Sid Bardwell, MBA '89:
Planting the seeds of mechanization around the world
As a boy in the 1960s, Sid Bardwell spent summers on his grandparent's
dairy farm outside Madison, Wisc. During college, as an Asian studies and
economics major, he spent an eye-opening year abroad in Japan. And during
the latest chapter of his distinguished career with John Deere, Bardwell
found a way to wed his appreciation of both agriculture and far-flung places
by serving as a company representative in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The highlight of Bardwell's international stints was in Russia where he, his wife, and his (then) high-school-aged son lived from 2004 to 2010. His role as the general manager for John Deere Russia, Bardwell says, "was extremely tactical." In six years, he oversaw the construction of the first company manufacturing plant in the region and opened 18 sales dealerships, most of which specialized in selling and servicing the giant tractors and air seeders commercial farmers in the "new Russia" were just beginning to invest in. It was a position, Bardwell says, that involved both formal meet-ups with government officials in Moscow and informal visits out to wheat and dairy farms from Krasnodar to Altai, during which he was always met with hospitality, a hearty meal, and — if it was after five — "a vodka or two."
A three-year stint in Singapore that followed saw Bardwell in a more strategic and developmental role. Traveling throughout China, India, and Africa, he helped chart the development of the next generation of tractors and harvesters suited to smaller farms, a task that often presented some difficult logistical challenges. For example, how do you help a Tanzanian farmer improve his productivity through mechanization when the nearest diesel station is 50 to 100 miles away? (Answer: partner with the dealer to develop a fleet of local trucks to deliver fuel, lubricants, and spare parts to him on a cycle every few weeks.)
Currently based at John Deere corporate headquarters in Moline, Ill., Bardwell feels thankful he's had the opportunity to work for a company so committed to expanding its global presence and looks back with great fondness at all the farmers he had the chance to assist all over the world.
"The people you get to meet, the diversity of the experiences you have... I have to say, it's been extremely rewarding."