Topsfield, Mass., August 28, 2023 – Women in Agribusiness (WIA) has announced the three recipients of this year’s Women in Agribusiness Demeter Award of Excellence. Dr. Tracie Egger of Bright Changes Leadership Consulting, Connie Herschbach of Novus Ag and Christine Gould of Thought For Food are scheduled to receive their awards at the 12th annual Women in Agribusiness Summit next month, September 26-28, in Nashville.
More than 30 nominations were received for this year’s award, which recognizes those who have achieved excellence in their field and/or who have demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the agribusiness industry. The WIA Demeter Award of Excellence, so named for Demeter, the goddess of the harvest from ancient Greek mythology, was first introduced in 2013 and thus far has been bestowed on nearly 25 change-makers in ag and food, along with five exceptional companies.
To qualify for the award, recipients must:
Have a minimum of 10 years of experience in the ag and/or food industry
Have notable professional achievements
Be a positive example to other women in the industry
Be one who breaks down barriers, helps create opportunities and serves as a resource for others
Be one who consistently exemplifies professionalism
Dr. Tracie Egger, owner of Bright Changes Leadership Consulting, is the new director of leadership and organizational development at CERES Solutions, a 100-percent farmer-owned local cooperative based in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Dr. Egger made much of her impact on the sector while serving as assistant director of the Office of Academic Programs in the Purdue University College of Agriculture. She led recruiting activities for the college, expanding enrollment to nearly 2,800 students and increasing the proportion of women enrolled by more than 60 percent. Dr. Egger also was instrumental in the development and launch of the CATE initiative – College of Agriculture Transformational Experiences – the Leadership Development Certificate Program (LDCP) for the College. Additionally, Dr. Egger, who resides in Delphi, Ind., served as the advisor of the Purdue Ag Ambassadors. After her academic tenure at Purdue, Dr. Egger took a position with AgReliant Genetics as learning and development lead. While there, she was selected as the inaugural chairperson of the newly formed AgReliant Women's Network, where she brought men and women together on tough issues that often cause barriers, and introduced a series of learning workshops to tackle these obstacles. In her established roles within agriculture, she frequently provides employee coaching on these topics and facilitates leadership training workshops throughout North America.
Said her nominator and industry colleague, Samantha Bock, “It is impossible to overstate her contributions to the success of the college’s undergraduate program while serving as assistant director. Her ability to build relationships, be a positive role model for young women in agriculture and develop employees have contributed to her success and impact on many others in agriculture.”
Throughout her decades-long career in IT for ag, Connie Herschbach of Friant, Calif., has been steadfast in “her commitment to the professional development of her colleagues with a special interest in seeing women succeed in a typically male-dominated industry,” noted her nominator, Kristina Redstone.
Herschbach is currently VP of IT for Novus Ag where she co-established “Women of Novus,” an organization that provides female workers the opportunity to build a community of women as networking partners in agriculture.
She has been universally celebrated at all her jobs, all the way up to the top. Tommy Warner, Novus Ag’s president and CEO explained, “Connie is truly an ambassador for ‘The People.’ She is one of the most consistent performers I have ever worked alongside. She rarely misses a commitment and is one of the most customer-driven professionals in our segment of the industry. Connie’s spirit of advancement and team collaboration is one of a kind. She’s the epitome of ‘class’ and truly cares about young people and fights for the betterment of our company culture.”
Prior to her position with Novus, Herschbach was instrumental in technical services at Western Farm Services, Crop Production Services, and Agrium (now Nutrien), respectively, where she was one of the few women who held a senior leadership role. At Nutrien, Herschbach launched the Loveland Chapter of the Agrium Women’s Leadership Group (AWLG) in early 2012, an employee resource group (ERG) to support women in their career journey. She served as chairperson for the expanded AWLG council and supported the creation of an internal women’s development program now known as Accelerate. She also served on the board for Colorado Women’s Education Foundation, supporting education for aspiring women.
“As a lone female voice at the table, it could have been very easy to keep quiet,” said her Nutrien colleague, Amber Northcut. “Instead, she used her platform to advocate for and promote women within the organization.”
This former head of next generation innovation with Syngenta – where she was instrumental in game-changing initiatives that made access to seeds more attainable – branched out on her own creative job track after her award-winning corporate intrapreneurship journey. Passionate about regenerative ag, Gould, of Basel, Switzerland, worked with startups like Indigo Ag, Cibo Technologies, and advised organizations like reNature and Meli Bees. She is now founder and CEO of Thought For Food (TFF), which works with startups, Fortune 500 companies, global nonprofits, educational institutions, and investors in its goal to be a global leading innovation engine for food systems and climate impact. Additionally, TFF is credited with being the first organization to mobilize young people worldwide to step into agricultural innovation with a fit-for-purpose startup incubation program that appeals to the attitudes and attributes inherent to how they think and act.
To this end, TFF has helped launch over 100 startups, which have gone on to raise $300 million in venture capital resulting in numerous groundbreaking agriculture outcomes. The global TFF community spans over 30,000 innovators and stakeholders in 183 countries and includes programs like the "WTF Lab" – which stands for "Where's The Farmer?" – that helps startup founders and teams better understand the needs and realities of farmers around the world. Gould also addresses how Millennial and GenZ leaders innovate in her book "The Change-makers Guide to Feeding the Planet."
Beyond TFF, Gould has mentored hundreds of young people, is a globally recognized thought leader and visionary and was recently named by Forbes as one of the top 10 women in synthetic biology. Gould also is an Acumen-Rockefeller Food Systems Fellow, a member of the Advisory Committee for the United Nations Food Systems Summit, and an advisor to numerous food and agtech startups and non-profits.
“Christine is a one-of-a-kind, impact-driven individual at heart with an infectious energy and vision that has made her a major force for positive disruption and innovation in the industry,” said Nadia Petrik, her colleague and nominator. “She is an exemplary individual, leader, and industry pioneer whose work is focused on solving some of the most pressing agricultural and food issues of our time.”
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About Women in Agribusiness
Women in Agribusiness is a business unit of HighQuest Partners, a U.S.-based global agribusiness events and media firm. The Women in Agribusiness initiative took root in 2012, and now includes WIA Membership, WIA MeetUps, WIA Demeter Award of Excellence, Student Scholarships,WIA Career Connector, and the WIA Today blog. Learn more at womeninag.com.
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