Developing Leaders: ACE

As our cooperative business evolves, Harvest Land recognizes the need to invest in our greatest asset: our employees. With nearly 1/3 of our employee group retiring in the next ten years, there is immense opportunity for individuals to advance their careers within our cooperative and gain extensive experience to provide greater service and value to our members.

We believe in hiring attitudes and teaching skills. If we can find the best people to be a part of our team, the skill set to do the job well will follow. In 2016 we developed two programs to capitalize on the tremendous talent we already have employed at our cooperative.

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The ICE (Internal Career Excellence) program was developed last year to prepare employees for the increased responsibilities and future demands of an evolving agriculture climate. This program creates opportunities to provide emerging frontrunners with a broader perspective of our business, and the more-strategic perspective enables them to see our business as a whole—beyond specific functions or departments. The ICE program is designed to enable participants to strategically frame their thinking, learn and use basic cooperative business knowledge and tools to better serve our members.

ACE Logo-01ACE (Accelerated Career Excellence) was also created in 2016, and follows the same guidelines as ICE but with an external hire. Both programs had an excellent inaugural year. We had more than forty employees apply for ICE and eight external candidates apply for ACE, proving the strong desire individuals have to learn how to provide greater value to our farmer-members.
Our first-ever ACE program participant was Kyle Baumer, a Centerville, Indiana native. Kyle was raised on a 400-acre dairy farm and went on to graduate from Indiana University East with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management with a concentration in marketing. Prior to Harvest Land’s ACE program, he worked outside the agriculture industry.

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Kyle applied for the ACE program because he always knew he wanted to get back to his roots in agriculture. He viewed the program as a great way to see what Harvest Land does  from the ground floor, up,  knowing that possible opportunities would be presented if he was willing to put in the hard-work along the way.

“The greatest advantage going through the ACE program was that I got to work in every segment of our company and learn from people that have been with us for many years,” Kyle said. “Also, being able to attend the leadership and communication courses was very self-rewarding.” Harvest Land partnered with Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agribusiness and Bayer Crop Science to facilitate these elite trainings.

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“One of the challenges I found being the new guy was gaining fellow employees’ trust, which took a little time. I learned that you must be willing to learn the whole time and not be afraid to ask questions when uncertain of a situation or duty,” Kyle went on to explain of his ACE experience.

On July 31 Kyle moved into a grain originator role, where the primary functions of the position are to originate grain from local producers, to provide marketing education for Harvest Land Co-op customers and to help achieve Harvest Land’s grain department mission and goals, which result in outstanding customer service and a profitable grain department.

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“I look forward to working with farmers and helping them better market their grain. I know this will be a great learning opportunity for me to work with our farmers and gain insight into how they run their business,”  Kyle said.

We are so glad that Kyle made the decision
to come back to his agricultural roots –
he has been a tremendous addition to our team!

If you’d like to learn more about Harvest Land’s career development programs, we invite you to visit our website.

 

 

 

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Faith & Farming

Faith and Farming: they go hand and hand:

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Some days, doesn’t it feel as though it began raining on Easter and hasn’t quit? While the naive mind might like to believe that farmers across the corn belt are putting in ponds as part of some water retention conservation project, you and I both know that just isn’t the case. You can drive through the countryside and see standing water in every direction.

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Rather than driving around the township with their best co-pilot and a steady dose of optimism, checking growth in the warm May sunshine, most growers in our area are riding around with the insurance adjuster looking at corn that has already been replanted or will be.

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Writer Lisa TerKeurst once wrote that “The space between our expectations and our reality is a fertile field. And often it’s a place where disappointment grows.” How true that is, and what fitting words when thinking of our 2017 planting season. Even when the field is flooded, the disappointment is able to grow within the rows.  I heard one farmer say that he didn’t even want to leave the house in the morning because he knew disappointment would greet his first step out the door.

You can’t blame him; it’s been a soggy and frustrating spring.

But you can’t lose faith, either.

I’ve often heard that God gives the toughest battles to His strongest soldiers but I believe there is more to that; although those in agriculture are certainly of resilient stock! I think God gives these times of disappointment to the ones who can be of example on how to stay the course amidst the frustration. He uses them as an example to others.

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I don’t know a farmer who plans on not planting in 2017 because of the amount of rain and cold air we’ve endured. I don’t know a farmer who has decided to sit this year out of farming. I don’t know a farmer who intends on selling farm because of 8 inches of rain.

