Seed World

Diving into Like-Minded Businesses with Chris Cornelius

Since the 1990s, the Independent Professional Seed Association (IPSA) has been a pillar supporting independent seed companies across the U.S. gather — not in competition, but in collaboration. 

For Chris Cornelius, agriculture was always in the forefront.

“I grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm,” Cornelius, executive assistant at Cornelius Seed and upcoming IPSA president, says. “I knew that’s where I wanted to be — it’s where my heart is.”

Growing up, Cornelius wanted to be a veterinarian, but her high school chemistry and algebra classes changed the direction for her future. She earned a degree in ag journalism at Iowa State.

“It melded the best of both worlds because I could take a variety of agriculture classes plus a wide array of journalism,” she says. 

After marrying Chuck, Cornelius also married into the seed business. She got her start working as a detasseling crew leader the first summer. As the company started progressively growing, Cornelius took over the order entry some of the marketing and planning meetings.

“The really nerve-wracking part was adding all the orders by hand, making sure the totals were correct and then turning them over to my father-in-law,” she jokes. “Once we had a computer and seed software totaling orders was a piece of cake.”

Marketing, however, was where Cornelius found a passion.

“Everybody has their own strength,” Cornelius says. “My favorite piece is marketing, and I still get to dabble in that, but I am currently in charge of payroll and HR — there’s always something to learn I get to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work.”

As for IPSA, Cornelius said she’s been lucky to have been very involved since the first meetings in St. Louis. There, she really loved getting to know like-minded businesses who wanted what was best for each other. When it came to diving into the leadership, however, she was a little more hesitant.

“Chuck was approached to be on the board a number of years ago. He served two terms and was president,” she says. “Four years ago, I got the call — I remember Chuck mentioning how they would talk about money and finances, not my strong suit. Chuck reminded me my strength lies elsewhere — people skills.”

Being able to read people and discern situations is just as important as needing those finance skills. 

“I needed to hear you don’t need to have all the same skill sets to be on the board, nor should you,” Cornelius says. “That was the little push I needed.”
This part two of a three-part story. Make sure to check out about Tim Greene’s legacy in part one.

How have Chris Cornelius and Tim Greene worked with IPSA and the IPSA board? Check back tomorrow!

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