Chris Latham Named 2020 President of Iowa Seed Association
“It’s an honor to help lead such a long-standing organization like the Iowa Seed Association, which has more than 120 years of history behind it. It’s extra special to me because my dad, Bill; my uncle Don; and my brother, John, have all served in this same capacity,” says Chris, who has served on the ISA board since 2017. “This year will be particularly rewarding as John will be named president of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) in June, and I’m president of the Iowa Seed Association.”
Chris credits his dad for instilling within him a passion for the seed industry.
“I always admired Dad’s desire to learn about things and to apply it to whatever he did,” says Chris, who recalls summer vacations spent road tripping across the United States, taking in the sights on their way to the latest seed industry convention. “Dad loved research and headed up one of the largest independent soybean research programs. That was a lot of data to track by hand. He believed a computer system could help make keeping records easier for research, as well as for business.”
“There weren’t off-the-shelf bookkeeping or inventory programs available in the early 1980s, so Dad taught himself how to write code,” says Chris. “He developed Latham Seeds’ first computer system using an IBM System 36 green screen computer, which was really pretty cool back then. Spending time in the office with him instilled within me a love for computers and technology.”
After graduating from CAL High School in Latimer, Chris majored in Finance at Drake University. He graduated in May 1995 and worked full-time in the banking industry. On Saturdays, he attended classes at Iowa State University in Ames to earn a Master of Business Administration. Chris jokes that his time was better spent in the classroom because Iowa State football fans didn’t have much to cheer about at that time.
His MBA brought him opportunities to serve as CFO for two different companies in the Des Moines-area. He started helping with Latham Hi-Tech Hybrids on nights and weekends. Together with John and Shannon, they wrote a business plan in 2006 and placed third in the statewide John Pappajohn Education Center (JPEC) competition.
Five years after the corn company was launched, the third generation was able to purchase the family’s flagship soybean seed company. Chris came onboard full-time as CFO of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to take what I had learned through school and work experiences and build on the legacy of my dad, uncles, and grandparents,” says Chris. “While my background was not in agronomy, I felt I was in the right place and time to help grow the business. John and Shannon have backgrounds in sales and marketing respectively. We each have unique roles, so we can contribute in our own way.”
Chris says the most enjoyable part of his job is working with employees.
“Our employees have such rich backgrounds and experiences,” he says. “You really have a sense of purpose and feel like you’re contributing to the world by helping farmers. Each employee takes that role seriously while making it fun, too.”
Chris also likes that technology allows him to be part of the family’s seed operation while living in the Des Moines area. He and his family live in Urbandale, Iowa.
Chris’s wife, Ann, is a family and child psychologist. She specializes in helping kids with learning challenges. They are the proud parents of three children: Will, 14; Courtney, 11; and Morgan, 8; and all three attend Des Moines Christian Schools. Will is an eighth grader, who loves playing football, basketball and golf. A sixth grader, Courtney enjoys basketball and volleyball. Morgan is in second grade. She’s really into dance and music.
Today the Latham family is sharing with us a family favorite recipe for turkey tetrazzini. It’s a great way to repurpose Easter leftovers.
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/ 4 inch thick 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3/ 4 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/ 2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 pound linguine, broken in half
- 4 cups shredded turkey
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed and drained
- Preheat oven to 400. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (for pasta). In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over high heat. Add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until tender and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Make sauce: In same saucepan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add flour; cook, whisking, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, gradually add milk, broth, and wine. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and add 2 cups Parmesan and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions for al dente; drain and return to pot. Add sauce, turkey, peas, and mushrooms. Toss well to combine. Divide between two shallow 2-quart baking dishes; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Freeze or bake until browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.