The farmers we know are changing their course of action, recalculating their assumptions and adapting to the situation. The farmers we know are waiting it out and attending 6th grade graduations and dance recitals in the mean time. The farmers we know are trying really hard to exercise the patience their parents worked to instill in them.

Because the farmers we know
learned a long time ago that
faith and farming go hand and hand.

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Were You Hired To Do That?

A middle school student, from a town not far from our cooperative headquarters, was given the assignment to job shadow someone working in a field that might interest him down the road.

His top choices for a future career – at age 14 – were

  • a pediatrician (should a student spend their day in a medical office during flu season?)
  • a preacher (he gets weekly insight from this field every Sunday and at youth group)
  • the agricultural field (he chose to spend his day at our farmer-owned cooperative)

I had a meeting with our agronomist and the gentleman that this student was shadowing for the day, our Chief Operations Officer. The three of us discussed plans for an upcoming presentation we are giving at Ball State University, while the student sat in quiet observation. After collaboration over a meal, we engaged the student by explaining to him our individual paths that lead to the current positions we have within Harvest Land.

It was a really valuable conversation. Not only did I learn about the very unique roads my coworkers have taken to get to the successful levels they’re at today, but I also noticed a trend that I think is worth sharing with you.

One employee never went to college, they went straight to into the work force out of high school.

One employee went to a highly accredited 4-year university (after turning down an offer at Notre Dame) and even went on to attain their Master’s.

One employee graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a non-agriculture field.

All three were leaps and bounds above the level – both in position and pay – in which they were first hired (one started at $1 an hour – and it wasn’t 1929). All three shared oddly similar stories when visiting with the job-shadowing-student.

All three never turned down a job.
  • Sweeping the shop floor
  • Answering phones
  • Tying feed sacks
  • Mixing chemicals
  • Making the office coffee (which could be comparable to mixing chemicals)
  • Washing trucks
  • Delivering meals to the field
  • Cleaning up after meetings or guests
  • Taking out the trash
  • Sweeping out bins
  • Working in the pit
  • Loading trucks with bagged feed
  • Painting tanks
  • Making parts runs
  • And more

These were just a few of the things these highly successful adults did in their early careers.

“Were you hired to do that?!” the student asked the COO.
“No, I wasn’t. But it needed done.”

What a lesson that can resonate with today’s students about to begin their careers. There is a strange expectation from many who are early in their career that they will get hired into a middle management position and climb the ladder of success by starting on the third rung. Today’s work force doesn’t work that way. The workforce in 2007 didn’t work that way. The work force in 1997 didn’t work that way. The work force in 1987 didn’t work that way. Do you notice a trend?

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What an advantage someone will have if they choose early in life to do the work that needs to be done, whether it was written in their job description, or not. Those who keep the phrase “That’s not my job,” off their lips will have a far greater advantage over those who use it.

Now, this isn’t giving every supervisor across America to take advantage of those who work hard.

But we offer this encouragement to those who want to be successful in their field of choice: If you’re willing to do more than what is expected of you, more opportunities than you expect will come your way. 

work bootsWe believe that farm kids get hired and promoted regularly because they understand that there is work to be done, no matter who does it. They come from a place where 5:00 PM simply means that there is still four more hours of daylight and work ahead of them. They come from a team that doesn’t clock in or clock out – their work begins when the boots go on and it ends when they come off…and then they have to eat dinner with their co-workers.

Farm kids understand that even the bosses have to do the dirty jobs sometimes – – -because they’ve seen their grandfathers use auto steer in the brand new tractor in the same day that they saw him picking up rocks out of the field.

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We encourage those early in their career to take full advantage of the opportunities to do many different jobs – the good, bad, and ugly – when given the chance. Not only will it offer you new experiences, it will expand your skill set and build your character.

And who knows, it might start a really enlightening conversation in 30 years when you’re being job shadowed by an eager middle schooler trying to figure out the world.

Three Words of Advice to the Class of 2016

The oversized gowns are hung in closets never to be worn again and the caps have been tossed.

Last weekend we finally awarded our last 2016 Harvest Land Co-op Scholarship. This spring twenty outstanding high school graduates were granted $1,000 scholarships on behalf of our farmer-owned cooperative.

