinois. In 1997, I was asked to take on more responsibility as area manager for Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
In 2006, Pioneer was a part of DuPont, and the business was growing. We decided that we really needed to build out the organization in a different way and try to get closer to our customers and focus business decisions locally, so we created business units that split up the U.S. into four different geographies. I took responsibility for the business unit in the northern states of the U.S. and Canada, and eventually for all of the eastern United States. I was business unit director until March of 2016, when I left the organization. Just prior to Indigo, I had the good fortune to work with Perdue Ag on a consulting basis.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO LEAVE CONSULTING AND JOIN INDIGO?
Consulting was a great transition away from a successful career with Pioneer and provided focus on a different business. It was a part-time project that gave me a chance to reflect on life, my desire to contribute, and how I wanted to finish my career. For the next stage, I thought it would be great to do something different and innovative, and that positioned agriculture for the future.
I’ll also tell you there’s something exciting about working for a startup company. The ability to come in and help build the organization—to really put good people on the team, to really help drive towards something for the future—has a really positive feel for me.
Indigo is fast paced, evolving, very dynamic, and fun! Yes, there are long days, but at the same time, it’s fulfilling and rewarding to be a part of something that you know is being created for the future.
AS SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN ON THE FRONTLINES OF THE AG FIELD FOR SO LONG, I'M SURE YOU'RE WELL-ACQUAINTED WITH THE INDUSTRY'S FLUCTUATIONS. WHAT TRENDS STAND OUT IN PARTICULAR, AND WHERE DO YOU SEE INDIGO MAKING ITS MARK?
One of the trends is the cyclical nature of commodity price. No matter how demand for crops have improved, supply can build to surplus and restrict commodity pricing. Farmers have invested significant dollars into their farms and crop input prices have soared, restricting profitability during this down cycle in commodity prices. So, the timing couldn’t be better for us to deliver on the Indigo mission.
I’ve also seen that since the mid-1990s, when we launched all of the genetically modified traits, we’ve had an incredibly big run-up in regard to demand for those traits. But now farmers are starting to ask, ‘What’s our next opportunity for improving yields and profitability on the farm?’
Again, this opens yet another opportunity for us at Indigo and its microbial technology.
And finally, there’s the mega trend of shifting consumer preference for safe, high quality, and known sources of foods. I see it with my own kids and their preferences for their families. Yes, we must still be concerned about feeding over 9 billion people by 2050, but agriculture is quickly learning that demand is shifting for a significant portion of consumers. Indigo is positioned to positively impact all three of these ag trends of commodity cycles, new crop production technology, and consumer choice.
I'M CURIOUS TO GET YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON ATTRACTING MORE MILLENNIALS TO FARMING FOR A LIVELIHOOD. WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR AGRICULTURE TO CAPTURE AND HOLD THEIR INTEREST?
There is an aging farm population, without a doubt. And there’s going to be a turnover, a massive turnover, as we have seen some millennials taking over the farm or becoming more of a decision-maker on the farm. With millennials, you really must talk about and demonstrate profitability and performance of products.
This opens a door for Indigo in a major way: It feeds right into our strategy in regards to profitability, sustainability, and productivity on the farm.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
Here are a couple things that I really love about Indigo: First, there is no limitation on what we could potentially achieve in the next few years. The other thing I love about Indigo is the fact that we are not risk-averse; we can change and adapt and make decisions, as we move, that make the business better. The Indigo team is awesome. Everyone has been very helpful, energetic, and focused. It makes this a really fun place for me. The best part of my job, in the next several months, is hiring and developing a really high-powered team that can take the business forward in the Midwest.
HOW HAVE YOU FOUND WORKING AT INDIGO TO BE DIFFERENT FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES ELSEWHERE?
When you think about working for other ag companies, it’s hard for them to innovate and try new things. The notion of risk tends to override any notion of reward. With Indigo, there’s a real openness within the organization to piloting and moving forward with very innovative ideas in the marketplace.
In addition to that, the team that I see within Indigo today is eager to really make their mark in agriculture and to build Indigo into one of the most prolific organizations in agricultural business. The energy level of the team, the opportunity that’s so large out in front of us, the ability to be innovative—to really put new ideas on the table and move those ideas forward into action—is better than I’ve seen anywhere in ag business today.
IF YOU COULD HOST ANYONE FROM THE FARMING WORLD FOR DINNER, WHO WOULD IT BE? (HISTORICAL FIGURES ARE FAIR GAME, LET'S SAY.)
Henry Wallace—the now deceased, former Secretary of Ag and founder of Pioneer Seed Co. He developed the first commercial corn hybrids and sold to his neighbors. I would love to hear his story and get his reaction to “modern” agriculture.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE CROP?
Corn. It’s where I started and it’s a fun crop, too—fun to grow for farmers. At harvest, seeing those ears rolling into the combine is highly gratifying—you see the results of your harvest in golden ears.
MUST-HAVE THANKSGIVING DISH, POTENTIALLY PREPARED WITH INDIGO INGREDIENTS?
Corn casserole! Hey, it’s my spirit crop!