Seed World

Keep Your Office Plant Alive!

Gro Alliance

A third-generation seedsman, Jim Schweigert grew up in the family seed business and was exposed to industry issues at an early age. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for corporate public relations firms in Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta before joining the family business full time in 2003. He has since been active in the American Seed Trade Association, the Independent Professional Seed Association and earned his master’s in seed technology and business from Iowa State University. As president, Schweigert manages client contracts and crop planning, as well as business development and new market opportunities. His unique background and experience make him one of the seed industry’s leaders in innovation. As such, he was honored as Seed World’s 2009 Future Giant and currently serves as chair of the board of directors for Seed Programs International.

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The plant in our HR manager’s office was almost dead. He’s been working from home since mid-March. Without his constant watering, the plant was feeling the full effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. We noticed it just in time and it appears that the plant can be saved.

It got me thinking. Responding and adapting to COVID-19 can pull people in many directions, from trying to figure out the ever-changing Stay at Home rules to making sure everyone is following the company guidelines while at work. This effort is necessary and key to ensuring everyone stays healthy and safe.

But there are critical and immediate tasks that cannot be missed. Success during the planting and growing season requires a laser focus on the timing of activities (such as weed and insect control) around changing weather forecasts and threshold measurements. Keeping seed crops thriving matters a whole lot more than the fate of an office plant.

Many of the articles and online sessions I’ve seen are evaluating COVID-19’s future impact to seed businesses and farmers in light of the disruption of global trade and contraction of ethanol and meat demand. The challenge for us all is to not look past the decisions that we need to make for the immediate benefit of the businesses and crops. All the while, we need to be checking the horizon for clues as to how the future may unfold.

At Gro Alliance, our business operations have been running as normally as can be expected during the COVID-19 outbreak. We have shipped seed to clients and farmers. Despite frequent rains, we are now deep into a fairly smooth planting season. Employees are staying safe and doing social distancing while working in smaller groups to limit face-to-face contact with other employees.

There are frequent discussions about impacts, both the good and the bad, COVID-19 could have on our business in 2020 and beyond. These conversations are necessary and healthy. Employees always wonder about the future of a business and their jobs. These concerns are especially true now. By keeping employees informed and having open conversations, they are comforted knowing that company leadership has an eye on the horizon. Nobody is forgetting to water that office plant.