Farmer CEOs must confront challenge of big investment, small company

Farm Forum

ST. LOUIS — The tricky problem for today’s economic scale farms is that they are large investments of dozens of millions of dollars, but small companies from a management standpoint. Consequently, the challenge for the farmer as CEO is to assemble the talent team needed for success in today’s increasingly complex and risky environment was the message Gregory Duerksen, President of Kincannon & Reed, delivered recently to the audience at the Farm Futures Business Summit 2014 in his address “The War for Talent and What It Means for 21st Century Agriculture.”

“The problem we are trying to solve is the mismatch between the old management and labor needs of crop farming versus current and future leadership and talent needs,” said Duerksen, whose firm specializes in recruiting leaders in the interrelated realms of food, agribusiness, and life sciences.

“The very nature of commodity crop farming is changing dramatically, so the talent we seek today has characteristics quite different than a generation or even a decade ago. Today’s farmer must think and act like a modern CEO: nurture a superior and focused work ethic; have both a strategic and tactical perspective; understand and embrace the grey; develop a keen self-awareness; become both clever and wise; and be a strategic doer while simultaneously leading others.”

In addition to the details of what successful farm leadership entails, Duerksen addressed the pressing issues of succession planning, how to attract and retain top farming talent, and the future shape of crop farming.