The 2019 FamilyFarms Group Winter Conference, with the theme “Make Your Mark,” was held in Richardson, Texas on January 29 – February 1 and was yet another success! 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.
At each conference, FamilyFarms Group members have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with peers, speakers, guests, and vendors, sharing ideas and expanding their thinking. At this “Make Your Mark” themed conference, a primary focus was exploring and learning about how family farms can differentiate themselves through branding to ensure their legacy.
In addition, FamilyFarms Group shared its innovative vision and renewed emphasis of delivering value to all family farms through providing the information, resources, services, and network connections necessary to help improve profit and compete successfully so they can thrive now and well into the future.
Tuesday General Session
The conference started off with a strong lineup of guest speakers. The first speaker was Eric Snodgrass, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois and Principal Atmospheric Scientist at Nutrien. Eric kicked off the general session with his informative and lighthearted talk about major weather trends and patterns, providing the audience with a forecast of what the 2019 growing season might bring and what that could mean for farmers.
Jack Hunt, former president and CEO of the world-famous King Ranch, shared the truly intriguing King Ranch story with conference attendees along with his experiences of being at the helm of one of the largest ranches in the world. Hunt discussed how he took on making big decisions and the importance of branding in preserving the family farm.
Michelle Bubniak, Manager, Corporate Sustainability for Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), talked about the word “sustainability” and what it really means to the farms of today and their audience. She also talked about what ADM is doing in the sustainability arena to help reduce their environmental impact across their facilities in North America.
A conference focused on “Make Your Mark” wouldn’t be complete without talking about the importance about branding and storytelling. Mark Smither, Vice President at Paulsen, an advertising agency in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, spoke about building a trustworthy brand and how consumers connect with brands based on emotions.
Viral social media sensations, the Peterson Farm Brothers performed some of their parody songs like “Tractor Stuck,” inspired by ACDC’s “Thunder Struck.” What started off as a way to educate their friends about farming, the Peterson Farm Brothers’ videos turned into a much larger platform than they imagined possible, educating the public about farming and the agriculture industry.
Wednesday General Session
On Wednesday, attendees heard from leaders at Agralogics and Indigo Ag. Both companies are growing and have a vast wealth of knowledge to share with producers.
- Sumer Johal, founder and CEO of Agralogics, shared with producers how food companies are using blockchain throughout their business practices.
- Ben Allen, Head of Food and Fiber at Indigo Ag, talked to the group about Indigo’s microbiologic products and the electronic market place for trading grains.
Thursday General Session
The closing general session was packed full of fun and guest speakers. The session kicked off with Mark Moore, Manager of Special Opportunities at Bunge Global Agribusiness, speaking to the audience about how having financial services can help farm families “make their mark” in the ag industry.
Jess Newman, Director of US Agronomy at Anheuser-Busch InBev and her team of 15 agronomists advise barley, rice and hops farmers on how to become more efficient through low-pressure sprinkler systems, smarter fertilizer applications and more fuel-efficient machinery. She shared with the audience how her team helps growers produce a sustainable product while reducing costs and increasing the quality of the product that goes into each beverage.
To wrap up the general session, former Chief Marketing Officer at General Mills, Ann Simonds, along with Family Farms, LLC’s CEO, Shari Rogge-Fidler, talked about how Simonds led the marketing for brands like Pillsbury, Betty Crocker and Immaculate Baking. Simonds shared some of the challenges and triumphs she faced while speaking about the importance of branding and building trust.
Breakout Sessions: Agriculture Solutions for Family Farms
Each conference is always packed full of great information that leaves members inspired and refreshed. This conference did not disappoint, with over 25 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, succession planning, and much more.
- Blockchain Technology in Agriculture
- Sumer Johal, founder and CEO of Agralogics, took a deep dive into blockchain and what it means for agriculture. Session attendees learned about what blockchain is and how it works, how blockchain benefits agriculture, and how ERP and blockchain are being used in a pilot on the farm of a FamilyFarms member.
- Make Your Mark: Branding Strategy for Your Farm
- Family Farms, LLC’s Marketing Manager, Jill Miller, along with a panel of farmers, talked about what makes a trusted brand, the importance of branding, what works best, and first steps a farm family can take to begin branding their operation.
- Crop-Specific Sessions: Cotton and Hemp
- Guest presenter Zev Paiss from The Hemp Marketplace and the Farmers Support Group, LLC, talked to interested producers about a new crop, hemp. Industrial hemp production has become an option for US producers since new laws are being put into place. Paiss covered the economics of hemp farming, legal considerations, supply chains for hemp and best practices for growing hemp.
- Cotton producers were able to learn from Gary Taylor, owner of Agri Cura, LLC, and former CEO of Cargill Cotton, and gain some insight about price outlooks on cotton, changes in processing and equipment, and environmental aspects of cotton.
- Human Resources Basics
- The Human Resources team at Family Farms, LLC informed their audience about creating a foundation within HR to help farm operations to function efficiently and effectively. Topics included establishing basic employee files that are compliant and organized, implementing standard employee policies, and execution of employee onboarding.
Fun Networking Events
All work and no play? Not at a FamilyFarms Group Conference! The young farmers group were treated to a fun networking event, participating in an axe throwing competition at Class Axe in Richardson where they got to show off their lumberjack skills. Additionally, FamilyFarms Charities hosted a Casino night fundraiser to support their efforts in using agriculture as a vehicle for change. For more information about FamilyFarms Charities, visit http://familyfarmscharities.org.
FORE! For the closing reception, our guests headed to Top Golf in Dallas to channel their inner Rory McIlroy. Fun and fellowship is a staple at all Family Farms, LLC conferences.
Transitioning to Organic Farming Seminar
On Friday, February 1, producers had the opportunity to attend a seminar about transitioning to organic production as one of many strategies to help farm families succeed. Guest speakers from Mercaris, AgriSecure and The Andersons, as well as producers who have already transitioned to organic from conventional, presented a multitude of topics, including:
- Why organic? Reasons for transitioning and practical guidelines for growers
- Where to start? Which acres, how many acres?
- The certification process: Options available, which certifiers to use
- Who can I sell to? Target markets and what to expect
- Soil health & crop rotation
Join us in Edwardsville, Illinois on March 1st!
The next FamilyFarms Group conference will be held in the summer of 2019. However, AgriSolutions, a subsidiary of Family Farms, LLC, is holding a one-day conference in Edwardsville, Illinois at the N.O. Nelson campus on March 1, 2019. The AgriSolutions conference, “Gateway to Success,” is open to the public and will focus on farm financials. You don’t want to miss out! For more information and to register, click here!
Want to read about our last conference, held in summer of 2018? Click here to catch up!
Want to join Family Farms, LLC this summer at our next conference? Get started by talking with us today!