Bringing businesses into the Farm Bureau fold

Lorain County Farm Bureau Board President Adele Flynn is perfectly situated to talk about the advantages of being a member — no matter what aspect of membership is being discussed.

She works as an agricultural account specialist for Farm Credit Mid-America in Oberlin. She and her husband, Eric, who previously served on the county board, run 100 head of beef cattle for showing, breeding and custom freezer beef. Eric also works full-time with Adele’s family on their 1,100-acre grain farm in Wellington.

Adele Flynn, above, is an ag account specialist for Farm Credit Mid-America while also serving the Lorain County Farm Bureau as president and working on membership sales.

“I grew up in Farm Bureau,” she said. “I enjoy it. My parents and grandparents have always been in Farm Bureau and I used to go to (Farm Bureau) camps when I was a kid. Farm Bureau is something special that we keep close to our hearts.”

Now she and others in Lorain County are taking a unique approach to court new members to Farm Bureau through group memberships.

A group membership with Ohio Farm Bureau is for businesses and organizations that believe in the work of Farm Bureau and its volunteers.

A county committee that included Flynn and Amanda Denes-Diedrick, Farm Bureau organization director for Lorain, Huron and Erie counties, visited several nurseries and other business in the area last year to begin discussions about offering Farm Bureau benefits to their employees through a group membership.

“We’re just starting those talks,” Denes-Diedrick said. “There are a lot of details to go over and each business is unique. It can take years to build the relationship.”

Ohio Farm Bureau Organization Director Amanda Denes-Diedrick, Eric Grim of Grim Dairy and Tracy Green, vice president for strategic and institutional development at Lorain County Community College, lead a movie screening and discussion at the college, which recently purchased a Farm Bureau group membership.

One relationship that has already started to blossom is the one between the county Farm Bureau and Lorain County Community College. LCCC and Farm Bureau have worked together on several ventures over the years, including the annual Brunch with a Farmer event and a very well attended screening and discussion of the documentary “Forgotten Farms” last fall. Recently the college became a group member of Farm Bureau.

“Farmers in our county are passionate about their craft but they face many challenges,” said LCCC President Dr. Marcia Ballinger. “We hope our partnership with the Farm Bureau will lead to discussions on how we as a community can work together to keep the farming economy vibrant and growing in Lorain County.”

The make-up of the county Farm Bureau group membership committee is different depending on which company it plans to approach and what Farm Bureau benefits may be of the most value to them.

“One of the things we’re still working on is the follow-up,” Flynn said. “With those nurseries, we have to understand who we are marketing to. Some are more geared toward commercial customers and others want to promote agriculture and have employees who want to get our publications and information about what is going on in the ag world.”

Flynn’s employer, Farm Credit Mid-America, is a group member participant.

“There is a great example of a group membership that started in Lorain County,” Denes-Diedrick said. “Richland County was part of it, too. Farm Credit is a great partner with Farm Bureau.”

The feeling is mutual. Farm Credit and Farm Bureau have collaborated on many initiatives over the years.

“As a cooperative, we at Farm Credit Mid-America understand the advantages of being member-owned,” said Lee Herron, relationship manager at Farm Credit Mid-America in a testimonial about group memberships. “That’s why we partner with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Together we share in a commitment to securing the future of rural communities and agriculture.”

Flynn shares that same commitment in both her role on Lorain County’s board and in her day job at Farm Credit Mid-America.

“My husband farms full-time, so we keep each other up-to-date on what’s happening in agriculture and in the field,” she said. “It helps me to understand my customers and what they may be doing on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

Flynn has been in the ag lending business since 2005, including a stint at Dakota Bank when she and her husband lived in South Dakota, where he worked on a ranch. The Flynns, who have three children, came back to Ohio for family. She’s been with Farm Credit since 2012 and works strictly on agricultural loans. She’s seen the highs and the lows, she said.

“A challenge right now is (low) grain prices,” she said. “However, a positive is that interest rates have stayed pretty low. As a lender it is important for us to stick with our customers through the good times and the tough times.”

That level of support for people working in agriculture or agriculture-related fields is important to her whether they are customers of Farm Credit or members of Farm Bureau.

“Farm Bureau is such a great organization that does so much in advocacy and to support the industry,” Flynn said. “Farm Credit and Farm Bureau have very similar mission statements and I think it’s great that we are all working together for the same cause.”

Photos by Peggy Turbett

Feature Image Caption: Adele Flynn and her husband, Eric, along with their three children. Addison, Will and Liv, raise show cattle at their family farm in Wellington. (Rebecca Littleton, Little Button Photo Studio)