Difference Makers: Shari Rogge-Fidler
How would you describe the current business climate for Illinois producers?
This is an extremely challenging climate for ag businesses in Illinois and across the Midwest. Ongoing low commodity prices, coupled with some uncertainty around trade policies and a very wet spring, have created a situation that some farmers will have difficulty surviving. Producers are faced with myriad issues and choices related to prevented planting, late planting, insurance coverage, yield averages and more.
What are the primary challenges you see facing Illinois producers?
Two key areas of challenge are legacy and profitability. We’re told 70 percent of farmland is predicted to change hands in the next 20 years. Long-term success across multiple generations will be a challenge, with fewer young people coming back to the family farm. We must prepare a new generation of young farmers to come in with a passion for farming, an expanded skillset and a business mindset. At the same time, farming is evolving with new technology and rapidly changing consumer demands. Producers scramble to keep up, build a profitable business for the next generation and gain consumer trust through transparency regarding food production.
What are the top opportunities for Illinois farmers in this economy?
Opportunities include reaching out/partnering for best practices, ideas and actions; positioning operations for the next several years; and finding and seizing market opportunities. Despite challenges, the market is ripe with opportunities for farms positioned to take advantage of them.
What general strategies or solutions would position farmers for future success?
We advise clients to get their financial houses in order, choose the business strategy/business model that fits them and scale, differentiate or diversify to connect to market opportunities; and finally to ensure sufficient family conversations and role definitions. We partner with families to help them implement these solutions.
How does FamilyFarms Group work with farmers to manage for the future?
We are a member-based peer network focused on innovative business solutions for family farms. In the past, we focused on helping farms grow. However, our new vision is to help farms define their best business strategies, which might mean staying the same size, but diversifying or differentiating. Each farm has a personal coach to help create an action plan and implement it.
It’s easy to find ideas, but the challenge is in putting them into action on the farm and that is our strength. We help families work together to define their roles for maximum effectiveness. Our MyFarmCoach mobile platform provides a powerful and convenient tool for family and other team members to stay connected as they join forces to implement their action plans.
Shari Rogge-Fidler is CEO of Family Farms, LLC, which was formed in 2006 and currently represents more than 1,000 family farming operations and 1.7 million acres of farmland. Family Farms, LLC is a member-owned peer network of independent producers located across the U.S. and in Canada. One of five entities making up Family Farms, LLC, the purpose at FamilyFarms Group is “Keeping Families on the Farm.” Focused on helping members build profitable and sustainable farm businesses, FamilyFarms Group helps clients discover innovative business solutions through training, resources and services in financials, tax, agronomics, human resources, crop insurance and more to help build a valuable and lasting farm legacy.