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A chance to look forward

There’s an old Chinese proverb that states: “If your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for 10 years, plant trees. If your vi­sion is for a lifetime, plant people.” While all three are key focal points, none delivers lasting results like developing people.

The importance of people is paramount to the success of your farming operation, your coopera­tive, and the agriculture industry. I firmly believe that if you get the people part right, everything else falls into place.

Your cooperative dedicates con­siderable resources to the people side of our business, and for good reason. Our team is our greatest asset and provides us with the competitive advantage we need to win in the marketplace. We’re blessed to have a culture and em­ployees who are passionate about agriculture. I’m proud of what the team does and its commitment to improving producer capability and profitability.

But it is a challenging task to field a complete team in this tight labor environment. As it is for most businesses right now, it’s difficult for MFA to find qualified candi­dates for open positions. We’ve upped our game at recruitment and training to help fill those gaps.

Whether it is a new hire or someone with 30-plus years of ser­vice, companies are measured by whether or not their employees feel valued. It is more than just salary and benefits. It includes a feeling that the company cares about them as a person, has a genuine interest in their success, and recognizes their contribution. It comes from opportunities for continuous learn­ing and development.

The impact of people doesn’t stop within the walls of MFA Incor­porated. Agriculture is a dynamic industry that’s being transformed by rapidly changing technology. But people, not technology, will be the defining factor in our quest for strengthening food security.

It’s why MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company are investing in leadership and development op­portunities for the next generation. In January, we jointly hosted the second annual Emerging Leaders in Agriculture conference at the Lake of the Ozarks, targeting producers between the ages of 21 and 45 (see related story on page 6).

Individuals and couples from 50 farms and ranches represent­ing a variety of operations—from row crops and beef cattle to dairy, hogs and poultry—attended this two-day event. Invitations were ex­tended from a list of more than 150 applicants who operate in the trade area our two companies serve. We had farmers from Missouri, Arkan­sas and Kansas in attendance.

These young farmers are the future of agriculture. They are an essential part of the approximately 1% of the U.S. population that is engaged in farming today.

The Emerging Leaders Confer­ence is not a commercial for either company. Instead, it is focused on participant development. Both national and local agricultural and cooperative leaders shared insight on key issues impacting the industry and, closer to home, their farming operations.

It was an opportunity to sit across the table from other success­ful producers to discuss issues and challenges, discover new practices, and build a network of friends that can be used as a resource in the future—things that can make them more successful in their operations.

Warren G. Buffett wrote a book titled “40 Chances.” The over­all theme centered on continual improvement, pointing out that a farmer can expect 40 chances or growing seasons to get it right. My impression is that this group understands the book’s message, and they will use the tools available to spend their time well.

I suspect every generation has asked the questions: What does the future of agriculture look like? Who will be its future leaders? Being an observer at the Emerging Leaders Conference gives me confi­dence that we are in good hands.

I’m always excited and energized when I walk away. I leave you with this thought from Brazilian mixed martial artist Vitor Belfort:

“Legacy is not what I did for myself. It’s what I’m doing for the next generation.”

MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil are proud to help contribute to the legacy of our next generation.

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