Growing our Generation: Farming, family and legacy

Anna Hall Stroud, of Brown County, is editor of the Oct. 23, 2017 Growing our Generation e-newsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.

Hello! I am Anna Hall Stroud from Brown County (way down south on the river for those of you going “where?”). I grew up on a cow/calf operation and learned at a very young age how to drive the truck in a hay field!

While growing up there were many things I thought I wanted, and many things I didn’t want. I didn’t want to live in Brown County, I didn’t want to work in my father’s business, I didn’t want to marry into a farming family and I definitely didn’t want to marry a doctor. I wanted a simple life with an easy schedule and have a husband home by 5. I now work with my father at Paul Hall & Associates and I moved back home to Brown County to do so. I then was introduced to a doctor by a mutual friend who came from none other than a farming family! I am so blessed to have gotten everything I didn’t think I wanted, because in reality it was everything I dreamed of.

My husband, Andrew, and I help his parents and brothers on their grain operation as often as we are able. We can’t wait to raise our children on the farm. On both sides of our families, we have the privilege to be a part of a family business that supports agriculture. When I was an Ohio FFA state officer, I learned just how important agriculture had become in my life. Since then, I have had the honor of working with a lot of young, future leaders through organizations like FFA. These members push me to want to learn more, do more and know more about everything agriculture. The support I receive from my father and boss, allows me to really reach out and connect with farmers of all types across our state. Every day I am learning about new operations and I take pride in the fact I am there to protect their assets. There is nothing better than loving your job and being supported by your company to truly focus on your passion for agriculture.

Family is everything

Family can mean so many things. Family can mean by blood, by work, by passions, by industry. The one thing I have learned throughout my life is that family is everything!

I grew up in a family where I was always the black sheep. Black sheep by choice I might add. I never wanted to do anything the same as my parents or sisters. I always pushed the limits and wanted black and white to be gray. An example of this is when I made the decision to go to The Ohio State University instead of the University of Kentucky (like the rest of my family!). I didn’t even apply to UK because I refused to go somewhere and be known as Paul Hall’s daughter or Caroline Hall’s sister.

stroud-groupLittle did I know, my father had much more reach than I would’ve ever imagined. This didn’t hit home until I was selected as Ohio Farm Bureau’s Public Policy Intern my second year at Ohio State. My first day on the job, I vividly remember being introduced to one person after another only to come out of each introduction of “Oh you’re Paul’s daughter!” I had absolutely no idea dad was an organization director for OFBF before he bought his first insurance agency. You see, he bought the agency the year I was born. So as far as I had ever known, he was an insurance guy…like all his life…naive college student thought. Lucky for me, my dad is a pretty awesome guy. I came to quickly realize that being Paul Hall’s daughter maybe wasn’t quite as bad as I had thought it would be. That internship led me to be an organization director for OFBF as well. I served Fairfield, Hocking, Perry, Pickaway and Ross Counties for a year before I made the decision to move home.

Dad and I had never imagined I would be the one who would want to come home and help run the business. I am sure the day he heard my voice on the other end of the line saying “Ok Dad, I can come home,” he was in disbelief. One thing led to another and within a few months, I was home taking over a new agency the business had bought and helping dad bring it in as part of the Paul Hall & Associates family.

There’s that word again: family.

My father started his operation with one employee in 1989. Since then, he has grown to 6 locations and 25 employees. This doesn’t include the many people who have at one time been a part of the agency and still are considered to be a part of our Paul Hall & Associates family, or as we like to call it, the PH&A family. I am the only blood relative in the business, but to dad, we are all family. Part of this is because we have a boss who understands what family means on many levels. He strives to create a work environment that allows for us to be more than just co-workers passing by. This is in part of just how my father was raised, but I think it goes even deeper than that. Ohio Farm Bureau gave him his first job out of college. He worked there for 10 years. Then he went to work for Nationwide.

Many of you already know that Nationwide was an insurance company formed by the Ohio Farm Bureau. What many of you may not know is that

Nationwide still considers OFBF family in most everything they do. Nationwide’s board of directors is compiled of farmers, many of which have served on the OFBF board of trustees. Currently, the Nationwide Board President is a past OFBF board trustee and active Ross County Farm Bureau member, Tim Corcoran. Working as a Nationwide agent means more to us than just a typical agent of insurance companies. Nationwide is family to us because Farm Bureau is who gave us both our start in the agriculture industry right out of college. Nationwide is family because they still remember who started them back in 1926: Ohio Farm Bureau. I may not always agree with every decision the Ohio Farm Bureau or Nationwide makes, but I also don’t always agree with every decision my dad makes. What I will always rely on is that both the Ohio Farm Bureau and Nationwide was started for farmers and by farmers. They have the backs of the very industry my passion runs so deep for. Better yet, Paul Hall & Associates was created for the same exact reasons.

