This week I find myself sorting through a mountain of turbulent emotions. After a wonderful ride of 22 years, I am no longer the CEO of Agren. Last week, we inked a deal with a major agribusiness whereby they acquired Agren and our software. As I said, this announcement comes with a range of emotions.
The process of selling Agren has come with feelings of sorrow and loss. I would be lying if I said this process has been easy. It is difficult to walk away from a life-time spent pursuing a passion and realizing the rewards of relationships built over the years.
On the upside, the sale of Agren has been extremely gratifying. Knowing our software is in the hands of a major ag retailer is rewarding. If the U.S. agriculture sector is going to address their environmental challenges, more farmers must have access to conservation technology. With the sale of Agren, the workforce to deliver soil and water conservation services to farmers may have doubled or tripled overnight. That makes me very proud.
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. – Paulo Coehlo
During the past 22 years, of Agren’s success has been a team effort. Building the Agren team started when brother, Stan, joined me in business. After the initial six months of struggling to hold things together, I asked Stan to be my equal partner at Agren – an equal partner in all things good and bad. Stan’s impact on our progress was immediate. He provided a rudder for my aspiring and ambitious vision. Agren would have failed many times over without Stan’s clarity and focus.
Shortly after Stan came on board, we invited a third Buman brother (Bob) to join our team – with that, it became a family business. In 1997, Monsanto asked us to research the benefits of soil health on 20 sites in the corn and cotton belts. It was Bob who led the charge by developing the protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for gathering and analyzing the soil health data. Through the years, Bob has continued to be a loyal and integral member of the Agren team.
And if three brothers weren’t enough family for one business, Peggy (my wife) worked two different stints at Agren. Peggy’s contributions are immeasurable. As an employee, Peggy single-handedly saved and revitalized Agren by writing the perfect grant application to fund a large prescribed fire study. However, Peggy’s contribution went far beyond that of a coworker. She has been an endless source of advice, support, and wisdom for both me and others at Agren. To have my family be part of Agren’s success has been an incredible blessing.
Agren’s success goes well beyond the Buman name, though. It is also about the family of employees who worked side-by-side, often in tight quarters. A couple of years after Stan and I incorporated a bright, talented college student from Colorado State University knocked on the Agren door. Jamie (Roby) Ridgely, persistently pursued, what was then, a non-existent internship opportunity and joined the team. Jamie’s mark on Agren cannot be overstated. She quickly became a cornerstone of Agren. I cannot thank Jamie enough for her analytical and management skills over the years.
There have been many talented employees who worked for Agren throughout the years. But none more capable than the staff that transitioned Agren from a consulting firm to a software firm. First, Amy Dreith (10 years) and Melissa Davis (4 years) provided ongoing support that allowed Agren to grow and flourish. And finally, the development team of John Waterman, Jim Lyon, Matthew Sloan, Nikki Lee, Bernard Ntiamoah, and Leonardo Gonzalez. These multi-talented developers are responsible for programming the best, most user-friendly, conservation software ever developed.
Yes, the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for me, both good and bad. I am sad Agren is now in the history books. However, my pride in the accomplishments of the Agren team throughout our 22 history overshadows any of my grief. I would not trade the past 22 years for any other career opportunity. It has been a great ride.
I want to thank everyone, including the many people – (advisors, business leaders, farmers, researchers, board of directors, conservationists, family, friends) – I have gotten to know on both a personal and professional level. It is with gratitude and appreciation for each of you as the Agren story draws to a close.
But stand by, it’s not the end. There’s more to come.
My new contact information:
C: (712) 830-7712
209 N. Main St.
Carroll, IA 51401