Twenty years ago, I sat down at my typewriter to tackle an interesting assignment. Ohio Farm Bureau was looking for a new exec, and as a candidate, I’d been asked to envision the future, to predict what lie ahead for farmers and Farm Bureau. Right now, I imagine there are a couple of folks going through a similar exercise because soon there will be a new guy or gal sitting in my seat.
As was I, your new exec will be charged with helping Farm Bureau adapt to an ever-changing world. On the chance the past informs the future, here are a few thoughts I wrote down, and a look back at my look forward.
Then, now and forever, my belief is that Farm Bureau will thrive based on an unchanging principle: We are a group of individuals with a collective goal – Better lives for our families. The needs at our birth nearly 100 years ago were elemental: bargaining power when buying and selling goods and services, rural electricity, affordable insurance. Today’s needs are diverse and complex, but no less solvable if we stick to the premise that individuals working together get big things done.
I also wrote about who those individuals would be, picturing greater diversity in our core membership. The need was clear. When Farm Bureau organized, nearly 30 percent of Americans were farmers. Today, it’s fewer than 2 percent. For Farm Bureau to thrive, farmers need allies. Fortunately there are some natural ones. Fourteen percent of Ohioans work in an industry with direct ties to the farm. That’s nearly 1 million Ohioans who prosper as farmers prosper. I’m pleased that as I begin to step down, our farmers are stepping into this broader agricultural community and inviting them to share in our cause.
That cause itself has become far more inclusive. Our mission statement now speaks of a partnership between farmers and consumers. Farming no longer operates in isolation. Consumers, who appreciate farm families, have high expectations about how farmers raise food, treat the environment and care for animals. Farmers, who respect consumers’ views, want their customers to understand what it takes to meet those expectations. A partnership, based on mutual trust, gets us all what we need.
So there, in condensed form, are a few of the thoughts I shared in hopes of landing this job so many years ago. Perhaps as I move on to the next stage of my career I’ll be given a similar task. But for now I’m focused on the business of Farm Bureau. Just so you know, the process of identifying my successor is well underway. More than a year ago your board of trustees began informing itself about how to handle executive transition. The trustees organized a search committee, which has engaged professional assistance. It’s expected that I’ll hand over the duties by mid-2016.
Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing many of you, sharing war stories and having a few laughs. And updating my resume. As soon as I can get this typewriter plugged into LinkedIn.
John C. (Jack) Fisher
Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president