These very deserving students are pursuing post-high school agricultural degrees. They are, in fact, the future of agriculture. And a bright future, it is: Agriculture teachers, economists, animal chiropractors, nutritionists, veterinarians, broadcasters….the list of dream jobs coming out of this bunch is very promising. We also recognize employees’ children who graduated this spring and are pursuing post-high school education. From Indianapolis east to Dayton and Ft. Wayne south to Cincinnati, students from all over Harvest Land’s trade market are chosen annually.

And the winners are…

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We wish the very best to each of these students as they leave behind the halls of the high schools where they’ve spent so many days and charge ahead into the next chapter. We just know they’ll shine.

Before these twenty up-and-comers leave their townships and move on into the world, we thought now might be a good time to give them just three quick bits of advice, on the occasion of their high school graduation.

We aren’t guaranteeing this advice will ensure Dean’s List status (sorry, parents), but we are certain it won’t hurt you.

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Be Punctual

Signing up for 4-H before the deadline.

Getting the corn planted in a short window of time.

Spraying before the rain comes but when the wind is just right.

Submitting your FFA SAE project on time.

Making hay while the sun shines, literally.

Cutting beans when moisture is right.

Selling when the market is high.

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Up to this point, your life in agriculture has been incredibly time dependent. You’ve seen first hand the importance of carrying out certain tasks in a timely manor and being quite intentional on timing.

Now – more than ever – it is important that you stay on time.

Class starts every day at a very specific time. It won’t wait on you.

Your professor starts teaching every day at a very specific time. They won’t wait on you.

Work starts every day at a very specific time. It won’t wait on you.

Be punctual.

Remember, in higher education and in agriculture, your being on time is quite important and affects so much around you. Don’t waste anyone’s time, especially your own. Be punctual.

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Introduce Yourself

Maybe you came from a tiny town, maybe you came from the suburbs. Maybe you hail from a class of 52, maybe you’re one of 328 graduates in your class. No matter where you’re coming from, you are about to enter a whole new world with thousands in the exact same boat as you: a freshman in college.

A new world.

A new place.

A new schedule.

A new set of classmates, friends and people that will feel more like family in a year.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself. To everyone.

Introduce yourself to every professor you have; they will sure be happy to put a face with a name and they won’t forget you.

Introduce yourself to the person standing behind you in line for the washing machine. You’re both probably missing your mother at that exact same time.

Introduce yourself to those strangers you happen to sit next to in class. They’ll become your study partners, source of explanations when you just don’t get it and the ones you’ll say “Merry Christmas!” to before driving home for a long Christmas break.

It matters not how big the class or campus is: No one knows the story within you. Make sure you tell it. Introduce yourself.

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Call Your Parents

This is important. I’m serious.

You may be going off to school three time zones away or staying at home and attending a community college. You may see your parents once at Christmas or every evening when you get home. Whatever your circumstance, don’t forget to communicate with your parents.

Call them.

Text them.

Send them a birthday card.

Tell them good morning.

Because while your life is taking off in a million different, exciting directions, and every day is a new adventure to you, they’re probably at home worried, wondering if you remembered to pack your umbrella.

One day you’ll understand.

Call your parents.

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Congratulations to each of our scholarship recipients,
but also to the entire Class of 2016.
We wish you the absolute best as you
continue to work towards each one of your goals.

If Not For Their Sacrifice

Memorial Day weekend in America: the unofficial start to summer.

It’s easy to get swept away in the spirit of the season: the sizzle of the grill, seeing some kind of light at the end of the tunnel in terms of planting (we’re optimists) and watching really fast cars make consistent left hand turns for nearly three hours.

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It is so easy to get swept away in those things, in fact, that we forget what the three-day weekend is really about: Honoring men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military. Memorial Day is about honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, our country and the lives we’re fortunate to live every day.

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If not for their sacrifice we wouldn’t have the chance to play with our grandkids on the big old oak that has stood on the family farm, more than 100 years.

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If not for their sacrifice we wouldn’t have a choice. A choice when making our own purchasing decisions. A choice when selecting fertilizer. A choice when filling our diesel tanks or choosing what lubricants to use to ensure our operation continues to run like a well oiled machine. Most days. 

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If not for their sacrifice we wouldn’t have the opportunity to proudly – and freely – wave the American flag over our grain bins, fence lines  and from our combines.

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If not for their sacrifice we wouldn’t be able to sit in the same creaky pew that our great-grandmother did every Sunday for 87 years.

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If not for their sacrifice our kids wouldn’t be able to stand in front of their peers and freely explain to the class just what it means to grow up on a farm.

