Spend a little time around Farming Smarter and you may experience an infamous Lewis Baarda quip coming at you from left field. He is, after all, the Field Tested Manager. But he’s one of those quiet people that catch you by surprise with a completely appropriate witticism when you don’t even know he’s listening.
Lewis joined Farming Smarter just as it was gaining momentum and growing rapidly in 2014. He liked the idea of working outside and the challenge of learning all the time.
“It was a place where I could apply my degree, but it didn’t mean I had to be in an office all day, every day. That was a big draw for me,” he says. “Farming Smarter is a really good fit for me.”
“I’ve learned a lot and been able to support or play some role in everything that Farming Smarter does. There’s so much going on and lots of opportunities to learn different things,” he says.
His responsibilities increased year over year and include taking part strategic planning, building the Farming Smarter brand, public speaking and all the aspects of extension that people don’t typically associate with agriculture and yet are part of his experience at Farming Smarter.
“It’s been fun to touch on all those things.”
Now, he’s moving into people management too with a student crew dedicated to his field scale trials each summer.
“I have some really good students who are excited to learn and able to take on some responsibility,” Lewis says. While it means less time outdoors for him, this gives him time to build his program and keep on top of his data and reporting.
“I enjoy seeing the students learn and grow too as they come to understand what we’re doing and why,” he says. “That’s kind of fun for me.”
The Field Tested program grew from four to 25 fields over the past four years. Lewis credits Farming Smarter’s move to program management with providing the focus and manpower he needed to grow his program.
“It gave me the space to put all my energy into it and have the resources when I need them, so I can do a better job,” he says.
He has more to give to the program too. “We’re doing impactful field trials and people know what the Field Tested program is about.” Lewis looks forward to building on partnerships with producers who give as much to the trials as his team. “We’re working together to test technologies.”
Lewis didn’t foresee making a career of Farming Smarter, but now can’t predict if he’ll ever leave.
“Things are still changing, I’m still challenged all the time and doing new things,” he says. Although, he’s heard that if a person wants to make a major career change, it’s best to do it before you turn 40. “Maybe it’s time for me to become a doctor,” he quips.