News and Updates

Honoring Gary Vogen: Serving Farmers Over the Span of a Career

Early in 2024, Gary Vogen started a new chapter in his life: retiree, after working for Yara North America for 17 years. He started out as a farmer in Northern Illinois; and, throughout his career, Vogen has remained connected to agriculture.

“My entire life, I’ve been serving farmers: First, in grain origination and farm supplies; then, broadening into full-service agriculture retail; and, finally, serving the broader industry for a fertilizer producer,” Vogen says.

In January 1984, Vogen was hired as general manager of a local grain company coop. Within the year, he was managing his original and a neighboring coop, both of which would combine to become Grainco, Inc. He stayed there for seven years, until GROWMARK tapped him to be their Grain Services Director for Northern Illinois.

Vogen developed an expertise in grain merchandising, risk management, and business management — going on to manage three other full-service cooperatives in the GROWMARK system in Illinois and Iowa.

He later joined GROWMARK’s Corporate Division as Market Manager for Plant Food, sourcing all fertilizer materials for the GROWMARK System. Eventually, Vogen moved to Yara, where he began as a regional sales manager and finished as vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs.

Of his many career accomplishments, Vogen is most proud of seeing other people succeed. “I’ve been able to hire, and encourage, and mentor, and there are a bunch of those people that are successful in their own right,” Vogen says. “I feel the most accomplished when I think that, maybe, I had a hand in others’ accomplishments.”

Vogen says his mantra is to always start with the customer in mind, to do what you say you are going to do. From there, he believes everything should be built on a relationship, which needs to exist if a person is completing a deal, a business transaction with a customer, or trying to influence a decision. His advice to those just starting out is simple: Find what you like, work hard at it, and people will notice.

Looking to the Future

Most professionals know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night and think: Did I miss something? Am I responsible for a task that I forgot to do? For Vogen, he looks forward to not having those concerns on his mind during retirement.

Additionally, when he goes to visit his children and grandchildren, he won’t have to plan the trips around work meetings and events. And, appreciating the small conveniences retirement offers, Vogen says, he’s glad he will not have to carry two phones anymore.

Taking Stock of What Matters

Vogen calls his worklife “a degree in business experience – I have learned though success and failure, trial and error.” He goes on to say that he has been blessed with many opportunities to excel, learn, and love what he does.

In 2022, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) recognized Vogen with the ARA Distinguished Service Award during the ARA Conference & Expo.

Selected by the ARA Executive Committee, the ARA Distinguished Service Award honors individual members of ARA who work to make the industry better for everyone as they exceed the traditional responsibility of supporting the ag retail industry.

When ResponsibleAg was founded in 2014, Yara, one of the world’s largest crop nutrition companies, contributed to the effort by offering its scientific and regulatory expertise. That’s when Vogen volunteered for ResponsibleAg’s Technical Committee. Ultimately, Vogen joined ResponsibleAg’s Board of Directors.

“Gary’s leadership has benefited our industry in important ways as board chair of ResponsibleAg through its strategic transition in order to better meet the needs of ag retail facilities across the nation” says ARA President and CEO Daren Coppock.

For Vogen, ResponsibleAg’s mission appealed to him both professionally and personally as a meaningful program that demonstrates commitment to employees and communities. “We, as companies, are much better off volunteering to show that we know how to act properly, rather than waiting for a disaster to prove that we don’t.”

ResponsibleAg has grown since its beginning almost 10 years ago, and Vogen is pleased with its processes and application to a wide array of agricultural businesses. Likewise, he acknowledges the partnerships ResponsibleAg has throughout the industry and government as well as the strong commitment from The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), ARA, and Asmark.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the industry in this capacity,” Vogen says. “I never would have guessed that I would have this opportunity; it’s been a true pleasure.”

Media Contact

Jennifer Proctor, Proctor Strategic Communications