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If not for their sacrifice we woudn’t be able to proudly cheer for the old Black & Gold.

Or Scarlet & Grey.

Or Cream & Crimson.

Or whatever color combination you’re into.

Is it football season yet?

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If not for their sacrifice we wouldn’t have the opportunity to write our letters to the editor in our small hometown newspaper – or even the Farm World – publically expressing our praises and concerns.

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If not for their sacrifice we wouldn’t be able to attend parades on the main streets that serve as the backbone of our rural communities. We wouldn’t be able to march for causes we’re passionate about and throw candy to our neighbors and spend the day with our families celebrating the hometown spirit.

If not for their sacrifice our grandkids wouldn’t go to Vacation Bible School or Sunday School or proudly be a St. Mary’s Cub.

A Christmas Prayer

The people we remember on Memorial Day weekend
wrote a blank check made payable to
“The United States of America”
for an amount of
“up to, and including his/her life.”
And the check was cashed.

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This Memorial Day weekend, join us in honoring the selfless fallen.

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Know Your Why

It is often asked in an introductory conversation. Maybe you’re on a flight, maybe you’re at a workshop, maybe you’re even signing your middle child up for kindergarten. I bet if you began visiting with someone and asked them what they did for a living, they’d have no trouble telling you.

Architect

Communications Specialist

Farmer

Daycare operator

Nurse

Loan Officer

The list could go on endlessly with the variety of careers on the market, and with each additional position, the person in that role could easily explain to you what they do. Even if they played a lot of different roles in the day (anyone out there a chauffeur, accountant, chef, therapist and farm hand – all in one day?). It’s their daily routine; if they’re lucky, it’s their passion, too.

What if you asked that same person how they did their job? Well, unless their work is highly classified, there is a great chance that they can explain that to you, too. They probably know the ins and outs of their position so well, they can explain their work in a 30-second synopsis. This likely won’t happen often on Between the Rows, but an Albert Einstein quote comes to mind when thinking about someone explaining how they do their daily work (for the record, moving forward we’re more likely to quote George Strait on any given Thursday than we are Einstein):

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But what if we went deeper?

What if you asked the question why?

Why do you do what you do?

That question may extend your conversation a bit, and I bet it would take the respondent a moment or two to think of their answer. Why do you do what you do?

For Harvest Land, that big question is easy to answer. We have no reservation in response, no worry in reaction. We know our purpose; we know our why.

 

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We have a moral obligation to couple the resources available to us and the spirit of generations of honest work so that we’re able to put food on the table for people we’ll never have the pleasure of meeting.

That is why we don’t hesitate to work the long, spring hours or the endless harvest days.

That is why we take safety seriously, in every situation.

That is why we navigate the changing agricultural climate, volatile markets and political landscape right along with you.

That is why our Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays sometimes run together.

That is why – to this day – we value the way our Granddads worked: planting trees, knowing that they’d never have the opportunity to enjoy the shade.

That is Harvest Land.

That is our why.

What is yours?

The Cooperative Spirit: A Brief History

We’re so glad you stopped by to visit.

Do you have a quick minute for a story?

Or maybe, a history?

Years ago – we’re talking long before weather maps were kept on cell phones in pockets – folks relied on working together to defend their land, hunt, produce and gather food and create shelters and clothing. It was their cooperative spirit, one that encouraged working together to achieve a common goal, that allowed the people to create more, support larger groups and elevate success as culture evolved. It was through information sharing that early societies were able to triumph through the most arduous times.

At Harvest Land Co-op, we’ve never forgotten that cooperative spirit. In fact, it’s the very fabric of our business.

Our cooperative is unique from many businesses in that nearly 5,000 farmers who have made their homes in Indiana and Ohio own us. Together they collaborate for our success by utilizing Harvest Land’s services, sourced products and expert employees. Continued investment in our farmer-owned cooperative ensures the longevity of such a system that welcomes and serves so many.

This blog was created as a resource for our members and also those with whom we share communities. We want to use this space to answer questions about what our cooperative does, explain why we’re so passionate about land and resource conservation and share our steadfast belief in creating a responsible food system (speaking of food systems: don’t forget to pick up milk after work).

Join us on this expedition and come back weekly as we dig deeper to the roots of Harvest Land Co-op and the many fibers that make our cooperative spirit sturdy, nearly 100 years after our inception.

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