Women’s empowerment celebrated at United Grain Corporation | State and Region

VANCOUVER, Wash. – United Grain Corporation (UGC), the largest grain facility and terminal in Vancouver, Wash., celebrated Women’s Empowerment Month in March by recognizing the critical role women play in agribusiness .

“From the field to finance, women are at the heart of UGC, bringing high-quality grain from American farmers to markets around the world,” said Augusto Bassanini, CEO and President of UGC.

Bassanini pointed out that giving women the opportunity to do some of UGC’s most important jobs has allowed them to better feed people around the world.

Meg Johnston, a hedge desk analyst at the Vancouver headquarters, is one such woman UGC recognizes.

Johnston rose through the ranks, working in elevators in southwestern North Dakota and Washington — working with producers and grain markets around the world every step of the way.

Johnston grew up in central Oregon on a hobby farm, where her parents helped her and her brother acquire horses and other animals to show off at 4-H Achievement Days and county fairs.

People also read…

“I got involved with 4-H and FFA early on as both my parents were ex-Montana and Idaho kids so we grew up with horses, cattle, sheep and chickens to show for 4 -H and made other plans,” she said.

Additionally, Johnston’s grandparents were dairy and sheep farmers in Idaho, and she would visit their operation as a child.

“I loved every minute of it. If you pick up someone from town and take them to the farm, everyone will be mesmerized by the milking machines and the baby calves. It was always fun,” said she declared.

After gaining experience in FFA, Johnston got “more serious” with farming.

Johnston said she had gained confidence in FFA leadership, public speaking and parliamentary procedure and had participated in different FFA competitions. She learned that there were careers in agriculture that didn’t necessarily involve operating a farm or ranch.

“In FFA, I was lucky to have a great advisor who made sure we had good internship opportunities, like at the vets and in the food shops,” she said. “I’ve always had a business sense, so I was drawn to the business side of farming and worked in grain merchandising or sales and marketing.

FFA has consolidated its career goals in agriculture.

“It shaped my determination to go to Oregon State University for a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management and it certainly stems from my experience with FFA,” Johnston said.

At Oregon State University, CHS, a major grain and oilseed buyer and trader, hosted a graduate student recruitment event.

“It was a program they put in place for college graduates for two years, and I was lucky to get a position with them,” she said.

CHS brought the graduates they hired, including Johnston, to their headquarters in Minneapolis where they had the opportunity to work for six months in four different departments.

“It gave us a really good overview of what the CHS is doing for agriculture,” Johnston said.

After two years of the CHS program, Johnston decided that what she really loved doing was grain marketing.

She applied for a position in grain marketing at CHS Southwest Grain in Gladstone, ND

“I moved to Dickinson, ND, and worked there as a grain marketing assistant,” she said.

Johnston worked with retired Grain Division Manager Jim Bobb and current Grain Division Manager Brian Fadness at the elevator and learned all aspects of grain marketing from them.

“They were so helpful – wonderful people with a wealth of knowledge,” she said, adding that she always calls and talks to them. “Once Jim and Brian had me put my knowledge into a real-life, practical situation, that’s when I really started to understand the hedge and how it works.”

Johnston kept busy marketing grain at CHS Southwest Grain while she was there for three years.

“I was buying and selling grain to farmers, and I had a very comprehensive experience at Southwest Grain,” she said.

While she was a grain seller at the office, which was separate from the elevator with its huge grain silos, Johnston occasionally checked in on what was happening as farmers hauled their grain.

“Once in a while I would go into the house and talk to the guys because I had never worked in a grain elevator before,” she says. “When I started, I used to go there for a few days, and they showed me how they took samples from the trucks with the big arm.”

In the house, they analyzed grain samples in computers to obtain grain data.

“I never went there and physically threw them in the trucks, but they were explaining to me how they sort the grain into bins,” she said. “If they needed help, I would help tag (put metal seals on) the cars, which is always great fun in North Dakota weather.”

Johnston explained that along with tagging, she would seal the cars as a security measure to ensure they are not opened or tampered with – from the time they are loaded to the time the car arrives at destination. .

Johnston has also been able to profit from activities such as designing new websites for CHS Southwest Grain and producing promotional materials.

“It was really fun because Jim and Brian fully believed in me and gave me every opportunity in grain marketing, allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them, and then get by, which is what you need when you’re just starting out,” she said.

After CHS Southwest Grain, Johnston worked in dairy marketing in Seattle. She loved the challenge of all the different aspects of agricultural marketing.

“It was an eye opener for me – learning how to market dairy products internationally,” she said.

There, Johnston met her future husband, Jonathan, and they have a baby, Gwyeneth.

After a while, Johnston realized that she “still loved the grain world.” She knew Brian Liedl, senior merchant at UGC, as well as others, when she worked at CHS and CHS Southwest Grain.

UGC offered him the opportunity to work on their cover desk at headquarters. She had the experience to meet the challenge.

“I worked in hedging while at CHS and sold commodity futures while at CHS Southwest Grain. I sold futures to my last position in dairy,” Johnston said. “It’s really exciting and fast-paced, and it takes a lot of research to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world.”

Johnston said she enjoys her job as a UGC coverage bureau analyst and working with Rob Froom, the senior manager of the central coverage bureau.

“Rob is a wealth of knowledge and is great at sharing resources and pointing us in the right direction. It’s really easy to learn and find more information with such a great team,” she said. “If anyone hears something or finds something, even if it’s not directly related to what they do, they’re happy to share it.”

With grain coverage, Johnston knows how grain movements can be affected by geopolitical tensions around the world.

“The world today is so interconnected, and with something as big as Ukraine, the situation in Russia is definitely affecting grain markets. It’s unfortunate,” she said.

The US dollar is still high against other countries’ currencies, so it is still unclear if more US wheat will be bought this year. But if something big happens in the world, we could see companies forced to come to the United States and pay higher prices, which would lead to higher prices for our grain here in the United States, has she declared.

Johnston explained that during harvest, grain prices drop because there is more supply available.

“As we go through the year and the supply goes down, the price tends to go up a bit. We’ve certainly seen prices go up at times, not only for spring wheat, but also for winter wheats and white wheats,” she said.

In addition to wheat, UGC processes corn, primarily Oregon, sorghum, and a small amount of other Montana produce, such as barley or peas.

“United Grain is primarily a wheat company,” she said.

Johnston said she was honored to be recognized during UGC’s Women’s Empowerment Month, and as such, she loves to see more young women involved in grain hedging and marketing.

At 30, Johnston is young, herself, and has a long career ahead of her in an elite position in the grain world.

“Again, not something I would have thought of before joining FFA and going to college. I didn’t even know there were commodity futures trading” , Johnston said with a laugh.

Mara R. Wilmoth