Kristen Ireland, principal, People Spark Consulting

As a consultant and coach, Kristen focuses on understanding the business and ensuring it achieves its goals by aligning the culture, leadership, people, and processes with business strategies. A thoughtful, innovative, and strategic problem solver, she specializes in compassionately influencing behaviors and providing simple solutions tailored to your needs.

Kristen has more than 20 years of experience consulting and coaching executives, leaders and managers in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. In addition to her work experience, she earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. Kristen received her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and her Change Practitioner certification from PROSCI. 

    Jess McCluer, vice president, safety and regulatory affairs, NGFA

Jess is responsible for directing and managing the NGFA’s wide-ranging operations programs for grain elevators, feed mills and grain processing plants.  This includes NGFA’s activities regarding employee safety and industrial health, environmental issues, grain-handling facility design and equipment, grain inspection and weighing issues, grain and feed quality, biotechnology and agroterrorism/facility security related issues.  

Recently, the Journal of Agromedicine selected Jess as its 2021 “Leader in the Field.” The annual award is for those who have made significant contributions in agricultural safety and health practice, policy, and research. Prior to joining NGFA in 2007, Mr. McCluer was a program analyst at OSHA’s Office of Outreach Services and Alliances.  Jess is a native Texan who received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University, and his Masters of Arts from the George Washington University.
    Erin Mies, principal, People Spark Consulting 

Erin believes that businesses do not need more complicated processes. Instead, they need help uncovering their root issues and finding ways to address them. Erin has earned a reputation for understanding a business’ needs and finding creative, practical solutions that allow them to move forward. Her approach is both straightforward and respectful, providing guidance and considerations to improve leadership effectiveness.

Erin’s 15 years of experience has involved coaching and consulting executives, leaders and managers in food and agricultural industries, in both manufacturing and corporate environments. She also specializes in talent acquisition and international HR. In addition to her professional experience, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Music from Wittenberg University, and a Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Erin is certified through the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) as a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).


Glenn Spencer, senior vice president, employment policy division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Glenn Spencer is the Senior Vice President of the Employment Policy Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  In this role, he oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.

Before joining the Chamber in July 2007, Spencer spent six years at the U.S. Department of Labor in the Office of the Secretary, serving as the deputy chief of staff and then chief of staff to Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.Earlier in his career, Spencer was engaged in issue advocacy and grassroots lobbying for Citizens for a Sound Economy in Washington, D.C., and also worked as a senior analyst in the research departments of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee. Spencer’s articles have been published in numerous leading newspapers, and he has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and television news programs.  Spencer holds an M.A. in international affairs from The George Washington University.
    Dr. Michael Swanson, chief agricultural economist, Wells Fargo
Michael Swanson is an agricultural economist and consultant for Wells Fargo, the largest commercial agricultural lender in the United States. Based in Minneapolis, his responsibilities include analyzing the impact of energy on agriculture, forecasting for key agricultural commodities, such as wheat, soybeans, corn and cotton, and livestock sectors such as cattle, dairy and hogs. Additionally, he develops credit and risk strategies for Wells Fargo's customers and performs macroeconomic and international analysis on agricultural production and agribusiness.

Michael joined Wells Fargo in 2000 as a senior economist. Prior to working at Wells Fargo, he worked for four years at Land O’ Lakes, a large national dairy cooperative based in Minnesota. There, he supervised a portion of the supply chain for dairy products including scheduling the production, warehousing, and distribution of more than 400 million pounds of cheese annually and also supervised the sales forecasting process. Before working in the dairy processing business, Michael lived in South America for four years working for Cargill Cafetera de Manizales S.A., the Colombian subsidiary of the agribusiness giant Cargill. His areas of responsibilities included grain imports and value-added sales to feed producers and flour millers. Michael started his career as a transportation analyst with Burlington Northern Railway from 1986 until 1989. His primary responsibilities included system analysis and capacity studies in the northern region stretching from Chicago to Seattle. Michael received undergraduate degrees in economics and business administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and both his master’s and doctorate degrees in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.
    Ryan Walsh, grain origination manager, CIH

Ryan developed and currently manages CIH’s risk management capabilities for grain originators.  Prior to joining the firm in 2016, he served as a consultant for a grain origination company, where he designed specialized OTC strategies to help clients leverage their grain storage to manage price and spread risk. His experience also includes a role as risk manager at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Ryan holds a B.S. in quantitative agricultural economics from Purdue University, a Series 3 (National Commodities Futures Examination) License and a Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) license. He is a member of the National Grain and Feed Association. With roots in South Boston, Ryan is a diehard fan of the Red Sox and great BBQ.