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But the acronym CEO—for chief executive officer—certainly fits most farmers
CEO PANELISTS Greg Leman, Jeremy Jack and Bruce Frasier, discussed the roles and responsibilities of farmer-CEOs during the recent Bayer CropScience Ag issues Forum in San Antonio.
That change, he said, resulted in “five times the amount of sales. Find your niche,” he advised. “Think about what you do.” He said social media helps identify new customers.
Jack has turned the family cotton, rice, corn, soybean and wheat operation into a model of environmental stewardship. “We do show and tell,” he said. Conservation and sustainability are “part of everything we do.” That includes re-using irrigation water, which they collect in reservoirs and put back into the system. “We test water for nutrients as it comes off the field,” he said.
Technology improves Silent Shade efficiency. Fewer workers and fewer trips across the fields mean time and energy savings.
Observation also pays off. He said an employee noted that he was losing a lot of time and burning a lot of fuel with a tractor running while the spray tank was filling. “Idling was wasting time and money,” Jack said. By changing to a more efficient pump, they cut idling time by 75 percent.
Jack received the Bayer CropScience Young Sustainable Farmer Award in 2013. “We now have a demonstration farm,” he said. “School kids follow us on social media.” Silent Shade uses web cams to record what goes on at the farm.
Communication, he said, is a critical part of what a farm manager, CEO, needs to do. “We see a lot about agriculture (in the media) that’s not true. If we don’t tell our story, someone else will.”
Leman said labor is one of his big issues. “We have a lot of trouble finding labor.” He’s the third generation raising corn, soybeans and hogs on Leman Farms, Inc. It’s especially difficult to find employees for the hog operation. “No one wants to work with livestock,” he said.
Technology helps. “Technology frees us up to do what we need to do, which is not sitting on a tractor. The next generation of farm labor will have to be tech savvy,” he said. “Finding the talent will be difficult. The image of a farm is still antiquated. Urban kids don’t understand the potential of a farm career.”
Frasier said labor has not been a problem. He pays above going rate but contends that migrant labor is critical. “We need immigration reform,” he said. “Without reform, we get amnesty. That’s what we have now. And I really don’t want a government big enough to round up 12 million undocumented persons and send them across the border.”
He said a guest worker program would help. “Some workers are now coming in illegally because they can’t get in legally.”
Jack said good labor is hard to find in Mississippi. “We use the H2-A program.” He’s pragmatic about immigration. “My parents came from Canada,” he said.
Leman said about 95 percent of his labor force is Hispanic. “They are the only ones willing to do the work.”