Seed World

From Home Office to Beck’s: Q&A with Sarah Thompson


Sarah Thompson, breeding projects coordinator for Beck’s Hybrids, shares about her experience in Kauai, Hawaii as well as her experiences working at Beck’s.

Seed World: Favorite film?
Sarah Thompson:
‘Groundhog Day’ is one of my favorite films, not only because of the timeless humor of Bill Murray, but because every time I watch it, the moral of the story is more clear and applicable to my life. Recognize that your attitude and actions shape your surroundings, take each day as an opportunity to live every moment to its fullest potential, and strive to make a positive impact in others’ lives.

SW: What’s one thing you’d never travel without?
My camera! As a photographer in my spare time, I feel naked without my camera. Though I always have my smartphone camera as a backup, it just doesn’t feel the same and the quality can’t compare. I almost always have my camera with me whether I’m traveling out of state or just headed to the grocery.

SW: Favorite travel destination?
Over the last few years, I have loved visiting other islands in Hawaii and playing tourist. Though Hawaii is a small state by comparison, there are a lot of areas still on my list to explore. Traveling anywhere out of the state requires at least a six-hour flight, so it is not often that I have the chance, but when I do, I definitely take time to visit family. My parents and grandparents are still in my hometown in Indiana, my brother lives in Seattle, and my sister, her husband, and my niece and nephew live near Orlando, Florida.

SW: How has your previous consulting business helped with your position at Beck’s?
Most importantly through my consulting business, I was able to gain a more accurate perspective of the agricultural industry as a whole and the ways in which the public perceives farming in Hawaii. In addition, I have had ample opportunities to improve my communication skills, especially involving controversial topics, something that is increasingly more important for all of us that work in agriculture.

SW: Do you still work closely with your community?
Yes, I still have great opportunities through Beck’s to interact with the community. For example, this past October, Beck’s was a sponsor of Kauai’s 4th Annual Harvest Festival, contributing not only funds to help put on the event, but also more than 1000 pumpkins grown on our farm and given away to festival attendees as well as local schools, charity groups, and elder care facilities. As a new company on the island, we have begun to host school field trips and look forward to more this coming year. In addition, I love volunteering with the Hawaii

State Science Olympiad and at the numerous school science fairs on Kauai. Outside of Beck’s, I also enjoy serving as the State Director of the Hawaii Alliance for Science, affiliated with the Cornell Alliance for Science.

SW: Why did you decide to pursue plant breeding and IMP?
While I thoroughly enjoyed working from my home office in my consulting business, I really missed being out in the field, scouting, and just watching the crops grow. I also missed daily interactions with co-workers and the rewarding feeling of hard work leading to a successful season. When the Beck’s facility opened on Kauai, it seemed like a sign for me to get back in the field. The opportunity to work for the largest family-owned seed business, learn more about the process of bringing a new seed product to market, and be an integral part of that process was just irresistible. Every day, I’m thankful for the experience Beck’s provides, especially as I interact more with each our sites, our breeders, and our employees across the company.

SW: What breeding projects are you currently working on?
As a winter nursery location, our priority is to successfully cycle corn through an additional season. We are concentrating on our own breeder’s material, but we also host several third party projects and specialty research endeavors. I am currently focused on creating a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan for our site, centering on the reduction of our most serious disease vectors: Frankliniella williams and Peregrinus maidis.