Iowa Alumni Magazine | October 2007 | People

Growing Business: James Andrew

By Shelbi Thomas
James Andrew received the American Soybean Association's 2007 National Conservation Legacy Award for his business approach to farming and investing in the land.

In a typical day, James Andrew attends meetings, checks e-mails, prepares reports, and reviews goals and objectives. It's what you'd expect from an Iowa business grad. Andrew, 71BBA, is more than just a businessman, though — he's also a farmer who's found success in combining his business education with a passion for the land that's been in his family for five generations.

The president and general manager of a 1,350-acre corn and soybean farm near Jefferson, Andrew views farming as a business, not a lifestyle. Although he spends plenty of hours tending his crops in the fields, he notes: "[Many farmers are] so driven on an annual basis that they lose sight of the big picture. They like fieldwork, but don't like the paper and planning that make a good business."

What's good for Andrew's business is also good for the environment. He sees conservation as central to his farm's future success, setting aside money for it each year. Grassy fields bordering the farm control erosion and provide wildlife habitat. Tile drainage and terraces prevent erosion. A dike, as well as three ponds and trees, helps control sediments and runoff water.

In 1993, as part of his mission to make the most of his land's resources, Andrew switched to a no-till operation. Instead of plowing his fields, he plants crops over the previous yield's stalks, so that the soil stays rich and doesn't erode.

The businessman-farmer reaped the rewards of such efforts this past spring when the American Soybean Association presented him with the 2007 National Conservation Legacy Award. He credits his father's guidance, as well as the accounting, record-keeping, and strategic planning training he received at the UI, for helping him emerge as a leader in his field. As an at-large director of the Iowa Soybean Association, Andrew spreads his forward-thinking message by working on state and federal conservation legislation and advising farmers worldwide.

"While implementing our conservation plans over the last 40 years, my father and I took great personal satisfaction in what we were doing to preserve our soil, water, and wildlife," says Andrew. "[We practice conservation] not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others inspired to follow."