Boldness and Humility: A True Leadership Trait

They met in 1989 at the Best Western hotel in Moline, Illinois to talk about the challenges facing seed companies at the time. Among those present was Bill Latham, who wanted to work alongside like-minded advocates of independent seed businesses.

The group’s main concern? How to keep from being shut out of the best genetics and early traits in soybeans (and later corn) as those traits came into the marketplace.

Chris Latham, who was 16 years old, remembers lots of “kitchen table talk” at his home in Alexander, Iowa, where Bill and others actively brainstormed ways to move forward.

“It was frankly a scary time,” Chris says. “The future was very uncertain as large companies could have easily shut out independents.”

As a result of those early discussions, however, the Independent Professional Seed Association (IPSA) was born. Fast forward 35 years later: Bill Latham’s sons, Chris and John, are still carrying on their father’s example as stewards in the industry.

“IPSA has always had great innovators, my father included,” says Chris, who just concluded a one-year term as president of the organization. He previously served as president of the Iowa Seed Association, and older brother John continues to serve on the board of the American Seed Trade Association.

Chris Vertical

Chris Latham, CFO for Latham Seeds

“Independent companies provide a critical pathway for new products and ideas — outside what global seed companies can offer,” Chris says. “The inherent nature of independent companies is to find innovative ways to create value for farmers outside of the traditional trait and genetic pathways.”

Chris says his goal as IPSA president was to tell its members’ stories through bold and humble leadership. He also aimed to help the industry push forward, despite many mergers and consolidations among the global companies. Often, he says, Wall Street undervalues the benefits that independent companies bring to agriculture — a lesson he learned not only from his father but as CFO of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.

“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. “I literally grew up in the seed business.”

After graduating from CAL High School in Latimer, Iowa, 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, his brother John and sister-in-law Shannon Latham purchased the family’s flagship soybean seed company in 2009 as the third-generation owners.

“While my background was not in agronomy, I felt I was in the right place and time to help grow the business,” Chris says. “John and Shannon have backgrounds in sales and marketing respectively. We each have unique roles, so we can contribute in our own way.”

Chris’s wife, Ann, is a family and child psychologist. She specializes in helping kids with learning challenges. They live in Urbandale, Iowa, and have three children: Will, Courtney and Morgan.

He shares his favorite recipe Turkey Tetrazzini below.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Recipe by Chris Latham


• Coarse salt and ground pepper
• 6 Tablespoons butter
• 1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced ¼ inch thick
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• 3 cups milk
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
• ¾ cup dry white wine
• 3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
• ½ 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.