Women on the Rise as Farm Managers
Women farm managers are growing in number and rank. According to themost recent U.S. Census of Agriculture, female operators now make up 36% of farmers and work on 56% of all farms. Their role is growing, too. Most make some farm business decisions or manage the finances, and about 38% are the primary decision-maker.
One of these newer, business-minded farm managers is Maria Cox from Illinois, who returned to her family’s grain and livestock operation in 2012 to partner with her father. She shares her business philosophies in Episode 18 of our podcast. Listen here:
Out of college, Cox worked for ADM and then for a crop insurance service before earning a master’s degree in ag economics. Even with those credentials, though, her most valuable teacher has been experience.
“This is my seventh year of doing the grain marketing for our business and I’m responsible for 100% of it now,” says Cox. “You don’t really understand grain marketing until you’re in the thick of it.”
One lesson has been to take the long view of marketing and create a long-term strategic plan. In the drought of 2012, her farm ended up owing money on forward contracts, but crop insurance came through as intended. Despite that tense year, Cox continues to forward market, believing strongly that it pays off when used consistently.
“One thing I like to do is hedge our corn and beans 12 to 18 months ahead of time,” she says. “I use hedge-to-arrive contracts and try to look for basis opportunities as we get closer to harvest or post-harvest. I do have a broker if I want to sell futures or use options, but I try to keep things as simple as possible, so I work with a local grain merchant for hedge-to-arrive contracts.”
Another change Cox has made is negotiating better input prices with her father’s long-time suppliers—or switching vendors when it makes sense.
“The financial details are more important now than they’ve ever been,” says Cox. “My dad’s more of a big-picture thinker and it’s good for our business. But I see my job as discovering where our operation needs improvement. That’s exciting to me.”
A growing number of national resources have sprung up specifically for women in agribusiness. You can find a list here or join a local chapter of American Agri-Women.
If you’re interested in better risk management, check out two resources on ADMadvantage.com:
- A grain contract chart that lets you compare methods of forward marketing and other sales; and
- ADM Farm Direct Fertilizer program, which lets you lock in prices at better times of the year.
For all farm managers, ADM is here to help. Our grain and fertilizer representatives would be pleased to review your business goals with you and discuss various ways to achieve them.
Here’s wishing success to all the savvy women producers out there. American farms are in good hands.
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