ADM’s Greg Webb stresses need for future (non-rural) agricultural leaders
Growing up in a Johnson County, IL, family of rural leaders, Greg Webb may have been destined to be out in front of agriculture. However, he attributes much of his career success as the ADM Vice President of State Government Relations to the years he spent in FFA and the encouragement of his vocational agriculture instructor.
Being an executive in a top global agribusiness, Webb said his FFA activities and competition at Goreville, (IL) High School prepared him for his position today, “Being part of teams was very instructive as you work in a corporate setting. You are only as good as the people you work with, and many times the people we work with make us better because we challenge each other. In my experiences in being part of either judging teams, or parliamentary procedure teams, collectively we were better than one. I think that is something that is particularly useful in an organization like ADM where we work cross-categorically with our colleagues all the time and our success is not measured in our individual achievements as it is in our collective achievements.”
With his uncle, Kenneth Webb, being a leader in rural electrification in southern Illinois, and his father, Glenn Webb, being the Chairman of the Board of GROWMARK, Greg said, “I have been the beneficiary of watching people that I have admired be involved in cooperative efforts and be involved in agriculture.” But he is quick to add that his high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Carl Kelly, was also instrumental in his career.
“My fondest memories were that he [Kelly] helped us excel even when we may not have thought it was a very big deal at the time. But he did understand that when you work hard for something and you have a sense of achievement then there is some gratification and you start building into a level of what you did last time and called it a success, next time that you go after that you will achieve at a higher level because that was something you have already done. He helped prompt our chapter, and each of us to be better than we probably thought we could,” Webb said.
From his days managing the family fruit and cattle farm in Johnson County, to his office at ADM’s North American headquarters in Decatur, IL, Webb has recognized the need for others like him to provide agricultural leadership in days to come. But he says those future leaders may not have an agricultural heritage as he does. “One of the things about agriculture education that I think is very important, even though it is not intuitive, in an urban setting were we do not have agriculture education, it should be incumbent upon us to do that. Because as I have viewed young men and women, I have more admiration for those who are pursuing the industry of agriculture even though they may not have that in their background like I did.
“I have a high regard for them wanting to pursue that interest. If I had a message about that, as we get further and further away proportionally as our society moves away from our agrarian roots, we need to put an emphasis on how we connect young men and women to agriculture in our school systems.
“As I think about the next generation of agriculturalists, they are not going be hindered by baggage about coming from a production agriculture background, they are going to think about the opportunities of how are we going to get more out of what we already have. So I think about providing agriculture education to a much broader group, so that they have some grounding about what agriculture is, is an incumbent need for us, no matter where we live.”
Pointing to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Webb says, “That is a perfect testament about drawing interest from kids who probably have very little access to rural Illinois, and yet when you meet these kids individually or collectively you are impressed by their capability, insight, and astuteness at such a young age and that is why one can get really fired up and optimistic about what the future will hold for agriculture. These young men and women do not come from an agriculture background like I do, but they may be smarter about agriculture than I could ever dream about.”