CEO of Wade Inc. and New Delta Council President
By becky gillette • Photography by Johnny Jennings
Wade Litton is the fourth-generation member of his family to lead Wade Inc., a 113-year-old company which operates fourteen John Deere dealerships in the Mississippi Delta. He is only the fifth person to serve as president and CEO of Wade Inc. He is also the third-generation member of his family to serve as president of the Delta Council, an area economic development organization covering all or parts of nineteen counties.
At age forty-one, he is a young leader who follows on the heels of Patrick Johnson, the previous president of Delta Council who was forty-seven when he served.
“I think Wade will be energetic and a breath of fresh air, just as Patrick Johnson was this past year,” says Mike Sturdivant, a Tallahatchie County agricultural producer who is a past president of Delta Council. “Wade has done a great job with his other positions on Delta Council. He will continue on a broader scale to bring attention to the Delta statewide, regionally and nationally. He is in the position of knowing what is happening in the Delta.”
Litton started getting involved with Delta Council about fifteen years ago after learning that in addition to being a voice for agriculture—the economic driver of the Delta—the organization is also involved in promoting industrial and business development, workforce training, a good transportation infrastructure, healthcare and adult literacy.
“When I saw all the hard work that was being done, it made me proud of the Delta Council and I wanted to help with doing all we can to make this area where we live a better place,” says Litton, who has been serving as chairman of the Economic Development Committee of Delta Council. That department and the Delta Strong Initiative work to support existing businesses and industry and recruit new ones. “Delta Council works tirelessly to make our area the best it can be,” Litton said.
Litton says his priorities as president will be to continue to build on the goals that Delta Council has for the area, and try to get even more engagement from the people who live in the Mississippi Delta to be a part of the Delta Council’s work to improve the economy and quality of life of the Delta.
Farm technology continues to evolve rapidly, and John Deere—the largest farm equipment dealer in the world—has been at the forefront of innovations that help improve productivity and make the farmer’s job easier and more profitable.
“The rapid change in the technology in the ag industry is just mind blowing,” says Litton. “Right now, we have two See & Spray Select prototype sprayers in our area where cameras are added to the spray booms and as the sprayer is going through the field, the camera sees a weed and only that weed is sprayed. It saves on chemical costs, it does not overspray the crops, and there is a sustainability factor created by avoiding overapplication. That will be in the marketplace next year.
“Also, John Deere just announced its goal to have fully autonomous farms with driverless equipment by 2030. They will have autonomous tillage, planting, application and harvesting equipment. Farm labor can be difficult to find, so autonomous equipment can help with the labor issue. It will also provide an opportunity to get the work done when it needs to get done. One Sundays or holidays when labor isn’t available, you can still have your machines working.”
Litton says the technology on John Deere equipment makes customers’ operations more efficient and improves the quality of life of growers by using technology to monitor equipment and make educated decisions to make their operations more profitable.
“Our equipment now can sense a failure that may happen which allows the grower and us to get in front of any failures,” says Litton. “Also, customers are able to monitor all their machines in real time through their phone. Wade Inc. has an entire IntelliFarm Department that is tasked with assisting our customers with getting the most use out of the technology on their operation.”
Litton says his biggest role model is his father, Bill Litton, “who basically shaped me into the person I am today. He was also a former president of Delta Council. My grandfather, George Wade, was also a president of Delta Council.”
A number of other family members are involved in the business today. Litton’s brother, Powell, is chief financial officer, and their sister, Gerard Stewart, works in marketing. Her husband, Zack Stewart, is sales manager.
Litton was born and raised in Greenwood. After graduating from Pillow Academy in 1998, he attended Ole Miss where he received a degree in managerial finance with a corporate emphasis. After college, he lived in Maui, Hawaii, and worked for the Kapalua Land Management Company.
“Hawaii was a lot of fun,” he says. “It is a beautiful place. From Hawaii, I did a short stint in Chicago as an intern at William Blair and Company. Then, I came back to work in Greenwood.”
His highest priority at Wade Inc. is to create an environment that allows their team members to provide an exceptional customer experience by bringing value to the customers’ operations through the company’s equipment, support and technology.
Fourteen dealerships are a lot to keep up with. And, while Litton does spend some time on the road visiting them, he relies on the company’s strong leaders at each location where they are the faces of Wade Inc. in those communities.
“They have a lot of responsibilities at their locations,” says Litton. “They have a lot of leeway, but they know our high expectations. Probably what I enjoy the most is working alongside a great group of people and a great group of customers. Just being able to be a part of a team is rewarding. Providing new technology and helping customers use that technology to make their operations better is a lot of fun. If our customers are successful, we are successful.”
While input costs for agriculture this year are at high levels, Litton said most of his customers are cautiously optimistic because commodity prices are favorable.
“There are some definite challenges,” he says. “But you will see our growers manage their operations right and take advantage of opportunities.”
Litton doesn’t sit behind the desk all the time. After work, he and his wife, Meagan, spend a lot of time doing activities with their three children. Kennan, Robert, and Elizabeth.
“Besides chasing my children all over the place, I enjoy the outdoors including hunting with the family and playing golf,” says Litton. “One thing I did last year was compete in the St. Jude Ironman competition. I had been training for a while due to COVID delaying that race for a year. I enjoy all the exercises in a triathlon—swimming, biking, and running.”
Volunteer activities include serving on the Agribusiness Advisory Council for the St. Louis Federal Reserve. He is a past president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, United Way and the Boys and Girls Club. He is also currently a commissioner for Greenwood Utilities.
Litton is an elder at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwood. Dr. Rusty Douglas, recently retired pastor of First Presbyterian, said he is sure that Litton will do a fine job as president of Delta Council.
“His business has been around for more than a century in the Mississippi Delta,” says Douglas. “He has a lot of gifts and presents himself well. He will be the fourth member of the First Presbyterian Church who has served as president of Delta Council. He is bright, engaging, funny, serious about his Christian faith, and has a good sense of integrity and ethics. I jokingly call him the James Bond of Greenwood.”