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Courtesy of AgriNews - Erica Quinlan, Field Editor

Courtesy of AgriNews - Erica Quinlan, Field Editor07/17/2013

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A strong leader is one who leads by example, and Aaron Conaway does that every day.

Dedicated to production agriculture, Conaway works in the fields and also serves as president of Total Seed Production Inc. and of the Indiana Crop Improvement Association’s board of directors.

Conaway did not grow up farming, but he chose to start his career in agriculture after college. He went to Purdue University and studied aeronautical technology.

“I was a junior in college when Sept. 11 happened, and so job placement was scarce in the airline industry at the time I graduated,” he said. “I was engaged to my soon-to-be-wife Christy, and her father had a seed company in Tipton. He asked me if I’d be interested in learning the business, and I said sure.”

Conaway learned the business from the ground up, working every aspect of the seed production company, from cutting bags to sweeping floors.

When the production manager retired, he took the position. They sold the former brand name, Campbell Seeds, and started Total Seed Production.

The company is involved at all levels of seed production, from field to factory. Along with other family co-owners, Conaway farms 10,000 out of the 12,000 total acres of seed corn and soybeans.

“I became president of Total Seed Production in 2006,” he said. “Three years ago, Alan Galbreth asked me to be on the board of directors for ICIA. After the first year, they asked me to be part of the executive team, and last year I was vice president. This year is my first year as president.”

Conaway brings a technical, production point of view to the ICIA board of directors.

“I conduct the meetings, and I’m there for support,” he said. “I’m there to help lead the organization. The ICIA president doesn’t have a hand in the day-to-day operations. The board works on long range and strategic plans. There are also committees and subcommittees within the organization. I chair some of those.”

Conaway said that the ICIA is starting a new testing program for native seeds this year. The association also is finalizing a five-year strategic plan that will focus primarily on a customer-service approach to doing business.

“The strategic planning sessions highlight the main goals of the organization,” said Liz Pestow, marketing director for ICIA. “It reflects our philosophy. We’re very customer based. We’re a small, independent organization that thrives on customer service and providing one-on-one type of customer service. A lot of the strategic plan focuses on how to do that better.”

Pestow said that research at the ICIA is customer driven and based off of questions that members need answered. The ICIA was formed in 1900 and is a non-for-profit organization that is run by members who pay dues.

“It’s drastically changed and grown to meet market needs over time and the needs of the seed producers in the state of Indiana,” she said. “We’re the seed certifying agency for the state of Indiana, a designation given to us by Purdue University. We have a variety of services that we provide outside of certifying seed, which involves seed testing and service field inspection.”

The association provides lab services, including germination and seed vigor testing, protein and DNA testing and more.

“We are starting a new program here to test native seed species,” Pestow said. “That’s a new area for us that requires a lot of expertise. So we’ve added to our staff and hired an expert in the field to be head of the program. We’re excited about that. That should be starting late summer.”

Both Pestow and Conaway are excited about several other research projects that are in the works right now. They plan on announcing more information on these projects in the near future.

For more information on the Indiana Crop Improvement Association, visit www.indianacrop.org. For more information on Total Seed Productions, visit www.totalseedproduction.com.