For Bayer Exec Darren Wallis, Thanksgiving Can Be Anywhere, Even in a Field
Thursday, December 3, 2015
For this guest blog, we took the opportunity to interview Darren Wallis, the newly appointed Head of North American Communications at Bayer CropScience to ask him how he was celebrating Thanksgiving this year. For us at BCS, we are thankful Darren has joined our team, and we wanted to find out what he was thankful for, his family traditions, and why agriculture is important to him.
1. Where and how will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?
I’ll be in St. Louis spending time with my family. My mom, dad, brother and his wife will all be coming up from the farm in southeast Missouri to join us and we’ll all have a terrific meal together. I have three boys and we have made a tradition of running the Turkey Day 5K. That will kick off our morning and then I’ll come back and start making the meal with my wife. We’ll be getting ready for all of our company, cooking, cleaning setting up folding chairs... you know, the whole drill. If it’s cold enough outside, one of my favorite things to do is to build a fire in our fireplace so we can all sit down with a nice glass of wine afterwards and talk and play games. But regardless of the set up, the holidays are more about spending time with the people most important in your life, not where you are. For me, it’s less about the date or location and more about spending time with my family.
2. What was Thanksgiving like growing up?
Since I grew up on a farm, Thanksgiving was pretty varied. It depended on if harvest was done or not. If it was, we would alternate between the homes of my grandparents. I had one grandma who lived in the country on the other side of our farm, while my other grandma and grandpa lived in a small city about 20 minutes away. When we celebrated Thanksgiving on my grandma’s farm, we’d all sit down and eat in her big, country kitchen around a massive old table with 3 kinds of every food across the top, much of which was from her garden or the farm itself. She had a habit of preparing for an army of people - there were 3 types of everything – meat, potatoes, bread, vegetables, and desserts. Her homemade pie crusts were the best!
My city grandparents lived in the sprawling metropolis of Jackson, Missouri and when we would travel to be with them, we’d all bring a side dish to share then sit on the porch swing and talk after the meal. But that was only if harvest was finished. If harvest still needed to take place, we’d have our turkey sandwiches in the back of a pickup out in the field and then hop back into the combine to finish the day’s work. Those are among my favorite memories with the crisp air outside, the warm sun on your face and the smell of a corn or bean field around you. When you were hungry and waiting on lunch, there was no better sight than mom or grandma bringing out the sandwiches to us on the four wheeler for our tailgate Thanksgiving feast. So I guess that’s why I’ve adopted the notion that giving thanks and celebrating Thanksgiving is less about the date or location and more about the people around you.
3. Why is agriculture and the agricultural community so important to you?
That’s really interesting for me because my sentiments have changed over time. When I left for college, the farm was all I knew and I left actually wanting little to nothing to do with agriculture. My dad really encouraged me to get into agribusiness but given how wise and smart I was at 18 years old, I had different ideas. So I worked in communications for a little over a decade in the hi-tech sector but life and fate brought me back to my roots and I’ve been working in agricultural communications for more than eight years and continued that journey in my new role at Bayer. I’m glad I made the switch, because it feels like home in so many ways. What I find very personally fulfilling about it is that no other industry can make such a critical impact on the world in human health and well-being, and protecting our environmental sustainability. I believe agriculture can be and is a core piece of solving some of the world’s biggest challenges both for today and into the future. The second piece of that is the group of people that work in agriculture. Be it the growers, retailers, or the young men and women looking for opportunities, I find that people who work in and are interested in agriculture are really among the best of the best. I truly enjoy every interaction with this hard-working group of individuals. I love hearing their stories of how they came to be interested in agriculture, and where they are going next. And that also stretches to a global level. I’ve had the opportunity to go to Africa and many other countries and it’s been my experience that those same values hold true for all those who work in this industry, no matter where you are in the world.
4. How is Bayer getting involved this holiday season? What is Bayer thankful for?
The people of Bayer are really engaged and involved in their community in a variety of ways. Be it volunteering for a non-profit in the Research Triangle area or participating in their churches and schools, I see the people of Bayer giving back in so many ways. One thing we’ve done as a company is raise awareness of being #Thankful4Ag. I think during this time of year many of us reflect on what we are thankful for, and I’m really proud this organization has spent the better part of a year raising awareness for the ag industry and encouraging people to be thankful for all that agriculture does for them to create safe, affordable and nutritious food and clothing.
5. What are you thankful for?
I am thankful for family, for the opportunity to work in a terrific industry, and to have a great team around me all working to help advance agriculture and meet the needs of farmers and agribusinesses. Ultimately, I'm thankful for my family first and foremost, and for the opportunity to live, work, play and lead a healthy lifestyle with their love and support.
Follow @Bayer4CropsUS on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest Bayer CropScience news, and visit Thankful4Ag.com to join Darren and other AgVocates in supporting our national initiative.
Darren Wallis has worked in communications for more than 20 years and recently joined Bayer CropScience as vice president and head of communications for North America. He is responsible for all internal and external corporate communications activities, and is based at the North American headquarters for Bayer CropScience in Research Triangle Park, NC.