At WorkHorse Hub we love big thinkers and entrepreneurs in agriculture. Our founders are two such innovators who are out to work with others to solve the HR and labour problem in agriculture in Canada and worldwide.
One such giant of modern agriculture is Dr. Danny Klinefelter. An agricultural economist, Dr. Klinefelter’s career has specialized in agriculture finance and management development. He is also the founder and director for The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP). One of just a handful of specialized agribusiness and agriculture management programs which has seen tremendous success with over 2,500 participants from 45 states, 6 Canadian provinces and countries all over the world.
TEPAP is a unique program that aims to develop its members – agricultural producers - into agriculture executives. The Executive Program teaches advanced agribusiness skills such as evaluating global economic development, niche market evaluation, analyzing and forecasting financial position, as well as personnel management and negotiation. In other words, sharpen your management and leadership skills.
AgWeb published an interview with Dr. Klinefelter recently and we wanted to share a few tidbits from it about how he got to where he is and where he sees agriculture going in the future. (We recommend you read the whole thing here).
Reprinted with permission of Top Producer, November 2017. ©FARM JOURNAL MEDIA. All rights reserved.
AgWeb: How did you become an ag economist?
Dr. Klinefelter: I grew up on a farm in Illinois, so I had a strong relationship with agriculture. I didn’t go back to the farm because I have allergies and I have no mechanical abilities whatsoever. I looked at going into ag banking, so I got my bachelor’s degree in ag economics and then my master’s at the University of Illinois. I didn’t want to be a typical academic researcher. I didn’t want to sit there and develop models and crank out journal articles. I went into banking for five years. The dean of the night school at one of the community colleges in Illinois got me to teach a class, and I liked it.
I was 27 years old and eligible for a National Science Foundation research fellowship, which had dependency allowances and was tax-free. I thought, “If I’m ever going to go for the Ph.D., let’s do it now.” After I got that, I came to Texas A&M University.
I was there just about three years, and then the farm financial crisis of the ’80s hit. One of the farm credit banks wiped out its entire management team, and so I got an offer to go in, contribute and learn a lot. I spent five years there. When the crisis was over, I got calls from four universities in three months. What they wanted was someone who had been a lender who had the union card—a Ph.D.—and I did. One was from Texas A&M. I enjoyed working there, so I came back.
AgWeb: What does the future of agriculture look like?
Dr. Klinefelter: We are going to move toward coordinated supply chains with qualified suppliers. Some consumers want certain things, and you’ve got to prove it to them.
Take Frito-Lay, for example. They had 1,000 growers several years ago and today, they have less than 70. Yet they produce more potatoes than the 1,000. Over 25 years, as somebody quit, didn’t perform or lost the contract, Frito-Lay offered the contract to the best people that they had. If they wanted to open a new plant and didn’t want to find local growers, they would offer contracts to the best growers they had who were willing to work with them and provided them with consistently high-quality food products.
Food companies want somebody that can prove what they are doing—such as sustainability, organics or non-GMO—and have the technology to say, “Hey, I can do that in real time. I don’t need a survey or test fields. We’ve got proof instantaneously of what we’ve done, what we’ve applied and what conditions were like.” That’s a whole lot more powerful than government regulations. Not all consumers want that, but there’s a big enough group that do. Farmers have to meet the needs of the market.
AgWeb: What do farm employees need to be successful?
Dr. Klinefelter: You need good, hard workers, but you also need the people who know how to operate technology or lead the management team: a human resources director, a chief financial officer, an IT specialist, a chief engineer, a marketing and risk-management specialist. It’s industrialized farming, and that’s a good thing. There is a growing intolerance for variability. It will continue to go that way. Just because you don’t like the way things are going doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. You have to understand it, adjust to it and adapt to it. Otherwise, you’re going to be history.
We absolutely agree with Dr. Klinefelter’s points above about the future workforce of agriculture. In fact, it is the WorkHorse Hub thesis. Agriculture is changing and we are helping employers and job seekers change with it. Whether you are a farmer, own an agribusiness or manage food production you need (or will need) employees with human resources, marketing, IT and other important skill-sets that haven’t traditionally been related to agriculture. Luckily, with WorkHorse we make finding job seekers with these skill-sets easy! Learn more about how WorkHorse can help your organization on our How It Works page.