The new National Sales and Marketing Manager gets back to his small grain roots
Jeff Widder has been around small grains his whole life. Born and raised in southwestern Kansas surrounded by acres of crops, he started working in the sorghum fields when he was a teenager.
“I grew up in agriculture,” says Widder. “My father ran a seed plant for DeKalb, and that’s where I gained my first real experience.”
It was the beginning of a long and fruitful career, which has spanned more than 25 years so far. Widder has worked in seed sales, operations and leadership across the United States and internationally. In July, he brought his knowledge and skill to Limagrain Cereal Seeds (LCS) as the National Sales and Marketing Manager.
“Jeff’s breadth and depth of seed industry expertise has already had a huge impact on helping LCS wheat farmers succeed,” says Tatiana Henry, CEO of LCS.
Having discovered his love of farming early in life, Widder added to his hands-on learning with a bachelor’s degree in Agronomy and Crop Science from Fort Hayes State University. After graduation, he went back to work for DeKalb in seed production, providing product to farmers in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa for eight years before transitioning to sales.
“On the production side, you contract with growers to plant seed. When you’re on the sales side, you get to help farmers decide what to put in their fields and see how it yields for them. You get to see the whole process.” It was both eye-opening and rewarding for Widder, whose territory management included parts of Kansas and Nebraska. He built relationships that have stayed with him throughout his career.
Monsanto bought DeKalb in 1998, and Widder was offered the chance to run the company’s specialty crops business, including sorghum, sunflowers, canola and alfalfa. After three years at the multinational corporation, he joined a startup seed company in Texas and ran all operations, from product manufacturing to sales to accounting to reporting to the board.
“When you work for large companies, you wonder what all the people do. When you go to work for a small company and you don’t have all those people, you find out, and have an appreciation for, everything they do,” laughs Widder. He worked at the startup for seven years, establishing back-end systems and public-facing relationships that remain strong to this day. From there, he ran the seed division of Simplot, covering corn, soybeans, cotton and cereals — until the job opening at LCS caught his eye.
“LCS is a great company with a superior lineup in cereals,” says Widder. “Plus, working in small grains takes me back to my heritage, growing up in Kansas.” He considers it a full-circle opportunity to refine what he’s done his whole career. Being the National Sales and Marketing Manager at LCS allows Widder to solidify and maintain long-term relationships throughout the industry, including seed dealers, retailers, university and private partners, and, of course, farmers.
“I’ve always been farmer-focused. I appreciate what farmers do and am a huge ag advocate,” he says. “The farming community … they’re a cut above.”