Planting the seeds of mechanization around the world

Sid Bardwell’s MBA ’89 career spans three continents and numerous countries.

Sid Bardwell MBA '89

As a boy in the 1960s, Sid Bardwell spent summers on his grandparent’sdairy farm outside Madison, Wisc. During college, as an Asian studies andeconomics major, he spent an eye-opening year abroad in Japan. And duringthe latest chapter of his distinguished career with John Deere, Bardwellfound a way to wed his appreciation of both agriculture and far-flung placesby 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. Hisrole as the general manager for John Deere Russia, Bardwell says, “wasextremely tactical.” In six years, he oversaw the construction of the firstcompany manufacturing plant in the region and opened 18 sales dealerships,most of which specialized in selling and servicing the giant tractorsand air seeders commercial farmers in the “new Russia” were just beginningto invest in. It was a position, Bardwell says, that involved both formalmeet-ups with government officials in Moscow and informal visits out towheat and dairy farms from Krasnodar to Altai, during which he was alwaysmet with hospitality, a hearty meal, and — if it was after five — “a vodkaor two.”

A three-year stint in Singapore that followed saw Bardwell in a more strategic and developmental role. Traveling throughout China, India, andAfrica, he helped chart the development of the next generation of tractors and harvesters suited to smaller farms, a task that often presentedsome difficult logistical challenges. For example, how do you help a Tanzanian farmer improve his productivity through mechanization when thenearest diesel station is 50 to 100 miles away? (Answer: partner with the dealer to develop a fleet of local trucks to deliver fuel, lubricants, andspare 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 companyso committed to expanding its global presence and looks back with great fondness at all the farmers he had the chance to assist all overthe world.

“The people you get to meet, the diversity of the experiences you have… I have to say, it’s been extremely rewarding.”