Benefit from accountability and outside ideas
Whether producers and their peers are discussing landlord relationships, succession planning or human resource challenges, there are many ways they can benefit from exchanging ideas. As farmers face weak farm income and commodity price uncertainty this harvest, there has never been a better time to compare notes.
“A peer group is successful when you have people with enough in common that they can understand where they’re coming from,” explains Sarah Beth Aubrey, a farm business consultant and coach, and a facilitator with Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN) peer group program. “Yet you don’t want everybody to work for the same company or be in the exact same industry. The confidentiality and the comfort level with each other may suffer, whereas if you’re complementary businesses, you can really enhance that and see how other segments of the industry are having success.”
The unique knowledge each farmer brings to the table has been valuable to Cole Pestorious, a sixth-generation corn-and-soybean producer whose Frontier Family Farms operates near Albert Lea, Minn.
“As I look at our TPEN group, there are people in the group that are really good at what I’m not good at,” Pestorious tells “Top Producer Podcast” host Pam Fretwell. His team has been in TPEN since 2012. “All the skill sets seem to complement each other. The next meeting we have coming up, we’re talking about marketing, so I lined up some of the people to come in and talk. If we were talking about building a culture or coaching employees, somebody else in the group would take the lead.”
For most operators, the technical parts of farming are consistent. Although producers in peer groups might exchange production ideas, they see increased benefit from trading ideas with others in similar demographic and business stages—especially early career farmers, adds Jake Worcester, president and CEO of the Kansas 4-H Foundation and a TPEN facilitator.
“When it comes to some of the challenges that young producers face today, they truly are unique,” Worcester says. “For a lot of them, they’re at a point in their careers where they’re either in the process of or just have recently seen a generational shift. Maybe they were working with their father, or their father has backed out of the business and they’re taking over. They’re in the place where they’re trying to figure out, ‘OK, over the next 10 to 15 years, I need to buy my father and my uncle out of the business. How am I going to do that?’”
Whether you are a young professional or a seasoned agriculture veteran, there are plenty of opportunities to build skills in a peer group, Worcester explains. By bouncing ideas off of one another, providing constructive criticism of non-competitive farms and sharing hopes and frustrations, farmers form common bonds and provide accountability. A combination of in-person meetings and online conversation ensures correspondence continues.
“You know that you can open up and you can talk about things,” Pestorious says. “They’re not your neighbors. It’s never going to leave the group.”
Learn by Networking in Person, Online
Farm Journal’s Peer Group Programs bring together small groups of like-minded, non-competing farmers and ranchers to share new ideas, fresh perspectives, expertise and encouragement.
Each group is moderated by an experienced facilitator who is also an agriculture industry professional. Members of groups are carefully matched to ensure alignment of interests, needs and goals. Beyond your executive peer advisory group, membership also includes access to the other peer groups in the program and exclusive strategic resources.
Farm Journal’s Top Producer Executive Network (TPEN) structure includes members meeting in person twice a year with their individual peer group and a third time at a three-day conference that includes all TPEN members in February.
Farm Journal’s Interactive Online Peer Group Program structure includes a one-day launch meeting in person and six two-and-a-half hour interactive web-based meetings online.
To learn more about both programs as well as membership opportunities, contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-605-7138. You can also visit tpexecutivenetwork.com.