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2019 FamilyFarms Group Summer Conference Recap

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2019 FamilyFarms Group ConferenceThe 2019 FamilyFarms Group Summer Conference, with the theme “Explore. Discover. Innovate.” was held in St. Charles, Missouri, on July 15–18. The conference focused on family, technology, and innovation while discussing cutting edge topics like blockchain and other unique opportunities available today and in the future.

The conference is a highly anticipated event open to members of FamilyFarms Group. FamilyFarms Group members are some of North America's top farming operations, representing over 700,000 acres of crop production. FamilyFarms Group is part of Family Farms, LLC, which represents 1.7 million acres.

In the spirit of innovation and exploring new ideas, for the first time ever, two days of the conference were open to the public as we expand our value network to even more farm families. New guests at the conference were encouraged to network with staff, seasoned ag industry professionals, and FamilyFarms Group members.


Monday General Session

Jennifer HickmanJennifer Hickman, Executive Vice President from Wunderman Thompson Health Consulting Group, kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking presentation on generational behaviors and how those behaviors are shaping the market, particularly the food industry. Hickman gave helpful insights into how farmers can respond to this data, stay ahead of the curve, and meet the needs of both big brands and consumers.


Tuesday Morning General Session

Tuesday morning started off with Craig Herron, managing partner at iSelect Fund. Craig gave a great presentation about how venture capital firms select companies to invest in.

A crowd favorite, Kevin Van Trump, CEO of Farm Direction and author of The Van Trump Report, talked to the audience about the current status of markets, market trends and where it’s headed in the future, technology and its role in driving costs down, and why and how demographics are having such an impact on the stock market.


Tuesday Afternoon General Session

Shari - BlockchainShari Rogge-Fidler, CEO of FamilyFarms, LLC,

took a deep dive into the importance of blockchain and how it could impact producers in the future. Blockchain is becoming more and more important as food security and transparency in the food chain become high priority for big brands and consumers alike.

At every summer conference, FamilyFarms Charities organizes a community service project for FamilyFarms Group members and staff to participate in. This year’s service project was helping prepare materials to be used by Fit-2-Serve, a grassroots organization based in Mattoon, Illinois. The organization has several different ag-related programs including a garden program teaching children how their food is grown. Fit-2-Serve’s “Generation-2-Generation” program helps children connect with senior citizens at local nursing homes. For more information about Fit-2-Serve, visit


Wednesday Morning General Session

Eric Snodgrass is the principal atmospheric scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, where he develops predictive analytical software solutions to manage weather risk for global production agriculture. Eric talked to attendees about the weather patterns that we have been seeing and how they could impact the fall and winter months.

Hearing directly from ag industry pros is always a valuable experience and one of the many ways members benefit from being a part of the group. This session featured a panel of experts who tackled the topic many farmers are too familiar with this year: battling wet conditions. The panel was made up of Dr. John Bailey, PhD, National Product Manager at Timac Agro USA; Todd Schomburg, Director of Agronomy for Stine Seed; Andy Fleisher, Proprietary Products Manager at Nutrien Ag Solutions; and Dan Horras with D&D Horras Farms. The panel addressed some of the challenges farmers and their crops have faced and will be facing this fall, as well as counter measures to help enhance yield.

Wednesday Afternoon General Session

Larry PageDr. Larry Page, a board member at Lewis & Clark Ventures, talked to the group about how the company selects where to invest based on consumer and producer demands. Specializing in agriculture technologies, Lewis & Clark Ventures seeks to find companies that are developing technology that not only makes farmers’ jobs easier but also addresses consumers’ needs and wants in their food supply chain. Dr. Page also covered how consumer demands are impacting producers and how they can adapt to ever-changing consumer trends in product purchases.

Illinois Soybean Association CEO Craig Ratajczyk spoke to the group about trends and changes in the industry. He emphasized how the ag industry needs to embrace innovative change for growth and advancement. The ag-tech sector is growing and has a growing level of investments being poured into the industry. He also provided insight on what the agriculture industry could look like in 20 years based on technology advancement trends.


Thursday Closing General Session

Farming as an industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Every year has its challenges. Sometimes, those challenges are regional, and sometimes they are local, but the spring of 2019 will go down in history as impacting farmers across the county. Karmen Mehmen from MBS Family Farms in Plainfield, Iowa, delivered an inspiring closing message. She shared her family farm’s challenges and how “grit and sticking with it” helped her family get through the hard times.

Karmen Mehmen

Breakout Sessions: Agriculture Solutions for Family Farms

Each conference is always packed full of great information that leaves guests inspired and refreshed. This conference did not disappoint, with over 20 breakout sessions hosted by ag industry leaders, FamilyFarms Group staff, members, and partners. Topics covered everything from branding, price outlooks, and human resources to farm financials, technology, and much more.


Young Farmer—Exploring and Innovating

Young farmers discussed in a workshop setting challenges they face on their farm and in the industry and how they are meeting those challenges. Jordan Van Trump was also in the session to tell the group about obstacles he has faced as a young businessman working with his dad, Kevin Van Trump.


HR Professional’s Take on Pot, Guns and Booze

As more states legalize marijuana, the line between “okay” and “not okay” is blurring more every year. This breakout session dug deeper into the issues surrounding legal possession of firearms, legalized marijuana, and alcohol usage on the farm.


“I was going to plant that!”

#Plant2019 brought with it challenges across the country. With heavy, unyielding rains and flooding, farmers across the country were unable to plant all their fields. Crop insurance professionals explained prevented planting rules and recent changes, cover crops, and what you can plant and harvest while still receiving a prevent plant payment.


Stay Tuned for the 2020 Winter Conference!

We are still planning our winter conference for early 2020! You won’t want to miss out on yet another value-packed conference.


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