Kendra Lehner’s first job interview with Kent Nutrition Group was for a dairy position that she admits she wasn’t qualified for and “knew nothing about.” But she took the opportunity during that interview to highlight two things she knew a lot about: retail and ag.
Turns out, it was a perfect fit. KNG’s fleet division was just starting up, and the company was preparing to hire retail specialists around the country. What began as a “longshot” interview in 2013 resulted in Lehner being offered one of KNG’s first full-time retail sales positions.
“I interviewed in May and they hired me in November,” she recalls. “It was totally worth the six-month wait.”
Lehner, who has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University, grew up on a small hobby beef farm about 20 miles north of Lansing. She and her sister showed cattle for many years on the local, state and national levels — a passion that eventually took her to Australia, where she showed at the Sydney Royal, one of that country’s largest cattle shows. When she returned to the U.S., she spent two years managing a 3,600-sow unit for a large hog operation in North Carolina – a stint she says “wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Still wanting to put her animal science degree to use, Lehner returned to her home state and became the first female livestock buyer in the Michigan Livestock Exchange’s 75-year history. Ten years later, she began managing retail farm stores – including a large family western store just 11 miles from her home farm, where she still lives.
“All of my retail experience is really what got me where I am today with Kent,” Lehner says. “And I love it.”
Today Lehner is the sales representative for four different retail chains, such as Family Farm and Home and Tractor Supply Company. Her territory includes store locations in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and keeps her on the road at least four days a week. Much of her job is spent answering questions about feed – from customers and store managers alike. But she also holds in-store events and giveaways throughout the year, introduces new products and educates employees about Kent feeds so they can answer customers’ questions, too.
“Basically, I do everything I can to promote the Kent brand,” Lehner says, adding that it’s easy for her do just that.
“I’ve fed Kent my whole life and the quality is phenomenal,” she says. “I will put it up against any other feed, because I know our customers are getting the best product out there. When you have a product like that, it’s not hard to promote it.”
Kendra lives on her family farm in St. Johns, Michigan with her husband Bryan. She has two stepchildren, Christian, who’s studying political science in college, and Catherine, a high school junior who wants to study sports medicine. They enjoy landscaping, gardening, traveling and spending time in the outdoors with their two dogs, Charlie and Lacy, who are big fans of their Native dog food.