Farm Credit Mid-America Sponsor Spotlight: Tara Durbin

Q. Can you please explain your role with Farm Credit Mid-America?

Tara DurbinA. As Senior Vice President Agricultural Lending, I am engaged in helping create the strategy for Farm Credit Mid-America as well as provide strategic leadership and direction to our sales leaders and team members, to generate needed results for the organization according to our business plan each year.

Q. Do you have a connection to agriculture? 

A. I grew up in Highland County on a small farm, outside the village of Leesburg, where we raised corn, beans and also pigs for my 4-H project each year. I have always been a lover of the outdoors and agriculture. I received my undergraduate degree from Wilmington College ’01 where I double majored in ag business and marketing.

Q. How did you come to work for Farm Credit Mid-America?

A. It was the first semester of my senior year at Wilmington College, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with “the rest of my life,” but I knew that I wanted to go into a career where I could engage with the ag industry. I used the resources provided to me, my Advisor, Monte Anderson, and the Career Center on campus to explore careers in agriculture. Fast-forward to today, I would seek internships to help in the process, but back then, internships were a pretty new concept and not as widely available to apply for as they are today. After doing some research I was intrigued by the opportunity that Farm Credit Mid-America could offer, through their career opportunities, as well as the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself…to really engage with farmers and rural residents in a meaningful way to help them achieve their dreams, as well as support our local communities. To me, these were all important aspects of an organization that I would want to work for, and this May I will have been a part of the Farm Credit Mid-America family for 20 years. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun and working alongside great people.

Q. Farm Credit Mid-America has been a valued partner with Ohio Farm Bureau for many years. Why do you continue to partner with Ohio Farm Bureau?

A. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is a key partner to Farm Credit Mid-America. We have had a very strong partnership over the years, established from a strong foundation of shared values and a similar mission. Like Ohio Farm Bureau, it’s important for Farm Credit Mid-America to advance agriculture throughout Ohio, and beyond. Some of our key focus areas are to grow the next generation of agriculture, investing in young and beginning farmers, developing leaders in agriculture so they are at the forefront of a growing and critical industry. Other areas of similar focus are advocating for and investing in agriculture and it’s communities in order to protect the interests and way of life, important to farm families.

Q. Can you tell us about the Young and Beginning Farmer program and why did Farm Credit Mid-America invest in this program? 

A. Farm Credit Mid-America’s purpose is to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture. One of the ways we do this is through our Young and Beginning Farmer program that we refer to as Growing Forward. This unique program provides opportunities for those ranging from the next generation of farmers to emerging agriculture markets. Our agriculture industry continues to evolve, and we have listened to the needs of these market segments and developed a comprehensive program that offers access to capital, relaxed underwriting standards, competitive interest rates, business planning support and educational benefits. At Farm Credit Mid-America, we understand the unique and challenging barriers to entry that young and beginning farmers often face, while also believing in the importance of investing in the next generation of agriculture. So that it why we created the Growing Forward program, to help secure the future of agriculture.

Q. Farm Credit Mid-America supports many of their employees to participate in AgriPOWER. Why do you see value in the AgriPOWER program? 

A. At Farm Credit Mid-America, our greatest asset is our talented and knowledgeable team members. The personal development of our team members is important to Farm Credit Mid-America, and the AgriPOWER program continues to be an excellent and rewarding opportunity for our team members to not only personally learn and grow, but learn and grow professionally as well.  The agriculture industry will continue to need strong leaders. The AgriPOWER program provides an opportunity to develop, or further enhance, one’s leadership skills while expanding their professional network to beyond just those directly in the agricultural industry. 

Q. What is one thing that Farm Bureau could do to better serve its members?

A. I think that OFBF works hard to be a resource for our farmers, to strengthen our communities, and also to elevate the voice of our farmers. My one suggestion is to keep listening to our farmers, their needs, their challenges, and continue to elevate their voice, not just for Ohio farmers and Ohio agriculture, but the industry as a whole.

Q. What outlets do you use to keep up on agriculture trends and information?

There’s a few sources that I subscribe to and regularly receive email information and updates, some of which are DTN/Progressive Farmer, Agricultural Economic Insights (or aei), and of course I follow OFBF on Facebook and Twitter, among some others such as AGDAILY, OCJ & Ohio Ag Net, farmdoc Daily, and Tyne Morgan just to name a few. I also subscribe to The Wall Street Journal. My other outlet to keeping up on agricultural trend and information is quite simply talking with farmers and listening to what’s on their mind and what challenges they are experiencing.

Q. What are some activities/programs you recommend alumni to participate in if they want to become more active in the industry? 

A. Seek out others that you wish to learn from or share experiences and challenges with, creating a strong peer network. Simply to volunteer and engage yourself in activities and events that are happening all around the state or in your local communities. This will enable you to build strong relationships with others in both your local communities and at larger state level events and engagements. Don’t be afraid to share your story and the story of agriculture to greater audiences, share what this incredible industry is doing and how you are applying it within your farming operation. Share with others where our food comes from, and the effort and time that goes into making sure it’s safe for consumption. What a fantastic and honorable profession to be in…a farmer. We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.  We’ve seen a larger movement over the last 10 years or so from businesses and large corporations giving back and being a part of their communities, most of them even advertise this effort on billboards and commercials.  Now many of you all know that farmers are mostly pretty humble people, who love what they do and go about their business in more of a quiet manner. But, what if we “flipped the script,” if you will, and shared about how our industry, the one that our country was founded on, has been giving back for centuries!?  What if people saw agriculture as being a “trend setter”? Well, I believe our farmers are just that….trend setters – in a lot of ways through innovation and technology, compassion for and lifting up our communities, and taking care of our earth in safe and responsible farming practices. Use your voice and advocate for ag.

Q. If you could give your younger self any professional advice, what would it be?

Q. Create your own advisory board, or personal board of directors, if you will.  The earlier in your career you can identify individuals and mentors who you trust, admire, and are willing to commit some time to helping you learn and grow and to achieve your personal and professional goals, the better. This can be a small group of 3-5 individuals. Set up semi-annual or quarterly check-ins with them to discuss your goals, strategic plans, and challenges.  For example, discussion could be centered around your career aspirations, or the aspirations for your farming operation.

Q. What is your favorite leadership book/podcast? 

A. I have gotten into more podcasts the last few years, Ag Economic Insights (aei) has a good podcast series, but my favorite leadership lessons are from books I’ve read (or listened to the audio version) including the following: “Leadership and Self-Deception,” the Arbinger Institute, “21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day,” by John Maxwell, “Leadership Wisdom from the Monk Who Sold his Ferrari,” by Robin Sharma, “Leading with the Heart,” by Coach K, and “Above the Line,” by Urban Meyer.