As the factory manager for John Deere Des Moines Works in Ankeny, Iowa, Rosalind Fox leads about 1,600 employees who design, test and manufacture cotton harvesters, application equipment, tillage and seeding equipment for farmers in Iowa and around the world. The 2.8 million square foot facility is a former World War II ammunitions plant located on a 451-acre campus in central Iowa.
Fox is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and worked in engineering jobs around the U.S. and the world after earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She joined John Deere in 2005 with roles in the Quad Cities, then spent several years as the factory manager for John Deere Turf Care in Raleigh, North Carolina, before returning to Iowa and the Des Moines Works plant in 2016.
She is active with non-profit associations, economic development and community organizations in central Iowa, including programs that help young people pursue STEM careers. She was appointed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to serve on the state’s Commission on the Status of African Americans.
1. With an engineering background, you could work in any industry – why agriculture?
I didn’t grow up in agriculture and it wasn’t my first choice of an industry to work in, but it has definitely turned into a great choice! When I started at Deere 15 years ago, I was immediately impressed with how welcoming everyone was and quickly realized how well the company’s core values aligned with my personal values.
I’ve learned the important role that agriculture industry plays in helping people around the world, not just in feeding people, but the far-reaching impacts we can have on peoples’ lives and communities by providing equipment and technologies to improve farm productivity.
2. Innovative ideas and technologies drive agriculture and John Deere. What are some of the innovations that have come from the John Deere Des Moines Works facility?
At John Deere and the Des Moines Works factory, we are constantly working to develop productive, smart machines to help our customers around the world be more profitable and more sustainable.
In 2009, John Deere introduced the 7760 Cotton Harvester with round module builder technology. It was the only machine of its kind that would pick, wrap, and drop a round cotton module at the end of the field. It revolutionized the industry and dramatically impacted farmer productivity and profitability. No more stopping to unload. No crossing the field to get a module builder. No waiting for boll buggies. It was engineered and manufactured at Des Moines Works.
Today, similar game-changing innovation and technology is happening within our self-propelled sprayers. With ExactApply™ customers get precise droplet sizing, and individual nozzle control for consistent, precise application management.
3. What benefits does the central Iowa location provide for John Deere Des Moines Works?
There are a number of advantages to being located so close to customers, as well as to other leading ag companies. In 20 minutes, we can be at a customer’s farm to test spraying, tillage or seeding equipment. We have great relationships with customers that can provide feedback as we develop, test and build new products to ensure they work on farms in Iowa and around the world.
Because of Iowa’s leadership in agriculture, there are many other companies that we can collaborate with, and a network of other leaders to share ideas and partner with. We are all working toward the same thing – the same goal of providing food to people around the world.
Our physical location in central Iowa also helps us attract and retain top talent.
4. What advice would you give someone considering a move to Iowa?
I would encourage them to spend a long weekend in Des Moines, visiting local businesses and attending events. Visiting in person may not be an option for some these days, so check out a virtual tour and more resources at DSM Partnership to get a feel for what this area has to offer and learn what it is like to live and work in this region.
There are so many great benefits to living in this state: it is a great place to raise a family, work for leading, innovative companies and still have balance in your personal life by taking advantage of bike trails, supporting nonprofits, and enjoying all the dining, sports, and arts options in the Des Moines area. There is a myriad of ways to get involved and find your place.
I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in the community, including serving on boards for Grandview University, Ankeny Economic Development Corporation Executive Board, and the Greater Des Moines Partnerships Economic Development Board working with the Advanced Manufacturing Council Committee. Get out and get involved!
5. Please give us three recommendations of things to do or place to go in Iowa.
There are so many great options! I’ll focus on opportunities right here in Des Moines and central Iowa. Downtown Des Moines features several top-notch museums and attractions. The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a unique escape in downtown Des Moines with indoor environment and seven acres of outdoor gardens. The Science Center of Iowa includes hands-on exhibits, an IMAX theater and programming for all ages.
Enjoy the outdoors with the networks of bike trails, Riverwalk and the new Central Iowa Water Trails project that is under development.
Lastly, Des Moines has one of the best Farmers Markets around, running every Saturday from May through October each year. The Farmers Market consumes much of Court Avenue and has vendors from across the state highlighting their produce and products. The atmosphere is just so fun.
Published January 2021.