A Trip Down Memory Lane

February 18, 2019 04:00 AM

Eleven years ago, on President’s Day, I started my career with Farm Journal. It is amazing how quick a decade can fly by—especially when your job brings you joy, fulfillment and fun.

In the last 11 years, I’ve written hundreds of articles for Top Producer, Farm Journal and our other magazines, as well as www.AgWeb.com. In this moment of reflection, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about some of my favorite pieces. In no particular order, here are a handful of the top stories from my portfolio (as well as a few photos from over the years).

Secrets to Courting the Landlady
Treat tenant-owner relationships with respect and honesty. (This will always be one of my most memorable stories. I visited several female landowners, a group that is rarely interviewed in our industry.)

Lessons From A Famous Billionaire
Warren Buffett tells all with secrets of business excellence. (If you ever have the chance to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting—do it! I stood just a few feed from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.)

Proof Positive
Grain farmers distill crops into premium spirits for retail (I collaborated with my amazing colleague Ben Potter on this story. We won “Story of the Year” by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association.)

Sara Schafer and Ben Potter

Sticky Fingers Fraud
$2M missing at Minnesota grain elevator. (After a tip from a friend, I tracked down the details of a crazy fraud case.)

Meat Market
Americans eat more meat per person than residents of almost any other country, but what meat they eat has evolved and will continue to adapt. (This infographic provides a cool picture of the future of meat demand around the globe.)

Top Of Mind: The Times, They Are A Changin'
As a Missouri farm girl, the opportunity to write and learn about business strategies to make farm operations prosper is a dream come true. (This was my first editor’s letter for Top Producer, when I became editor in the spring of 2015). 

I’ve had the extreme pleasure of writing more than 20 cover stories for Top Producer. Each farmer I profiled has been inspiring, humble and incredible. I can’t pick favorites from this group, so here’s the entire list (I hope I didn’t miss any!).

Taking the Reins: Millennial manager empowers team, grows Illinois hog operation
Clare Schilling, New Athens, Ill. 

Market Like A Merchandiser: Iowa farmer stays focused and follows a proactive plan
Scott Berger, Traer, Iowa

Power Couple: Husband-and-wife team builds dynamic business capitalizing on market needs
Donald and Cheri De Jong, Hartley, Texas

Opportunity Makers: North Carolina farmers grow diversified operation from 19 acres to 30,500
Frank and Alison Howey, Monroe, N.C.

Customer Focus Spurs Growth: Kansas brothers propel feedlot by investing in people, focusing on values
Shane (left) and Shawn Tiffany, Herington, Kan.

From Seed to Shelf: Iowa family diversifies with a full-circle popcorn business
Tom Decker, Rockwell City, Iowa

Gardener Of Innovation: Operation specializes and opens door to diversification
A.G. Kawamura, Orange County, Calif.

Success by the Dozens: Indiana farmer expands one acre of sweet corn to a booming, diversified business
Jeremy Weaver, Needham, Ind.

Family Matters: More hands equal big success
Joel and Bruce Bartak, Anselmo, Neb.

Strong Roots, Bright Future: A young Kentucky farmer thrives amidst adversity
Joanna Carraway, Murray, Ky.

A Toast to Tradition: Kentucky farm with deep roots grows vertically and professionally
David, Bernard, Bill and Albert Peterson, Loretto, Ky.

All In A Day’s Work: This producer's day job fuels her farming passion
Maggie Holub, Scribner, Neb.

Sara Schafer and Maggie Holub

A Fresh Perspective: New leadership energizes established operation
Jared Osborne, Carthage, Mo., 

Calculate Growth: Intense analytical skills and a strong team allow young farmer to thrive
Matt Sims, State Line, Ind.

Innovation Meets Tradition: Young farmer adds value to 100-year-old operation
Cody Goodknight, Chattanooga, Okla.

Farm With Purpose: Three pillars shape multigenerational Illinois farm
Bailey Family Farm, Louisville, Ill.

Bailey Family Farm

Opportunity Maker: Wisconsin dairy expands by involving family, community and industry
John Pagel, Kewaunee, Wis.

Ear to the Ground: Grain producer expands into fruit to meet consumer demands
George McDonald, Riddleton, Tenn.

Young Achiever: This Wisconsin farmer credits his success to his employees and innovation
Michael Daniels, Salem, Wis. 

Lasor Focus on Efficiency: Technology keeps potato farm on the leading edge
Jeremie Pavelski, Hancock, Wis.

Jeremie Pavelski cover shoot

A few other photos from the years...

My first staff photo:
Sara Schafer

Presenting at the 2017 Top Producer of the Year banquet: 

2017 Top Producer of the Year Ceremony

Celebrating the success of the first ever Top Producer Summit, with my amazing coworkers, Kayla Lichty and Heather Sterrett. 

 TP Summit Dream Team

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