Raegan Johnson is project manager of Environmental Safety and Health at Monsanto, which has 5,000 employees at its headquarters in St. Louis County and more than 20,000 around the globe. (Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American)

What does teen driver safety have in common with pesticides, corn, cotton and soybeans?

Nothing, unless you’re Monsanto.

Then, it’s all relative, taking its company mission of agricultural sustainability beyond seeds, weeds and crops to people, who make up the fabric of the company worldwide.

Monsanto has 5,000 employees at its headquarters in St. Louis County and more than 20,000 around the globe.

“If our employees are safe on the job, they are better able to perform, and we care about our employees and we care about their families, so we want them to take those messages home to their families and their communities,” said Raegan Johnson, project manager of Environmental Safety and Health at Monsanto.

“We all coexist together. Safety is a priority for Monsanto because for us, it’s like breathing; it’s just like anything else. It’s just a basic skill that everyone should have in order to operate daily.”

Johnson, a 2012 St. Louis American Foundation Salute to Young Leaders awardee, shifted her focus at the biotechnology business from internal communications to community outreach. It takes her into the schools as well as other organizations with Monsanto’s messages on safety.

“I just really decided that I liked the idea of community outreach; I liked the idea of having more variety in my role,” Johnson said. “I develop and manage projects that help to promote our company’s safety initiatives to our employees and within communities where we live and work.”

Vehicle safety for teens includes bringing in simulators to practice road conditions.  Johnson said they are partnering with the agribusiness and food ingredient company Bunge to conduct a safety day at Barack Obama Elementary School, located in Normandy.

“It’s an opportunity for students to learn about a range of safety topics that are relevant to them,” Johnson said. “Hundreds of kids that day will learn about first aid, electrical, bicycle, pedestrian safety, among many other topics.”

Safety-minded kids become safety-minded adults, families and future workers.

Customer safety is also a focus for Johnson.

“Farming presents great safety risks,” she said. “In my role, I’ve been able help develop the Monsanto Off-the-Job Safety YouTube Channel, which houses our Growing Safely Series – videos and handouts focused on safety in agriculture, amongst other videos focused on vehicle safety and home emergency preparedness.”

She said most people don’t know a lot about agriculture, although it impacts each of us, from the clothes we wear to what we eat.

“We’re trying to feed a growing population. I don’t think people realize what the numbers will be 20 or 30 years from now, as far as how many people we’ll have on this planet,” Johnson said.

“We will have to use our resources to help feed and clothe all of these people. And Monsanto is very forward-thinking in making sure that there are enough resources as far as food, clothing and fuel to be around for the next generation and for this generation.”

Johnson’s work keeps her involved with employee diversity networks, which include a Women’s Network; African Americans at Monsanto; Monsanto Asian Connection; Vanguard, for veterans; Access, for disabled employees; and an LGBT network.

Johnson co-leads a Young Professionals Network for community engagement and outreach at Monsanto. She connects Monsanto employees with external volunteer opportunities.

“We just completed a project with the Cola Youth Victory Garden, which is located in Bellefontaine, with the Circle of Light Associates,” she said. “We’ve also worked with a center for pregnant and postpartum women who are struggling with addiction.”

Employees held a baby shower for those mothers and talked about other volunteer opportunities.

World Food Day, the St. Louis Zoo, and the United Way are among additional partnerships and activities she oversees at Monsanto.

“Monsanto is a huge supporter of United Way,” Johnson said. “I was able to help launch the INSPIRE fashion show, that is still going strong five or six years after its initial launch. It’s raised more than $100,000 for the United Way.”

Like well-planted seeds, Johnson said Monsanto’s community outreach is growing. Johnson cited the Monsanto Together program, which was created a couple of years ago to encourage employee volunteerism.

“Employees are actually given time, even during work hours, to go and volunteer within their community and we log those hours  then we are rewarded at the end of the year,” Johnson said.

“I think creating a program like that to support volunteerism in the community is a great indicator of us as a company moving in the right direction, and really expanding our community outreach.”

Johnson has a master’s in journalism from University of Missouri-Columbia and a bachelor’s in communications from Saint Louis University. She is currently working on a doctoral degree in public policy at Saint Louis University, with a focus on urban and community development.

“I plan to use that degree and my experiences thus far to really find new opportunities to help impact the community,” she said, “whether that’s in the current role that I am in, or whether that’s in another role at Monsanto.”

In the meantime, she said, her current role keeps her grounded in the essentials.

“Agriculture and safety are an essential part of our lives, even if we aren’t aware of it,” Johnson said.

“Every day, we eat, we get dressed, we fuel our vehicles – that’s agriculture. We lock our homes as we leave, we don’t text as we drive, or we look both ways before crossing the street – that’s safety. Both topics impact us all, and being better informed about them helps us to make better day-to-day decisions.”

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