By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo
Despite diverse and unexpected challenges in recent years, Ohio’s agribusinesses are strong in 2023 — strength well represented at the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference in early February.
“Our numbers are up over last year and we’re excited about that. Since the pandemic we’ve slowly been bringing people back to our in-person events and activities. We’re not without our challenges, but I tell you what, the industry is strong,” said Chris Henney, OABA president and CEO. “There are plenty of issues right now, but the No. 1 is probably labor. Our companies are continually telling me that they’re having trouble finding people to work. The theme of our conference this year is Resiliency, so that that’s what it’s all about. How do we continue to move forward in the environment we’re in right now?”
The Conference had a heavy focus on technology and how changes can play a role in building agribusiness resiliency.
“Technology continues to grow to advance in this industry,” Henney said. “I think farmers and those involved in agriculture in Ohio and across the country need help to understand what the evolving technology is, how to use it and why they should use it. What is the ROI is on some of these larger investments that they have to make to continue to compete in these new markets?”
Agronomics, safety and pest and weed control were also covered in the program. In addition, OABA continues to work to address regulatory and policy concerns.
“Organizations like the OABA do a good job of turning competitors on the field of sales into collaborators in the field of policy so you have a united voice for agriculture,” said Kirby Wagner, with Growmark, and OABA public policy committee member. “We need to speak one message. When you’re a competitor when it’s coming to that sale at the farm gate you get together with your competitor when it comes to policy so that you can really do what’s best for agriculture.”
At the event OABA announced the recipients of the 2023 Industry Excellence Awards:
- 2023 Excellence in Customer Service — Doug Bayless, Consolidated Grain & Barge Co.
- 2023 Achievement as an Emerging Leader — Cristen Cramer, Legacy Farmers Cooperative
Award recipients were recognized at the 2023 OABA Industry Conference on Feb. 1. Winners will receive a plaque and $1,000 cash award, sponsored by Assured Partners – J.H. Ward Agency.
OABA has a distinguished history of serving the agricultural industry and its members through advocacy, policy leadership and educational programs. The Industry Excellence Awards honor excellence, professionalism and achievement among OABA member companies and their employees, and thereby encourage that same excellence in others.
“It is exceedingly important to take time to recognize exceptional individuals in our industry,” Henney said. “This year’s award winners set a high standard for all agribusiness employees across all levels to aspire to achieve.”
Excellence in Customer Service
The Excellence in Customer Service Award is presented to an individual who goes “above and beyond” in their service to customers in order to define what excellent customer service looks like and recognize those whose contributions may often go unnoticed. The 2023 award recipient is Doug Bayless of California, Kentucky. Bayless, Control Center Operator at Consolidated Grain & Barge Co.’s Riverside barge-loading facility in Cincinnati, is the primary person responsible for interacting and communicating with farmer customers on a daily basis. He handles quality issues, controlling the operations of the grain handling system, segregating, and maintaining grain quality within the facility. Bayless is a 25-year veteran with CBG, serving at different points of his career in every role at the facility from maintenance to grain grading and scale operations, and barge loading to deck-hand and truck dumping.“Doug exhibits two of the highest character traits – honesty and a positive attitude,” said Travis Algren, Senior Merchandiser for CGB. “He prioritizes solving customer issues and safety, helping new drivers or farmers at the facility, and always giving an honest answer with a follow-up solution when problems arise. His ‘glass half full’ attitude and his positivity are contagious amongst his colleagues and peers.”
Achievement as an Emerging Leader
The Achievement as an Emerging Leader Award is presented to an individual who represents the spirit of leadership as a growing agribusiness professional. Leadership is often difficult to define in everyday business activities, but it remains an important ability to cultivate. The 2023 award recipient is Cristen Cramer of Genoa, Ohio.
Cramer, Branch Manager for Legacy Farmers Cooperative’s Fostoria location, oversees budgeting, operational efficiency, project analysis and management, facility asset management, location safety, rail loading, customer service and management of the storage and blending of grain at an 8.5 million-bushel grain facility, as well as supervising all branch personnel. In addition, she coordinates and organizes personnel for all 10 Legacy Farmers Cooperative grain locations to enable efficiency in the grain division and cross divisions. Cramer is a leader in her job and her community, and an advocate for lifelong learning and positive mental health.
“Cristen’s leadership is on display every single day,” said Mark Sunderman, President and CEO of Legacy Farmers Cooperative. “She is always transparent with her team and works hard to enable them to grow and set goals, working with them to accomplish those goals. Cristen is a great mentor and coach.”