Marri Tejada, known to many in the Council family as Marri Carrow, came to Washington, D.C., a decade ago to work at the U.S. Grains Council promoting the products her family grows on their farm in Minnesota.
Now, she lives in Panama, running programs spanning a vast region including Canada, Central America and South America and addressing a vast set of challenges, from basic education about using compound feed to some of the most intricate policy challenges facing the global grains markets today.
Tejada was honored for her 10 years of service to the organization at the Council’s 16th International Marketing Conference and 59th Annual Membership Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, last month.
Tejada spent slightly more than five years in the Washington office before moving in 2014 to become the Western Hemisphere regional director headquartered in Panama City, Panama.
Taking the helm at the Panama office fulfilled an ambition Tejada had long held, to live and work overseas. Now, she said she spends up to 70 percent of her time on the road, meeting with customers and engaging in the Council’s programs in her vast region.
“I did know I eventually wanted to be overseas or handle more overseas programs, with the Council or somewhere else,” she said. “That was a career goal of mine, since college, even before the Council. The Council afforded me that opportunity, and for that, I am extremely thankful.”
While in Washington, her job centered around meeting the needs of members and other stakeholders who keep the Council well-funded and growing. Overseas, she is focused on developing and implementing plans for the office, initiating programs and ensuring they are going in the right direction.
Having worked deeply in both the U.S-facing and customer-facing sides of the Council, she said she realizes how important having open communication and support is between and within the Council’s offices.
“I couldn’t do what I do on the ground if I didn’t have the support of the DC office and probably vice versa,” she said. “Though we are scattered, we are quite close.”
Like any jobs, hers at the Council have had good days and bad days and have brought significant change. The biggest lesson she said she learned moving to Panama: patience.
“When you’re the foreigner, you have to eat your humble pie, every day. If you go to a restaurant and don’t speak the language, you might not get what you thought you ordered,” she said. “If you don’t understand the culture or speak the language, you might not be successful. You need to have patience and understanding.”
Looking back on the journey – both metaphorical and literal – Tejada said she is grateful for the opportunity working at the Council has offered her and her team.
“It’s always different, every day is something different,” she said. “I am so aware of how great my team is here – I couldn’t do it without them.”
And looking to the future, she said she hopes to continue a nimble suite of programming to expand demand in her region while continuing to tell the story of why trade is so critical to agriculture.
“It’s really easy to say that something is a bad deal because of how it impacts one crop, but that’s a too simplistic way to view how trade works, and the importance of trade agreements and getting along with your neighbors,” she said. “Maybe I can see it because I live it.”
About the U.S. Grains Council
The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products including distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol. With full-time presence in 13 key markets and representatives in an additional 15 locations, the Council operates programs in more than 50 countries and the European Union. The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability. Detailed information about the Council and its programs is online at www.grains.org.