Keely Coppess joined Look East as an Account Director because she is passionate about helping the people who produce food tell their stories. Keely is based in the Des Moines, Iowa, area and leads a variety of trust-building projects for Look East clients.
Around Look East, Keely is known for her creative thinking, focus on solutions and attention to detail. We asked Keely a few questions to get to know her better.
Tell us about your connection to agriculture.
My parents both grew up on family farms in Eastern Iowa. I have fond memories of visiting my grandparent’s farm as a kid and playing baseball with my cousins in the pasture. My cousins still farm the family land today.
I have spent most of my career in agriculture. Immediately after college, I started working at Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching children about the inherent dangers of working around livestock and farm equipment.
Then, for almost a decade, I worked in B2C and B2B marketing agencies. I provided PR support for a family-owned seed company and event support for the World Pork Expo.
In 2019, I was offered the opportunity to serve as the Communications Director for Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture at the Iowa Department Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Working in the epicenter of Iowa’s vibrant agriculture community, we tackled new challenges every day. It was a great way to learn from and connect with some amazing leaders and brilliant minds who are focused on agriculture as the solution to some of the world’s food and environmental challenges.
By coming to Look East, you’re returning to the agency world. Why is that?
I love the team culture and variety of work that comes with agency life. Each team member has unique work experiences and strengths, and we work collaboratively to come up with the best possible solutions to our client’s challenges.
Cheryl Crow told us, “Every day is a winding road…” What previous work experience challenged you most?
I was working at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship when COVID-19 caused significant disruptions to the food supply chain. The school and restaurant closures and slowdowns at the meat processing facilities created a backlog of pigs, eggs and milk on farms. It was heartbreaking to watch producers struggle with difficult decisions and dispose of products they worked so hard to produce, while the foodbanks were simultaneously struggling to keep up with surging demands. I was grateful to be part of the team working on solutions to support local producers, connect local supply chains – all in an effort to keep the food system moving forward and help those in need.
What projects are you diving into at Look East?
I am excited to be leading the outreach and engagement efforts for the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture. Formed by the Center for Food Integrity, the Coalition strives for global understanding and acceptance of the responsible use of gene editing technology in the food system. Coalition participants share the goal of earning trust in gene editing to provide consumers safe, nutritious and affordable food produced in sustainable systems.
I am also proud to be involved with the Center for Food Integrity’s Digital Dialogues, a series of conversations to help advance racial justice, equity and inclusion in the agriculture and the food industries.
Are you a white noise sort of person, one who prefers to jam out, or one who requires complete silence while working?
When I’m tackling a challenging task like writing or developing a strategic plan, I listen to upbeat instrumental music, like Vitamin String Quartet. (Think the soundtrack to Netflix’s Bridgerton series.) It has great energy and helps me focus.
What suits your fancy when you’re out of the office?
I enjoy being part of a recreational running group through the local YMCA, watching college football, meeting friends for brunch, taking weekend trips to the lake, and exploring new shows on Netflix.
Rumor has it you are a proud Iowa State alum. Give us the tea.
I come from a proud family of Iowa Staters! Both my parents went to Iowa State University and started taking me to football games when I was little. I graduated from Iowa State with a BA in Marketing. My younger brother and sister both went to Iowa State and so did several of my aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s in our blood!
What else should we know?
In December 2021, I adopted a pair of kittens from a local animal rescue. I lovingly refer to them as “the shittens.” You may just get a chance to meet them; they love crashing Zoom calls.
Keely and the whole Look East team would like to help your organization earn trust. Contact us to get started.