My family is so much more than my parents, siblings and husband. My family extends to the Farm Bureau members of Fairfield, Hocking, Perry, Pickaway and Ross Counties that I served with. It extends to the Nationwide agents and associates throughout Ohio who serve our farm insurance community as passionately as I do. The PH&A family I have the honor of working with every day makes my job easy.

For the longest time, we in agriculture have been afraid to accept change in our industry. The one thing I ask you to take away is that we are all family regardless of the aspect of agriculture we work in or what we grow. As with any family, we will only be as strong as our weakest link. So strengthen your agriculture family as a whole and always remember that family is everything.

Tough conversations made easier

Through my FFA experiences and agriculture internships I have been speaking to farmers directly for over a decade. I have now been selling farm insurance for over five years. I am comfortable visiting farm operations all over our state and discussing coverage options and insurance needed for each individual operation. Every farm is different, so no visit is the same. However, they all have one thing in common; I am speaking with a farmer.

One thing I have always struggled doing is speaking to someone with opposing views of me, especially if I am passionate about the specific topic in question. Agriculture has always been a passion driven conversation for me and I struggled to have a conversation with someone who had views different from mine.

stroud-agripowerAfter college, I found myself in many agricultural related conversations that made me more uncomfortable than ever before. I made the decision to apply for Farm Bureau’s AgriPOWER Institute. I am proud to call myself a graduate of Ohio Farm Bureau’s AgriPOWER Class V. This year-long program introduced me to ways to have those difficult conversations without just pushing the other party away. It showed me how I could have the tough conversations with my customers or with a complete stranger. Not only did it help me grow immensely as an individual, but I also gained some dear friends throughout that year together. I highly recommend this program to all. Everyone has something to gain from AgriPOWER.

The farm’s legacy

Being a member of the younger generation, one of my biggest fears is that we aren’t planning properly for the future of our farms. We tend to get in a rut of taking a paycheck and not worrying about what the future may bring. We aren’t investing in the future of our operation; we are letting our parents or grandparents do that for us. While this may be nice for a while, it ends up hurting the operation in the long run. There is nothing worse than to find out about the future of an operation when the lawyer is reading the last will.

stroud-child-in-fieldWe need to be more proactive in understanding what it takes to maintain the operation’s legacy. Not your legacy, your parent’s legacy or even your grandparent’s legacy. The operation’s legacy. Who is putting the farm first? Who is making decision to protect the farm as a whole? These are the questions my generation should be asking.

In my line of work, I get to hear a lot of seminars on legacy planning. Nationwide has a great program called Land As Your Legacy. This program allows us to be your voice. We help you identify your goals and coordinate all the aspects of your plan including with your accountants, lawyers and helping set up family meetings. We want to be your legacy consultant to protect the farms and operations of our state, so we do all of this free of charge.

The legacy planning process isn’t always easy and it isn’t always fair, but most importantly it is the process you need to complete to protect your operations legacy for the future. The farm’s legacy is the most valuable legacy you have to leave, make sure it has a legacy worth leaving.

Future leaders

Nearly 500,000 potential prospects for the future of our industry. Nearly 500,000 potential leaders we have the opportunity to help shape. Nearly 500,000 students with a passion for agriculture, something you and I also share.

There are nearly 500,000 Ohioans under the age of 18 involved in either 4-H or FFA; 450,000 in 4-H and 25,000 in FFA. That’s almost half a million faces that are the conceivable future of what people like you and I spend our day trying to grow, the agriculture industry.

What are we doing to help mold these students for a strong and successful future as farmers, business owners, producers, teachers and advocates?

stroud-4I was lucky enough to have been actively involved in both 4-H and FFA. I have had firsthand experience of what these organizations can do for a member. What I also remember about my time in both, are the volunteers that made me successful along the way. I had volunteers teaching me how to speak, how to lead, how to show or judge livestock, how to create or make something on my own. I also had volunteers who helped finance my leadership trips to Washington D.C., Columbus or even FFA camp. Most importantly I had volunteers who believed in my abilities and pushed me to reach for my dreams. Every one of these volunteers was vital to shaping me into the person, leader, speaker and businesswoman I am today.

Each individual volunteer who helped me along my journey provides me with one more reason to volunteer with 4-H and FFA today. Watching a member grow and better themselves is such a rewarding experience.

“I believe in the future of agriculture.” That first line of the FFA Creed became critical in my growth through FFA. Today, it is a pivotal reason in why I volunteer. These members are OUR future. I challenge you to volunteer yourself in one way this year to help shape OUR future.

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This e-newsletter is brought to you by Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals. Learn more about Farm Bureau membership, including a discounted category for those 18-24 years old.