ABERDEEN, S.D. — Farmer-owned cooperative Wheat Growers in Aberdeen, S.D., kicked off its 2018 fiscal year Aug. 1 under new leadership.

Chris Pearson succeeds Dale Locken, who is retiring as Chief Executive Officer of the cooperative. Locken served the cooperative for 15 years, guiding it through an extended period of growth that provided Wheat Growers’ members with more convenient and efficient grain handling facilities and expanded agronomy locations to support their farm productivity and success. During Locken’s tenure, Wheat Growers added 14 locations, expanded grain storage, upgraded grain handling facilities, added shuttle loading facilities and expanded its agronomy service centers.

In addition, under Locken’s leadership, Wheat Growers earned national recognition as one of America’s Safest Companies from EHS Today magazine, the first agricultural organization to achieve the honor. Wheat Growers, the 2014 Precision Farming Dealer Most Valuable Dealership, was also was honored as Retailer of the Year by the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA).

Pearson, a native of Corning, Iowa, spent 14 years in local co-op systems in Iowa, holding several positions ranging from entry level to Chief Operating Officer. He joined Wheat Growers in 2013 as Senior Vice President of Operations and was promoted a year ago to Chief Operating Officer. In March of this year, the Wheat Growers Board introduced Pearson as the new Wheat Growers CEO after a rigorous and extensive evaluation conducted by the Wheat Growers Board and outside sources.

John Husk, who had held the position of Senior Vice President of Operations, becomes the cooperative’s new Chief Operating Officer. Husk joined Wheat Growers in 2016. Husk has extensive leadership experience from the feed, grain and agronomy supply side of agriculture cooperatives in Virginia, Illinois and Minnesota. His most recent role was with Southern States of Richmond, Va., as General Manager in Western Kentucky. Before that, he served at Elburn Cooperative, Sycamore, Ill., where he was President and CEO for 12 years.