From Beef to Basil: How Kayla Waldorff of Autogrow became a family unicorn
When you’re born in Florida into five generations of beef producers, the assumption is you’ll join the family business and carry on down the bovine pathway. But for Kayla Waldorff, the East Coast Business Development Manager for Autogrow, her career veered in a different direction that often has her family scratching their heads in confusion.
“As a child we would always teach Kayla what basic ornamental plants were and she turned her nose up, it never stuck or seemed what she wanted to do. Same thing with gardening in 4-H. Kayla's interest in plants in college caught me off guard and I did not expect her to go into this industry, but now that's all she talks about and I can tell she really loves it.” says Kayla’s mother Valerie Waldorff.
Kayla lives and breathes produce which has really come to fruition (excuse the pun) in the last five years.
“I love this industry. I get to talk to people with amazing ideas on how they grow food and how I can help them with technology. It’s a passion and a privilege,” explains Kayla.
“If you think about it, food is a fundamental need and growers keep us fueled with healthy natural product that’s essential to our existence. It’s a concept that I think many people forget as they see the end result in the supermarket or store. My appreciation for what they accomplish year on year to put food on our tables is huge.”
Once Kayla decided on produce she proactively sought out jobs and opportunities that have enhanced her experiences including as an Apprentice Grower at Bright Farms Inc at their Chicago location.
Her current role at Autogrow came about through fate, a torn ACL and a pair of crutches.
“In 2017, I tore my ACL playing co-rec flag football while attending the University of Florida and then a week later got on a plane to attend my first AgLanta Conference event. I wasn’t about to let my injury stop me from going. While I was there I ended up sitting at the table nearest the lunch buffet as I couldn’t navigate that far with my plate and crutches. The person I sat next to turned out to be Darryn Keiller, the CEO of Autogrow. That meeting has turned into a huge blessing that has seen me join the team, visit NZ twice and embark on the best adventure I’ve had so far.”
With all her enthusiasm Kayla is also cognizant of the realities of the industry and some of the frustrations experienced across the board.
“Like everyone I love new ideas and the discussions on how our industry can be improved that happen on all levels whether it’s on the farm or in council chambers. Where I see the roadblock is when the ‘talk’ doesn’t become reality. When grand ideas and the reality of the industry don’t align and solutions aren’t actively sought. When you’re talking about feeding the future, or even the present population, we all need to get serious and start implementing real solutions that will have a positive impact on communities. I’m lucky because what I’m doing now and the team I work with, are definitely leading the way on that one.”
“As much as a I enjoy the by-product of cattle (can never turn down a good burger) and the work my family has done in that side of the industry, my future is definitely firmly in things that are a little more green.”
Those of you in Atlanta will have the chance to catch up with both Kayla and Darryn who will be attending the AgLanta Conference 2019. Be sure to say hello and talk to them about how Autogrow can support your business with automation and data solutions. Additionally, if you would like Kayla to visit your farm or schedule a meeting you are welcome to contact Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org.