Faces of Food: It Takes a Team

Running a modern farming operation is no easy task. Meeting the operational and business demands of production agriculture requires a close-knit team on and off the farm.

Susie Harbaugh, Tuscola, IL

Susie shares her optimism for what’s ahead and her confidence in the next generation to build upon her family’s legacy.

ADM Connection: Learning Together

Helping producers with grain marketing can result in a relationship that goes beyond the average business partnership.

This Farm’s Winning Record Relies on a Committed Team

Running a modern farming operation is no easy task. To meet the operational and business demands of production agriculture, central Illinois producer Susie Harbaugh invests in technology, and she relies on a close-knit team on and off the farm.

The latest episode of the ADM video series Faces of Food features Susie, who farms commercial corn and soybeans, seed soybeans and food-grade corn for Frito-Lay.

Susie seeks out team members who share similar values and work together closely to keep her operation moving forward. She calls it a “great business model” for her family farm that she is very enthusiastic about, with positive results that speak for themselves.

woman smiling at the camera

The starting lineup

The core team focuses on daily farming operations. With a sizable amount of acreage and numerous landowner relationships to manage, each day is full for everyone involved.

Susie and her son Greg meet daily and make decisions that allow them to adjust to the fluid changes in agriculture. “We discuss everything,” she says. “We don’t have to always agree. It’s what you come to as a compromise in the end that counts.”

man smiling at the camera

They also employ a full-time farmhand and hire part-time help during the busiest times of year. “We each have our own responsibilities,” she explains. Greg and an employee, Tony, do most of the work in the field and manage 20 bins at five different sites. “I run the auger cart at times during harvest,” she adds. “I’m also the go-to person with the landowners.”

Off the farm, Susie utilizes a “new” team of professionals, and a veteran squad of business partners.

“The part that is new includes an attorney who has great experience in agriculture and has a little land herself,” she explains. “And with her is our accountant, who also farms.” She adds her lender to this list, yet another farmer. “The three of them together not only know each other but have the same goals and understand our goals.”

Her veteran team of partners includes relationships that are decades long. Some of these include local businesses for seed, chemicals and other inputs, as well as machinery dealers. It also includes the local ADM elevator.

“We were absolutely delighted when ADM located in Tuscola because we can see them from our front porch and we’re five minutes away. They bring a tremendous staff with them to help us in every way,” she emphasizes.

Susie’s account manager is Leah Hembrough. With numerous landowners involved and varying ownership percentages, it’s a difficult assignment to keep everything straight, Susie explains. “Some owners want everything done in the year that the crop is grown, while others want sales delayed until January. You have to make sure everyone is taken care of, and she’s very good about doing that. I’m very comfortable with her help and appreciate it more than I can say.”

Susie credits her decades long relationships with business partners not just to what they sell, but to the friendships made, the service given and the performance delivered. “I think that’s really the key.”

woman with an ADM rep looking at an iPhone

Confidence in what lies ahead

Looking to the future, Susie is excited about the opportunities for the next generation. She works with Farm Bureau in Champaign County and has led eight different committees. One of her favorites was with Young Ag Leaders, which is 32 members strong.

“I am enthused about the generation coming up,” she says. “They are smart, savvy and they’re ready to work. And I think that we can learn from them just as much as they can learn from us.”

digital screen in the cab of a tractor

Susie also gives credit to advances in technology for improving production on the farm, but also for changing the way everyone communicates. Utilizing technology, she’s able to get real-time information from the field and share it with members of her team and with the landowners.

It all comes together to keep relationships strong and everyone on the same page. “The very most important part is our long-term relationships with landowners – family-owned land and farm managers on some of it. And I think it’s a great business model,” she concludes.

collage of Farmers featured in Faces of Food stories

More American Farm Stories

The men and women who operate farms across this great country have great stories to tell. Of hard work. Challenging conditions. Overcoming obstacles. Family members working together. Over many generations. And hopeful for the future. Take the time to hear their voices.