MANHATTAN, KAS. — Mark Fowler has been named president and chief executive officer of Farmer Direct Foods, an Atchison, Kas.-based company that specializes in white wheat. He will succeed Kent Symns, who will retire at the end of this year. Mr. Fowler will be serving in a part-time role until transitioning into a full-time role in December.

Mark Fowler, president and c.e.o. of Farmer Direct Foods

Mr. Fowler is associate director and milling specialist at the Kansas State University (K.S.U.) IGP Institute, and will continue to lead the IGP Institute team in conjunction with Gordon Smith, IGP Institute director and grain science and industry department head, during the transition period.

“We are grateful for Mark’s leadership these past 12 years and wish him well as he returns to industry,” Mr. Smith said.

Under Mr. Fowler’s leadership the IGP Institute has grown its course offerings substantially. In 2014, 1,687 participants representing 45 countries joined in 62 on-site and on-line trainings. The courses cover the areas of grain processing and flour milling, grain marketing and risk management, and feed manufacturing and grain quality management.

“The IGP Institute enabled me to work with great people to build a world-class program demonstrating that a dedicated team can accomplish anything,” Mr. Fowler said.

“The success of the IGP Institute is built on the cooperation with our partners, and collaboration with our competitors when all parties have an opportunity to benefit,” he said. “I enjoyed being involved with those strategic planning sessions that maximize the stakeholder’s investment in our company.”

Mr. Fowler said he plans to continue to serve as an industry milling expert in upcoming course offerings at the IGP Institute as he is needed.

Prior to joining the Department of Grain Science at Kansas State University, Mr. Fowler was an overseas milling technologist for Seaboard Corp., where he worked on projects in several developing countries, including Ecuador, Guyana and Haiti. He also was the technical director of the Africa Division within Seaboard’s Overseas Group in Durban, South Africa. Prior to joining Seaboard, Mr. Fowler gained milling experience working for Cargill in both Los Angeles and Wichita, Kas.

He received a bachelor’s of science degree in milling and management and a master’s of science degree in agricultural economics, both from Kansas State University.

Farmer Direct Foods was founded by Mr. Symns in May 1988 as the American White Wheat Producers Association. The association’s goal was to promote white wheat as a marketable alternative to Kansas’ traditional crop, hard red winter wheat. Shareholders of the American White Wheat Producers Association, at a special meeting in March 2003, voted to change the name of their organization to Farmer Direct Foods, Inc.

“The new name more accurately describes the true nature of our business,” Mr. Symns said at the time. “We are still a farmer-owned, closed cooperative, but we have evolved into a value-added, specialty grain processor and operate much more like a food company.”