03 Jun Ethan Smith
Farm & Ranch Management; Being the Liaison
Ethan Smith grew up with production agriculture in his blood and, through involvement with groups like 4-H, FFA, scholarship applications and internships in college, he discovered an interest in farm and ranch management. Ethan now fulfills this role in a diverse and broad ranging “territory” from the southern tip of Texas up through New Mexico and over to the panhandle of Oklahoma. A native Nebraskan, he gets to be the liaison between landowners and tenants on a variety of farm and ranch lands as a Farm and Ranch Manager with Farmers National Company.
Important Skills to Have
Communication is Number One
Communication is the number one skill needed for land liaison as Ethan spends most of his time as the “middle man.” Proper communication between the landowners about their assets and how to best manage them or communicating with the tenant on the wishes of the landowner is pertinent.
This also applies to reporting verbally to clients. Being able to speak confidently and with assurance is necessary in showcasing to clients his knowledge and awareness with respect to their asset.
Reports can be quarterly, monthly or even weekly. Being able to relay the proper information to all parties and groups in a clear, concise format is necessary. These documents could be powerpoints or written documents.
“It’s kind of a term that’s a black eye but [being] a ‘Jack of all trades’ or ‘diverse in all, master of none,’ [is imperative to this job],” explains Ethan. Being able to be humble about what you know and what you don’t, as well as the self-starter ability to find the necessary information are all keys to being successful as a farm or ranch manager.
One moment Ethan can be discussing grass species and fertilizer rates, the next gestation periods in cattle and rotational grazing.You have to be able to admit that you aren’t the smartest in the room on everything, but also understand a little bit about everything enough to ask questions and hold a conversation.
Utilizing Resources to Build Your Knowledge
Through the diversity, Ethan has to be able to find out information about agriculture in each area that his territory covers. His number one recommendation is the local extension service; they are going to have an understanding of what works or doesn’t work in the area.
His other recommendation is developed over time; it is the building of relationships. Whether it is pre-college through 4-H or FFA, during college through internships and scholarship applications, or through your working career with fellow colleagues – it is important to continue to build relationships with individuals that you can then go to as a valuable resource for information.
“Curiosity is an underrated skill,” Tim Hammerich of AgGrad adds into this list of skills that shouldn’t be underestimated. Being curious and searching out those answers can help you build enough of a knowledge base to find how to ask more questions and find more answers.
Having a team through Farmers National Company that can help in analyzing markets in different topographic regions is equally important. While it adds another facet of communication for Ethan, it also provides a wealth of knowledge and resources that he can utilize in making educated recommendations for his clients.
Challenges of Farm Management
Trust is hard to come by but it’s definitely harder to earn when it comes to the tenants of the lands. Typically the landowners approach Farmers National Company for management and protection of their land. While Ethan may be younger than most of the other professionals in his field, he finds, through hard work, that he is more than capable of keeping up.
It is part of Ethan’s job to communicate to tenants the reasoning why the landowners may be particular about how they want their property managed, farmed or ranched. This can be a sentimental or family reason that the current tenant may not understand.
Despite being young for his profession, Ethan has found that his ability to connect and communicate with a variety of individuals has opened a realm of opportunity for him in connecting with both tenants and landowners. He also finds that by being proactive and eager in making those contacts and creating those connections allows trust to be built.
The Future of Succession Planning and Farm & Ranch Management
Over one-third of the current farms and ranches that will be retiring in the future don’t have a current succession or management plan in place. As families get bigger, it will become harder and harder to manage and control how the day-to-day operation of the family farm will be seen to fruition with families living further away from their rural routes. That is where careers like Ethan’s are important and show that there is a growing need for more interested in these roles of land ownership and land transfer.
While not an attorney, CPA or financial planner, Ethan is able to assist on the business side to help transfer the land, all while keeping the family together and the farming operation viable.
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