New Century Farmer Conference – Day One

This week, students attending the New Century Farmer conference will be blogging about the lessons they’re learning and the friends they’re making there. The conference is taking place on the Pioneer campus in Des Moines, Iowa.  Topics covered include the global agricultural marketplace, farm financing, demographic trends and risk management. 

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We began the morning bright and early by traveling to Pioneer where we had the opportunity to hear from Dr. David Kohl. He was a very energetic speaker who was full of  valuable information. First he spoke of our “Swiss cheese economy” which is related, connected, and dependent on every other country in the world to prosper.

Then, he talked about the  importance of setting goals. He said that 80 percent of all people have no goals, 16 percent have mental goals (those that are not written down), and the remaining 4 percent have goals that are written down. The 16 percent who have mental goals  will encounter profits three times higher than those without goals. The elite 4 percent with goals written down will make nine times more than those without goals. He encouraged us all to set our own goals in order to become successful.

Next, Dr. Kohl gave us a list of things to watch for in global economics to help  us market our own commodities and make  our operations  more profitable.

He ended his presentation by giving us ten golden rules that we can use in our operations. These rules varied from business and profit rules, to employee management, to setting our missions and goals.

One thing Dr. Kohl said made a particular impression on the group: “Better is better before bigger is better.”  That really hit home, and helped us start thinking about the directions we could take our own operations in and still be profitable.

Later on in the day we participated in some active learning at the Adventure Learning Center. We were divided into teams where we had to work together to solve an array of problems, both mental and physical. We used teamwork to cross various optical courses consisting of ropes or boards. The facilitators did a great job making the activities quite challenging and mentally rigorous!

After completing the courses, we met up with our small groups to discuss how those obstacles relate to  farm management and how we may solve similar problems in the future.

Toward the end of the day, we returned to the larger group to complete a challenge. The challenge proved to be quite difficult and required a serious team effort to determine the best, most efficient and effective strategy. These activities taught us that we all need to work together as an agricultural community to combat various challenges that we will  have to face in the future. We also learned lessons about risk management, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork.

In the evening we heard from another great speaker, Wayne Humphreys. He entertained us with his wit and jokes while driving home a very important message about his vision of the future of agriculture. He helped us gain perspective on what the world of agriculture may look like in 10 and 20 years. He also covered the topics of government control, consumer influence, climate issues, and market trends.

After hearing about Mr. Humphreys’ vision of agriculture, we were better able to think ahead about the kinds of things we may have to plan for to help our operations become successful. He helped us to think about the potential issues that will affect our own individual operations and what we can do to combat problems before they arise.

We wrapped up the day by separating into small groups to share our “Ag in a Bag” projects.  This was our opportunity to talk about our own operation and help teach the rest of the group about agricultural diversity from coast to coast. This was a very informative exercise and gave us new ideas on how we could expand or change our operations to make them as efficient as possible.

The New Century Farmer program is sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business; Case IH; CSX Corporation; and Farm Credit; with media partner Successful Farming as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. The program is designed to provide participants with valuable skills and knowledge applicable to their own farming operations. In addition, they will build a network of colleagues that will benefit them throughout their careers.

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