Feed Bites

A Passion for Ag & Its Long-term Viability – Meet Lara Moody

Written by: Lacie Dotterweich   |   July 28, 2021


This week, I sat down with Lara Moody, the Institute for Feed Education and Research’s new executive director, to see what path led her to this role and what experiences she brings with her.  

Tell me about your background and how you got into the field.

I grew up on a small horse farm, with a real enjoyment of the outdoors. After working for a veterinarian one summer, and realizing that was not the role for me, I looked at environmental fields of study. That ultimately landed me in agricultural and biosystems engineering at the University of Tennessee (UT). Within my studies there, I initially focused on conservation engineering, but through summer projects in the department, I started focusing my studies on wastewater and manure management systems.

I received my master’s degree, took more classes in wastewater systems and stayed in the university system to do research and extension work at UT and then Iowa State University (ISU). At ISU, I did a mix of water quality and air quality work in the manure management space, working on anything from chemically or physically amending manure to reduce the potential for nutrient loss to anaerobic digestion systems and air quality assessments in animal housing units. If you do manure management work, you ultimately end up doing nutrient management work.

So, when The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) was looking for someone to build out their fertilizer use stewardship program, that started my work at TFI and in the trade association space. I spent 10 years developing a fertilizer use stewardship program (4R Nutrient Stewardship), which included broader sustainability work and resource development for the industry.

Now, I’m excited to be connected back to animal agriculture and to learn the ins and outs of the animal feed and pet food industry as I take on my new role at IFEEDER.

What past experience do you have? What do you bring to the IFEEDER table?

I have a variety of skills that I think will be useful to IFEEDER. While in the university system, I developed projects, prepared grant applications and managed research and extension awards that funded the majority of work our team pursued. When I was at TFI, I initiated an industry research fund to support outreach and fill knowledge gaps for the fertilizer use stewardship program, which collected about $1.2 million per year. I managed two large industry committees and worked closely with industry board members, both as an association staff member and when serving on and chairing boards myself.

I also have very extensive knowledge of sustainability issues in the food supply chain from working within Field to Market and chairing the metrics committee to engagement with developing carbon credit markets. I plan to use that knowledge to look across the landscape and see where opportunities exist where feed may have a role in addressing challenges. Because I’ve been in the trade association space in D.C. for over 10 years now, I have developed a strong set of relationships with people at federal agencies and other ag trade associations. Otherwise, I just bring a real passion for agriculture and ensuring its long-term viability.

What are your top priorities for IFEEDER in the next couple years?

My immediate priority is to get our new strategic plan in place and then use that plan to build out long-term research and education plans. The strategic plan will give us some priority areas to focus. I want to broaden awareness and diversify resource support for IFEEDER, beyond the feed industry to a wider set of stakeholders and show what IFEEDER brings to them. We can’t do that without the strategic plan and vision.

I learned in my previous role that it’s more helpful to bring solutions to a conversation when you want to achieve consensus and engage in a healthy discussion, instead of being defensive. I look to advance solutions for the feed industry without being protectionist and defensive, and to reposition the work IFEEDER is doing for the sector.

The upcoming Sustainability Road Map project will also inform future projects we take on. The road map will be a pivotal component of IFEEDER’s efforts to lower our industry’s environmental footprint and advance our industry’s solutions to this global challenge. It provides an opportunity for the animal food industry and our stakeholders to develop a road map and supporting resources for information exchange, including standardization and methodologies, and to provide life cycle data up and down the production chain.

How do you plan to connect with members and external groups?

I can’t wait to get back to in-person conferences and meet our donors. I plan to start with the individuals that are connected to IFEEDER, such as the Board of Trustees and committees, and then branch out contacts to existing supporters. Once we have a plan and vision in place, we can reach out to get others engaged by using speaking opportunities and conferences to raise awareness of IFEEDER as a resource in the food supply chain.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I have owned and ridden horses since I was 5 years old. I currently train and compete a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding in dressage, which I imported from Germany when he was 3 years old. And I’m also a long-distance runner – so far I’ve tackled anything on road to trail from 26-50 miles!

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