Leave a Legacy: The Character of a Leader

February 11, 2012 08:49 AM

Hosting "Leave a Legacy TV" allows me to visit with some of the most inspiring people in agriculture. Our interviews often center on their goals, achievements and challenges. Recently, the production crew at "AgDay" assembled a video montage that features 12 farmers who exhibit leadership characteristics that helped them grow a farm operation and secure a lasting legacy.

  • John Lacey, a fifth-generation commercial cattle producer from Paso Robles, Calif., commands more than 250,000 acres. John and his family are learning to balance the demands of the operation, the needs of the family and the pressures of society. John is dedicated to the ranch, the industry, the cattlemen’s association, his community and his family.
  • At 13, while his father was away on a trip, Paul Engler placed the winning bid on a small lot of cattle. Paul didn’t have the money, a place for the cattle or his dad’s permission. He knew that when his father returned, he’d be in trouble. But instead of getting angry, his father said, "I’m proud of you, son." Paul learned self-reliance and went on to establish the world’s largest cattle feeding operation.
  • Leslie Leavens is one of three active owners working on an operation that has 27 co-owners who live around the world and span three generations. Working in that situation on a daily basis, Leslie must be personable, professional and accountable.
  • If you’ve been following the Top Producer case study, you know that a common objective for the Esther family is to maintain harmony. Ryan and Chad and their father, Chet, are acutely aware of the challenges they face and keenly interested in executing a plan that will meet their goals.
  • Jim Rickert’s voice takes on a somber tone and the words trail off as he speaks about the land, his family and stewardship. He feels the weight of responsibility as he considers the many who came before him as well as those who will follow. He readily admits it’s his job to preserve, protect and then pass the operation to a well-prepared next generation.
  • As the Dairy Today case study family, the Moeses of South Dakota are growing the dairy, learning to work together, stabilizing the operation and creating an option for the next generation. Jim Moes talks about the growth they’ve realized and the weight on their shoulders to prepare the next generation.
  • At 22 years old, Mary Mooney received a phone call from her mother. Through tears, her mom told her that she had only 30 days to raise $35,000 or lose the family farm. Mary, her mom and her siblings banded together to save the farm. Along the way, they learned the difference between needs and wants and that persistence goes a long way.
  • Gregg Halverson didn’t set out to be one of the biggest potato growers in the U.S. He threw himself into his work to overcome his grief from the sudden death of his wife. He surrounded himself with a capable team and allowed them to grow professionally. Black Gold Farms is now Frito-Lay’s largest potato producer. Its operations span 17,000 acres across 11 states.
  • Doc Cottingham and his son Ray are committed to continuing a family tradition. Their farm, in the family since 1828, is built on a foundation of hard work, commitment and trust.
  • Her voice quivers with the passion she feels for the operation, the land and the privilege to farm. Mary Dye is committed to farming, family and creating a future she only dreams of today. She works side by side with her husband, Roger; together, they’re raising a family and growing the farm.
  • The best leaders are the best learners. Dave Daley is a professor, student adviser, rancher, husband and father. He knows firsthand that failure is the tuition for success.
  • For Donny DeLine, farming was a lifelong dream. He’s grown an extraordinary operation and is planning for the next generation.


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