Women Gain Intel

January 6, 2016 02:33 AM

Conference brings together farmers from 27 states

Today, women account for 31% of American farmers. This growing demographic is composed of decision makers, marketers, record keepers, human resource managers and key influencers. 

To hone their skills, 375 attendees from 27 states traveled to Chicago in December 2015 for Top Producer’s fifth Executive Women in Agriculture (EWA) conference. 

“Women’s leadership skills are uniquely aligned and can provide a competitive advantage in this field,” said Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes group executive vice president and chief operating officer for food and feed, in her keynote address. 

In addition to featuring inspiring keynote speakers, the event included educational breakout sessions and a networking reception. 


Sounds Bites from #EWA15

@JessicaEDav: Find a good partner. Take time away. Start the day with a positive attitude. -advice on achieving life balance from panel discussion #EWA15

@katiepestorious: “Busy doesn’t make you important, it makes you busy.” #EWA15

@lvanderkam: Fave @souleschris quote from #EWA15 “don’t get engaged where pigs once were” - noted!

@liluety: Over 1/2 of America wants to talk with a farmer, but 94% have no connection whatsoever, according to #AgChat breakout session at #EWA1

Capture Diversification Opportunities

We’ve all been cautioned to not put our eggs in one basket. With forecasts predicting low grain prices, farmers are looking for ways to spread that risk.

“Farms used to be highly diversified, with multiple crop and livestock enterprises,” explains Bret Oelke, farm management coach with Innovus Agra. 

  Angie Setzer (left), Naomi    Blohm, host Clinton Griffiths and    Julianne Johnston talk markets    on “U.S. Farm Report.”

Today, farmers have several options to expand their portfolio, Oelke says. Among them:

  • New crops or livestock 
  • Complementary businesses
  • Investments outside of ag

“These new ventures can help you better utilize production resources, improve ecology, add revenue or provide growth for the operation,” he says.

For example, additional crops or livestock might enable you to sell directly to consumers if you live near a growing population area. Yet he cautions specialty-crop supplies can be overproduced easily. Study market trends if you sell to an end user.

Related businesses such as seed sales and trucking also can provide advantages. 

Tick, Tock: Seven Strategies for Time Management

As CEO of a farm operation, your hours are filled with important duties, tasks and people. Balancing responsibilities to your business and family can feel like an uphill battle.


Luckily, with proper planning and priorities, you can have it all, says Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author. During her EWA presentation, Vanderkam provided these tactics to get the most out of every hour.

Mind Your Hours. “The absolute best way to know how to spend your time better is to know how you spend your time now,” Vanderkam says. Keep a time log for a week, jotting down what you’re doing as often as possible. 

Don’t be alarmed by what you learn. “The purpose of a time log is not to find out how much time we’re wasting,” she says. “It is to keep us from telling ourselves stories that aren’t actually true.”

Look Forward. Everyone wants an extra hour in the day, yet most don’t have a clear vision for how they would spend it. Vanderkam suggests thinking big.

“Make a list of 100 dreams you want to spend more time on,” she told the audience.

 The fifth annual conference, held  at the Palmer House Hilton in  Chicago, drew 375 people, the  highest EWA attendance on  record.

First Things First. “Time is highly elastic,” Vanderkam explains. “We can’t make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need to do with it.” All of us experience life in weeks. Plan out your priorities for the week before you’re in it. 

Move The Tiles Around. Think of time in terms of the 168 hours in a week, not the 24 hours in a day. “People say there aren’t enough hours in the day, and that’s true,” she says. Work can take priority one evening if it allows you to focus on family time the next.

Build In Extra Space. In between important tasks, block out open space. “This time helps you seize opportunities,” she notes. “Wonderful things will come into your life if you have the space to deal with them.”

Prioritize your responsibilities to determine what you can ignore, outsource or minimize.

Nurture Yourself. Add to your energy level. “Sleep and exercise don’t take time; they make time,” Vanderkam says. “Build in breaks to nurture yourself.”

Use Bits Of Time For Bits Of Joy. “Small moments have great power,” she says. Spend that five or 10 minutes in line calling your family or team, or reading.

Thank you to our EWA 2015 sponsors:

Advance Trading, Barnstorm, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Conservis, CropZilla, Dow AgroSciences, Farm Credit, Farmers Business Network, Granular, Illinois Soybean Association, John Deere, K·Coe Isom, Monsanto America’s Farmers Mom of the Year, Pork Checkoff, Stewart-Peterson, Syngenta, Top Third Ag Marketing, United Soybean Board and Winfield

Three Tips for Smart Marketing in 2016

Farmers should be ready to capture any marketing opportunity in the new year, experts say.

“Supply and demand fundamentals always work on a pendulum,” says Angie Setzer, vice president of grain, Citizens LLC. “Everything could change by next year.”

 Iowa farmer Chris  Soules of TV’s “The  Bachelor,” says ag must  seek new talent. BASF  sponsored his  appearance. 

Focus on your cost of production and opportunities to lock in profit. 

Setzer served as a panelist for a “U.S. Farm Report” taping during EWA, alongside Naomi Blohm, senior market adviser at Stewart-Peterson, and Julianne Johnston, Pro Farmer digital managing editor. They shared these marketing tips.

  • Dedicate time each week to track market moves. Commit time to marketing, Blohm advises. “At least once a week, for a good hour, look at the markets,” she says. “Write down where they are at, look at your basis and identify trends from a cash perspective.”
  • Scale into profitable sales. After you identify your production costs, be ready to make sales when prices are at or above your breakeven price, Johnston advises. “As prices increase, start making larger sales,” she says. Don’t be afraid to make that first sale, which Johnston says can be a difficult lesson. 
  • Ease into various market tools. “You don’t run before you crawl,” Setzer notes. “Make sure you start out understanding the cash markets,” she says. Factor in your cash flow needs throughout the year, and be ready to grab profits when they are in front of you. 

Simple Steps to Speak Out

Social media, personal connections and thoughtful discussions are all ways farmers can interact with each other and the general public. Jenny Schweigert and Marie Bowers Stagg, with the AgChat Foundation, offer this advice on being an advocate for agriculture. 

  • Don’t be everything to everybody. Identify where your skills belong.
  • Choose one to two platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or a blog. 
  • Start small by sharing a photo or farm status update once a week. 
  • You will find opposition to your views online. Try to take the high road. 

For full news coverage, photos and speaker presentations from the 2015 Executive Women in Agriculture conference, visit execwomeninag.com.

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