From the Fields: Need Another Cap?

For decades now, one of the symbols of the American farmer is his/her iconic baseball cap, sometimes known as a seed corn cap. Caps not only have the physical functions of hair keeper, sun visor, and dust shield, but they also serve as an advertiser of the products and services used by a farmer or even sentiments held by the wearer. Beliefs and virtues such as hard work, persistence, and family traditions creep into the advertising slogans sported on farm caps offered by equipment dealers, seed corn companies, feed suppliers, and yes, even banks. Though they can only wear one cap at a time, farmers may own dozens of caps; some well-worn and sun-faded and others still collecting dust in a closet.

Like the variety held in their farm cap collections, farmers wear many ‘hats’ or caps in their daily roles on the farm. There are numerous skills and competencies in which a farmer must manage and master in order to be successful. As the saying goes, “Do more of what you do well and delegate or hire out the rest.”  Understandably, the scope and scale of a farm may drive which competencies or tasks can be affordably delegated or hired. Here are some of the caps in which a farmer must wear to help ensure best success:  

  • Business Strategy – forecast and assess business model performance, enterprise mix, expansion and diversification opportunities, and resource management (time, talent, capital).
  • Livestock & Milk Production – deliver nutrition, healthcare, sanitation, breeding, growth and development programs for animals in all life and production phases.
  • Crops & Land Production – implement agronomic best practices for growing quantity and quality crops and feed, averting diseases and pests, improving soil health, and evolving conservation practices.
  • Equipment & Facilities – selection, maintenance, and repair of large equipment, vehicles, structures, and systems needed for the production, handling, and distribution of crops, manure, feed, and milk and meat products.
  • Financial & Marketing – manage budgets for the purchase of inputs and capital expenditures, delegation of labor, human resource relations, operating cost containment, and price discovery for the sale of outputs.
  • Risk Mitigation – negotiate legal contracts, insurance coverages, human and animal health and safety practices, government programs related to production, pricing and land management, environmental standards, market trends, and weather.
  • Public Relations & Communications – interact with the general public (99% are not familiar with modern farming practices), municipalities, neighbors, politicians, producer groups, consumer groups, and others who want to better understand how food, fuel, and fiber is produced and distributed locally and globally.   

In some farm businesses, one or two people wear most or all of these caps. Yet in others, these caps are worn by fellow family members, neighbors, employees, or outside experts to deploy specialized functions and best practices. As agricultural lenders, it is our job to understand our clients’ favorite caps- the ones in which they are the most skilled and to recognize which caps are being worn by chosen delegates in order to accomplish the farm’s operational and financial goals. Thus, lenders have a few hats of our own to wear each day too, and it’s perhaps one of the most enjoyable components of our role. It’s a great day to be an Ag Lender!  

Amber Keller is the current vice chair of the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors and is the senior vice president, director of ag banking with Town Bank in Clinton.

By, Lori Kalscheuer