Lessons From The 2017 Executive Women in Agriculture Conference

January 16, 2018 05:27 AM
Executive Women in Ag

Agribusiness leaders, farm executives and other professionals convened recently at the Palmer House Hilton for Top Producer’s Executive Women in Agriculture conference. The event drew more than 150 women from across the U.S. and Canada.

Highlights included a keynote presentation from Steph Davis, a world-renowned professional rock climber and owner of Climb2Fly Productions in Moab, Utah. Attendees also packed 10,000 meals for families in need, viewed a live taping of “U.S. Farm Report” and took notes during business education sessions on topics including succession planning, consumer food trends and commodity marketing.

For more information about the event, explore the following articles featuring experts such as Fairlife co-founder Sue McCloskey, attorney Polly Dobbs and ag economist Nicole Widmar of Purdue University. To view EWA presentations, visit ExecWomenInAg.com.  —Staff Report

Thank You to Our 2017 Sponsors: Advanced Trading Inc., AgriGold, Bayer, Channel, CliftonLarsonAllen, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, FS Growmark, Illinois Soybean Association, John Deere, Land O’Lakes, Red Wing Software, Silveus Insurance Group, Stewart Peterson, Top Third Ag Marketing, United Soybean Board

Change Consumer Misconceptions

Nobody understands consumer concerns quite like a mom who didn’t grow up on a farm. That perspective has given Sue McCloskey, co-founder of Fairlife dairy, a compass for how she communicates.

“We need to understand that about people desiring information about our farms,” McCloskey points out.

Consumer questions about where food comes from, how it’s produced, how sustainable it is and how safe it is are not going away. The No. 1 way to fight these consumer fears is for farmers to strike up conversations and invite people to the farm, McCloskey says.

“People want to look into your farm,” she says. “We’re all proud of what we do, so why not espouse that?”

Even though farmers aren’t always comfortable getting in front of a large group of people or even having a conversation in the grocery line with somebody that has no ag background, they must.

“We can have campaigns and commercials, but when you have a human being talking to another human being, you can’t help but have emotion involved, and that’s the most powerful tool,” she says.  —Anna-Lisa Laca

A Dynasty Trust Can Reduce Your Estate Taxes

A dynasty trust is a fancy way to say that your children don’t actually inherit your assets, says Polly Dobbs, an attorney with Dobbs Legal Group and a Farm Journal Legacy Project adviser. Instead, they receive income from the trust without ever owning anything. That can be a very good thing for tax planning.

“I had one lawyer put it this way,” she says. “‘No good can come from me owning anything. I can only screw it up. I can die young. I can get sued. I can just screw it up, so don’t let me own anything. Keep it in that trust.’”

A dynasty trust also allows you to pick who controls the assets, Dobbs adds. You can dictate continued management of the farm the trust owns.

“If it’s going to be cash rented, if it’s going to be maintained or if it’s OK to sell it, you say all that in your trust and your land stays in your trust.”  –Anna-Lisa Laca

Shift Your Thinking on These five Food Trends

It’s safe to say food has never been trendier. Ag economist Nicole Widmar of Purdue University discusses several food shifts that producers should keep in mind.  

Niche Marketing: New research shows local food, which used to be a niche desire for a few consumers, is now a mainstream consumer request. “We need to think about how we’re labeling these markets,” Widmar says. “We don’t have a box, but more of a continuum.”

Millennial Buying Behavior: Not all food trends are driven by young, affluent consumers. For example, people who volunteer often are more likely to care about how farm employees are treated—and more likely to purchase food from companies with similar values. “I can find some evidence that younger age categories care about animal welfare,” she adds. 

Food as an Experience: It’s evident from the growing number of “you pick” fruit and vegetable farms that people increasingly see food as an experience. For many consumers, “I either want it delivered via UPS prechopped or I want to pick it myself,” Widmar says. Part of the reason behind this phenomenon is a desire for minimalism and experiences in natural environments. Agritourism is a perfect in-between.

The Nexus of Health, Tech and Food: There’s one technology at the intersection of food and health that demands more attention: GMOs. Her research shows people who accept GMOs in grain production also accept the technology for vegetables and are more likely to accept it in livestock.

Big Data: Data-driven technologies are widely used outside of ag and might create opportunities for producers. Families already use Apple watches and RFID bracelets to keep in touch at big theme parks such as Disneyland, she points out. “We have debated RFID tags in cattle,” she says. “Could we borrow more technology from outside?”  –Anna-Lisa Laca

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