Member spotlight: Johnelle Brown

Johnelle Brown headshotName: Johnelle Brown

Title: Director of Operations & Human Capital, Corn Refiners Association

What is your background and how did you find your way into the ag industry?

I spent nearly 10 years working in commercial real estate as a property manager before making a career change. After leaving real estate, I began my journey in human resources realizing that any company’s real assets are their human capital-their people! An opportunity to lead the Corn Refiners human capital efforts led me to the agriculture industry. It has been an amazing adventure to lead CRA’s operations & HR efforts while having the opportunity to learn about the ag industry.

Why is diversity important to you and your organization?

Diversity is important to me because every human is deserving of respect, opportunity, and happiness. It’s just that simple. Labels like diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging help us to breakdown the fight for these basic rights.

The Corn Refiners Association elevates diversity because we know that the organization is more impactful with different perspectives and backgrounds represented and that for the agriculture industry to thrive, the future pipeline of talent will have to expand.

What current diversity initiatives do you have planned or ongoing?

The Corn Refiner Association is collaborating with our member companies to diversify the pipeline of workforce talent that will be the future of food and agriculture. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee oversees these efforts and endeavors to tackle this initiative through education and providing scholarships for students from marginalized communities.

In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening in the industry currently?

I think innovation and change are the most exciting things happening in the ag industry and everywhere in the world. If things aren’t changing, they aren’t growing and evolving. The future is bright because there is an awareness that change needs to happen and even though the changes may be slow, they are happening!

What is your vision for the future of agriculture?

I envision the future of agriculture as a place of inclusive innovation. I want to see creativity come to life by all kinds of people as we continue to figure out how to feed our global population.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your organization or the agriculture industry?

Because corn is nature’s renewable building block, whether they know it or not, nearly every person in our country uses products that contain corn ingredients. These include medications, cosmetics, detergents, plastics – the list goes on and on. In fact, corn is in most products sold in the grocery store. Additionally, our industry is helping the planet by advancing the bioeconomy.

So, we are all benefiting from the corn refining industry. It’s only right that the corn refining industry should benefit from the different perspectives we all have to offer. I guess you could say everyone needs corn, and corn needs everyone!

Kristin Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, Together We Grow

Kristin Kirkpatrick is the Executive Director for Together We Grow and the Center for an Enhanced Workforce in Agribusiness, located at Colorado State University. In this role, Kristin works alongside a consortium of many of the world’s largest agribusiness interests, including members of industry, non-governmental organizations, higher education, and government institutions. Together We Grow is focused on building a skilled, diverse, and inclusive agricultural workforce that can power the innovation needed to feed the future.   

Kristin has always had a passion for systems change that creates more equitable opportunities and has done this work through the lenses of public health, policy advocacy, and community development. Most recently, she helped lead Kimbal Musk’s national nonprofit Big Green, which integrates food literacy education into school curriculums across the country.

Kristin has been an instructor with the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU and served as Chief of Wellness Planning for Bellisimo Development Inc., helping lead the master planning, design, and actualization of the award-winning Bucking Horse and landmark Jessup Farm projects in Fort Collins, Colo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science from CSU and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Colorado.