Anna Murphy, 33, of Berthoud, Colo., saw her first crop of sugarbeets in 2011 and was surprised at how much they weighed.
“I assisted with harvesting some research plots for Syngenta. I’ve always loved being outdoors, so I brought my lunch and water, strapped on my boots, and helped ensure the beets went into the correct bags,” she said. “I remember being in awe of the whole process at harvest and amazed at how heavy the beets were. They were as heavy as bowling balls!”
Now, 10 years later, Murphy is the new executive vice president of the Beet Sugar Development Foundation (BSDF) and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists (ASSBT). She works out of the organization’s Denver, Colo., office and started the position in January of this year.
“Since graduate school, I have been fortunate to spend the past 10 years working in the sugarbeet industry,” she said.
Murphy grew up in Centennial, Colo., a city in the suburbs of Denver.
“My grandfather was a farmer in South Dakota. However, I didn’t set foot onto a farm until my first day of graduate school,” she said.
After graduating from high school, Murphy attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She then went on to pursue a Master of Science degree in plant breeding and genetics, with a focus on wheat.
“After graduate school, I began working as a sugarbeet breeder for Syngenta,” Murphy said. “My breeding efforts focused on improving sugar yield and disease tolerance to Aphanomyces and Fusarium.”
Murphy also had roles in product management for Hilleshög Seed and as an assistant supply manager for Magno Seed before coming to the BSDF/ASSBT.
“I was attracted to my current position because the mission of the BSDF focuses not only on promoting sugarbeet research, but also education, which I’ve always been passionate about,” Murphy said. “I have gotten to know and have developed relationships with many USDA-ARS and university researchers through various meetings, and have made connections with many colleagues in the sugarbeet industry. This just felt like a natural fit.”
Murphy said that as executive vice president of both the BSDF and ASSBT, her goals are to support both groups as much as possible.
“The BDSF works to advance sugarbeet production and beet sugar processing through science-based research and leading educational programs,” she said. “The ASSBT promotes the dissemination of sugarbeet and beet sugar research and knowledge to its members. I want to ensure that we are doing our best to support and further these missions.”
Murphy said she is greatly enjoying her new role which includes interacting with new and old colleagues and taking on new challenges.
“There is a lot of excitement within the sugarbeet research community and I am really happy to be part of that,” she said. “One of the biggest challenges I have in this position is to ensure that the USDA-ARS sugarbeet scientists are connected to this community, aligned to the current and future needs of the industry and not duplicating efforts. Also, after 40 successful face-to-face biennial meetings, we successfully hosted our first-ever virtual ASSBT meeting earlier this month. It is an ongoing challenge to navigate and find the balance between face-to-face and virtual meetings.”
As BSDF executive vice president, Murphy is also responsible for overseeing the McGinnis Institute of Beet Sugar Technology Schools, which provides valuable training sessions for the next generation of sugarbeet technologists.
Murphy is proud to be part of the American sugarbeet industry and excited to raise awareness of the BSDF’s work.
“I want everyone to know that the BSDF is dedicated to promoting sugarbeet research and education in both sugarbeet production and beet sugar processing,” she said. “There are highly dedicated personnel across the sugarbeet community that are working toward this goal. What makes this industry unique is that we are a tight-knit community that is able to organize and work toward the future sustainability of the crop.”
Murphy and her husband are the parents of three children under the age of five. When she’s not working, she enjoys hiking, biking and spending time outdoors with them. The family also enjoys trying new restaurants.
(Laura Rutherford is a shareholder in American Crystal Sugar Company and a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers, and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council. Laura can be reached at GoSugar.LR@gmail.com.)