Seed World

How to Draw in and Keep the ‘Best of the Best’ Talent

WSA’s Young Seedsman of the Year talks recruitment and retention… and his is advice worth considering.

Each year at its annual ‘Western’ convention, the Western Seed Association (WSA) chooses one up-and-coming seed industry leader to receive its Young Seedsman of the Year award. The winner must be under age 40, currently involved in both the seed industry and the Western Seed Association, and someone who embodies enthusiasm for the seed industry and willingness to help and work with others within the industry. The WSA Young Seedsman of the Year for 2023 is Walker Sik, grain and forage product manager at Millborn Seeds in Brookings, South Dakota. We sat down with Walker to chat about what drew him to seeds, how the industry can attract other top-notch talent, and what he’d like to achieve next.   

Seed World: One of the biggest challenges the seed industry faces is drawing young talent. You could have gone in all kinds of directions, both in school and after you graduated from South Dakota State University five years ago. What drew you to the seed industry? 

Walker Sik

Walker Sik: I grew up on a farm, which provided me with immediate exposure to the agriculture industry and is where I learned to enjoy it as well. I graduated with a degree in agronomy, and the seed industry was a natural fit for that education and experience to be applied to. When I eventually learned about Millborn Seeds and the specialty seed space within that industry, I was instantly intrigued. It was a different path in the seed industry than what I was raised and educated in. I thought it could provide me with an opportunity to be creative with my career and make a bigger impact on the people and businesses I would eventually work with. 

SW: How can the seed industry keep drawing the ‘best of the best’ into its ranks? 

WS: The industry needs to provide opportunities that allow freedom and incentives for individuals who add value. The ‘best of the best’ type people want to work. And they want to work for companies that don’t limit their ability to add value through their work. If someone is being properly incentivised for the value they provide, then those individuals will naturally focus and work hard on the things that add value to them and the company they work for. 

SW: Nicely said. That’s some of the clearest advice I’ve heard lately for industry leaders. Let me switch gears a little to mentorship and training. You interned with Millborn Seeds, then stepped into its Product Manager role. How important are intern opportunities to young seedsmen looking to begin careers? 

WS: I think any experience that exposes you to the different types of work involved in the industry is extremely valuable. Whether that is an internship or just another job within the business, knowing your business/industry from A-Z will allow you to solve any problem you face, and find opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be as obvious.

SW: You’re already making a name for yourself in the industry. What’s your hope for next steps? 

WS: I don’t really have a specific career position or plan in mind that I am constantly striving for. But I know that I would like to become a better servant to the people and businesses that I am working with today, and to expand that network as well. So whatever path or job that looks like in the future, I think I will naturally try to put myself in a position where I can continue to create and add value to other individuals and businesses.