On this episode of Where We Grow from Here, we connect with Tina May, Chief of Staff and VP of Rural Services for Land O’Lakes, Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Amanda De Jong, South West Business Unit Lead for Landus Cooperative. All three of our guests are remarkable leaders in agriculture who join us to celebrate International Women's Day. We are elated to share their stories, highlight their accomplishments, including stories growing up on the farm, working recent farm bills from both sides of the aisle, and share some learnings and advice for future leaders in ag.
If you are interested in learning more about some of the topics covered on this episode:
Amanda De Jong
South West Business Unit Lead
Amanda De Jong is the South West Business Unit Lead for Landus Cooperative headquartered in Ames. As part of the executive team, she is responsible for all grain, agronomy and feed across 22 locations in central and western Iowa. In addition, she manages government affairs, external affairs, sustainability and data innovation.
De Jong was raised on a corn and soybean farm in northeast Iowa near the town of Holy Cross. She attended Iowa State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business, and later earned a juris doctor from the University of Iowa Law School.
After law school, De Jong worked for USDA with the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) and the Under Secretary’s Office for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. De Jong worked four years with Senator Chuck Grassley, where she negotiated provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. In addition, she served as senior policy advisor for the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Most recently De Jong served as the State Executive Director of the Iowa Farm Service Agency at USDA, being appointed by President Trump in 2017.
De Jong is an active supporter of the Agriculture Future of America organization. She formed a non-profit organization, Young Professionals in Agriculture, to connect young people working in agriculture through networking, philanthropy and lifelong learning. She served as the organization’s first president and helped form other chapters throughout the U.S.
De Jong and her husband, Ryan, own and operate a cattle, hay and row crop operation near Rhodes, Iowa and are raising two young sons.
Oregon Department of Agriculture
Alexis Taylor is an Iowa native, who moved to the great state of Oregon after working 12 years in Washington D.C. focused on U.S. agricultural policy and veteran’s issues. Oregon Governor Kate Brown appointed Alexis as director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) in December 2016. As director, she works to promote and regulate agriculture and food always keeping ODA’s mission of ensuring healthy natural resources, environment and economy for Oregonians now and into the future at the forefront.
Prior to Alexis’ appointment, she oversaw the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS). While traveling the world she worked to open new markets and improve the competitive position of U.S. agricultural products in the marketplace. Before joining USDA, Alexis served several members in the U.S. Congress staffing members from Montana and her home state.
Alexis is a graduate of Iowa State University and grew up in “The Corn State” on her family farm, that has been in her family for 160 years. While still in high school she enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. During her sophomore year in college her unit was deployed to Iraq, where she served one tour with the 389th Combat Engineer Battalion. While no longer an active reservist she continues to advocate for veterans.
When not at work you can find Alexis hiking or paddle boarding with her dog Frankie.
Chief of Staff and VP of Rural Services
Tina May currently serves as the Chief of Staff and VP of Rural Services for Land O’Lakes, and leads the rural initiatives for the cooperative, including the American Connection Project. Prior to her time at Land O’ Lakes Tina worked in multiples roles in government on agriculture and food policy, as a Silicon Valley executive, and co-founder of the first ever Washington, D.C. based lobbying firm to incorporate as a Public Benefit Corporation.
While in government, Tina served as a political appointee for President Obama, first as the Legislative Director for USDA, then in the second term as Chief of Staff to U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden where she managed the departmental implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Tina served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry during both 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills. Tina was the policy director during the 2014 Farm Bill where she shepherded the conservation, forestry, and international development work for the Committee.
Tina started her career as an international grain trader and logistics coordinator with The Scoular Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Tina hails from a family farm in Stacyville, Iowa and has degrees from the University of Minnesota and the University of London. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband and three young boys and they get down to the family farm every chance they get.