Seed World

A Philosophy of Life: Q&A with Paul Nselel

Paul Nselel, CEO of AgReliant Genetics, reflects on his history with agriculture, and how farming is more than a job.

Seed World (SW): What is your favorite book genre?

Paul Nselel (PN): I am an avid reader. For me, additional perspective is gained from reading books. Throughout my career, I have learned that there are many people around the world who do things right, but they do them in a different way. While their processes are unique, their outputs are similar. Reading echoes that idea and continually opens my mind to thoughts, opinions and ideas separate from my own.

For that reason, I primarily read autobiographies, memoirs and self-improvement books.  To be honest, I listen to most books on Audible to take advantage of my current travel schedule. Most recently, I have read “TheCulture Map,” “Range,” and “How to Avoid Climate Disaster.” Throughout a calendar year, I challenge myself to read between 20, 25 books.

SW: What has been your favorite place to live?

PN: Now, that is a difficult question. I am fond of so many places in the world. I have been fortunate enough to live in and travel to many fantastic places including countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. Cameroon is where I had my formative years, France is where I met my wife, Manuella, and the U.S. is where we settled down and had our kids. If I had to pick the place that feels most like home, it would be St. Louis. This is the city where my two children, Sarah and Julian, grew up. It is where my wife and I first established our roots and became U.S. citizens. It is where we made friends who feel more like family. For me, people and communities make a place feel like a home and St. Louis will always be that for my family.

SW: How many languages do you speak?

PN: I speak a few languages fluently including English, French and Spanish as well as two local languages in Cameroon, Bassa and Bakoko. I am also somewhat familiar with written Russian and German, but do not speak them.

SW: Tell us about your background! What drew you to agriculture?

PN: Agriculture has always been a part of my life from the time I was young.

Growing up, my father was a senior manager with a major agriculture company that exported bananas and pineapples to Europe. He allowed me to shadow him in the field often to meet agronomists and learn the ropes.

Later in life, while studying in France, I met a man from Nebraska that was instrumental in introducing me to U.S. agriculture through first-hand experience meeting with farmers. He was influential in helping me make the decision to join the industry and I am glad I did because that is when my true passion for agriculture and the people who work in agriculture began.

Farming is more than a job it is a philosophy of life. If you want an authentic and deep, long-lasting relationship, friend a farmer. Our industry is so special because it is not just a job, it is a way of life. This idea of loving the work and living the work has drawn me into this industry and it is where I feel I belong.

SW: What was it like coming into AgReliant Genetics during a pandemic?

PN: The last year has challenged families, relationships, and companies across and country and throughout the world, my experience has been no different. As an extrovert and company leader, it has been tough to interact with co-workers and our customers virtually versus in-person. One important lesson I have learned from the pandemic is the importance of human interaction and relationships. I very much look forward to a time when it is safe to get out in the field and meet face-to-face with our employees and customers. These are experiences that are not only necessary to living out our mission to Help Farmers Grow, but also time that I thoroughly enjoy.

While the pandemic has created several challenges, it has also allowed me the space and time to better acquaint myself with the history and heritage of the organization and created an opportunity for me to best understand our business operations, our people, and our farmer and dealer customers.

I look forward to the future when I can resume a more personal engagement with the people inside and outside of our organization.

SW: What is something new you have learned this year?

PN: I have known for some time that America is a land full of opportunities and hardworking, innovative people who always find a way. This last year, we have experienced the true story of human resilience. We have been employees, teachers, full-time parents, caregivers and the list goes on. We have done this with this grit and perseverance.

In the midst of all of that, at least as it relates to AGR, my team has been strong. We have used ingenuity and flexibility and have found a way to get a lot of meaningful work done in unique ways. We were able to step back and recognize what is important and meaningful to farmers.

As a country, we have been going through some difficult periods of tension and mistrust, but I see from the hard work and commitment of my fellow Americans that our country is fundamentally good.

This year I have had the chance to slow down and reflect on the deep, deep love and respect I have for the United States and remind myself that as imperfect as this country may be, it is still ripe with opportunity. The future is looking toward an even better tomorrow.

SW: What are your top priorities for 2021-2022?

PN: At AgReliant Genetics, we are uniquely positioned to help our farmers and dealer customers grow their operations and profitability by providing them with broad, unique seed choice that maximizes the ROI on every acre.

In line with our mission, my two top priorities over the next year are first to reunite our people in a safe manner and energize them around our shared mission to Help Farmers Grow; and second to meet in the fields of our farmers and operations of dealer partners across the country to build relationships and understand the needs of our customers.