SOURCE Magazine Spring 2023 | Page 21

How one man ’ s dedication molded the lives of several leaders in the FS System
SOURCE | Spring 2023 9

A Connection Through the Years

How one man ’ s dedication molded the lives of several leaders in the FS System

Chris Grogan , GROWMARK Publications and Media Relations Manager cgrogan @ growmark . com
For Jim Bierman , staying busy is just a part of his DNA .
“ I officially retired from the GROWMARK System in 1995 but I ’ ve been working ever since then ,” says Bierman with a laugh .
That strong work ethic began back when he was a kid , joining 4-H and eventually becoming a leader for 17 years . Those years ended up forming lifelong connections , several of whom are now leaders within the FS System .
“ I found 4-H , and also FFA later , to be really beneficial for public speaking and getting to know all aspects of agriculture ,” adds Bierman .
He stayed connected with 4-H into his adulthood , becoming a leader and a mentor to many in the Island Grove community , a township located in south central Illinois . Jim ’ s son , Don Bierman , says 4-H was just part of family life growing up .
“ Both my mom and dad led 4-H for decades , so they impacted those young men and women growing up professionally and helping them participate in that program ,” adds Don Bierman . “ And it ’ s hard to argue with the result that so many of these people ended up in leadership positions in the GROWMARK System .”
Sunrise FS General Manager Jim Meinhart is one of the almost dozen GROWMARK System leaders who were impacted by Bierman ’ s 4-H leadership .
Meinhart recalls that Bierman was also his family ’ s FS sales representative . That career with FS started in 1960 with Rich-Law Service Company , which would eventually merge with Wabash Valley Service Company . He started out driving a feed truck , and then got into sales .
“ I tell the story that I didn ’ t know that farmers could buy feed from anywhere else than FS ,” jokes Bierman ’ s son , Don .
Jim Bierman eventually rose up to sales manager through the decades , and finally operations manager . He retired from the FS System in 1995 .
“ I had been there for more than 35 years and felt like I had done just about everything ,” recalls Bierman .
Yet retirement wasn ’ t in the cards for long , as Bierman went to work for another company traveling all over Illinois and western parts of Indiana for nine years selling fertilizer parts and supplies . These days , Bierman works part time for the EJ Water Cooperative in Dieterich , Illinois , reading customer meters .
“ I get about 13 days of work in a month and that ’ s just about perfect for me right now ,” says Bierman .
Meinhart says Bierman ’ s dedication to his work , agriculture , and community has made a far-reaching impact . In total , the group of employees who were mentored by Bierman has more than 250 years of service to the FS System .
“ He represented someone you wanted to emulate in your life , and still does ,” adds Meinhart . “ Jim truly was one of those people our whole community looked up to and he just represents himself so well .”
Don Bierman says he believes his dad symbolizes the true nature of what agricultural cooperatives and leaders should bring to their customers and communities .
“ It ’ s about being in the community and wearing that heart on your sleeve and believing in what we do ,” Don adds . “ It ’ s people like my dad that bring the cooperative to life and make the System as strong as it is . There are lots of people like that across the FS System who we can look at and celebrate . It ’ s just so unique .”
“ All nine of us grew up within a three-mile circle of each other ,” Meinhart adds . “ We all grew up on hog , dairy , and other farms , and we all called Jim a role model , and still do ! He took so much time out of his life and spent all of those nights doing 4-H meetings , in addition to spending time with his family and having a career .”
Don and Jim Bierman