Exchange Obstacles for Opportunities

January 4, 2017 02:00 AM

Conference provides women in ag with education, networking


Of all American farmers, more than 1 million are women. This growing and dynamic segment of female producers includes decision-makers, financial analysts, marketers and more.

“Women are in every facet of agriculture,” said Alexis Taylor, USDA’s deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agriculture services, in her address at the 2016 Executive Women in Agriculture (EWA) conference. “As we work to tell agriculture’s story and attract the next generation to our industry, let’s also work to build a pipeline of women leaders in agriculture. Think about how you can use your own experiences and leadership roles to mentor up-and-coming women.”

To hone their skills and network with peers, more than 270 women representing 28 states traveled to Chicago this past December for Top Producer’s sixth EWA. Attendees heard from more than 20 keynote and breakout speakers, covering topics such as consumer trends, grain and livestock marketing, landlord negotiations, succession planning and financial management. 

Thank You to Our Sponsors: 
Advance Trading, AgYield, Bayer, Channel, Dow AgroSciences, Farm Credit, Illinois Soybean Association, John Deere, K•Coe Isom, Land O’Lakes, Monsanto, Pioneer, Pork Checkoff, Red Wing Software, Stewart Peterson, Top Third Ag Marketing, Transition Point Business Advisors, United Soybean Board

Overheard At #EWA16

@kruser1980: You’re not perfect. That’s just perfect. Nicole Price encourages women. Being Exceptional. #EWA #farmer #embrace

@topproducermag: The average farm leasing relationship is 11 years long, per USDA 
@KSUMykelTaylor: “That says we’re doing something right.” #EWA #EWA16

@justamie22: Structure will never replace the fundamental concern to work together! Barb Dartt, “Family Business Boundaries” @ #EWA #EWA16

@FJ_TPEN: “My definition of being a working mom is guilt” says Vivian Howard. Who can relate!?!?! #EWA

@sparklefarmgirl: Hope isn’t a marketing tool. @USFarmReport #EWA @GoddessofGrain 

Share Your Wish List with Your Banker


Want to build trust with your banker? Compile and share your short- and long-term goals, advises Ashley Arrington, founder of Georgia-based ag consulting firm Agri Authority and a 10-year veteran of ag banking. 

“Farmers would bring me a wish list—with that title,” Arrington says. “It would say: ‘If things go well this year, I’d like to add another irrigation system or buy a new combine.’”

By knowing your goals, Arrington says, bankers can better advise farmers on loan programs, restructuring debt and more. Throughout the year, update the document and keep your banker in the loop. 

“Telling them the good, bad and ugly can really cultivate that relationship,” she says. “The more they know, the more comfortable they will feel with you and the more willing they will be to help.”

Streamline Financial Analysis

Which production information do you regularly collect and analyze? Do you combine that information with your financial details? As you buckle down on risk management in 2017, follow these best management practices from Julie Strain, sales engineer for Red Wing Software.

  • Don’t get bogged down in tracking details that nobody is going to use. If tracking costs to a field level won’t translate into different management decisions, don’t do it to a field level. 
  • Think about all the spreadsheets you use. Is there duplication you can remove by bringing the information into the same system? 
  • Focus on management goals when determining which accounting and data tools to use. 

Define Your Farm’s VISION for Succession

Planning for the future of your farm is a marathon, not a sprint, says attorney Amy Wirtz. You must train for it, and at times you might think it will never end. Part of the challenge is defining what a successful transition will look like for your operation and family. Then you need to document those thoughts and plans.


“If it is not written down, it doesn’t happen,” says Wirtz, who is also a certified exit-planning adviser and mediator. “Amazing things happen when they get written down. They actually get done.”

Wirtz suggests having your team answer these questions: 

  •  When do we want the transfer of leadership to occur? 
  • Is this a reasonable time frame for the transition to take place? 
  • Who must we be in order to reach this goal? 
  • What must we let go of in order to reach this goal? 
  • What is in our way? 
  • Who do we need on our team to get to the end? 
  • Who is in the way?

These questions will help you define your vision, which must be done before you set your S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based) goals. Wirtz suggests naming a team captain to oversee your planning. This person will definine the process and manage team accountability.

For photos and speaker presentations from the 2016 Executive Women in Agriculture conference, visit



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