Ag CEO Back »

This program plan was written collaboratively by Adele Harty and Heather Gessner, with Shannon Sand and Heather Gessner now providing co-leadership for the program.


Growing Ag CEOs is an education opportunity for producers to continue to grow and develop their skills. The goals of this program are to equip producers with the management, financial and strategic planning tools to help them thrive in the agriculture industry well into the future. Producers in South Dakota excel at production practices, however with the changing economic times, management and financial skills are more critical to the continued success of farms and ranches. The other critical factor is the ever increasing age of farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and how we can incorporate the next generation into the management positions to continue the viability of the operation.

The target audience is predominately beginning farmers and ranchers, however all producers who are interested in attending are welcome. The more beginning producers who are willing to step up and begin taking on the management responsibilities assist in the transition of the farm or ranch to the next generation.

“Growing Ag CEOs” is designed to provide education and experience focused on the business side of the operation, working to move new producers from employees to production managers and business CEO’s. As this transition occurs the program will encourage and develop new leaders in the industry – for production, financial, social, and leadership roles – through mentoring from current industry leaders. Beyond the education and leadership development, the program will provide insight to the “big picture” of a farm or ranch business, along with the ability to evaluate production alternatives. It will move beyond the basics of reviewing herbicide trials or EPD use to implementing a systems approach. Successful producers need to be able to identify critical success factors, think through all variables affecting the business and integrate these factors into best management practices.

Ag CEO varies from other programs in that it provides an intense, big picture look at the farm or ranch with training on strategic planning, financial and production topics. The program will be delivered in a 4 week format with 12 contact hours, and approximately 6 hours of self-study assignments. If FSA Borrower Training is offered, there will be an additional 3 contact hours. The core of the Growing Ag CEO curriculum focuses on strategic planning and financial statements. A smaller, yet important component will be production topics driven by each location and other information that is location specific. These first meetings will all be face to face, with follow-up utilizing technology and developing learning communities. Development of learning communities is dependent on the group, with facilitation from the site coordinators. After the conclusion of the first four sessions the groups are encouraged to continue to meet on topics of their choice, with SDSU Field specialists helping facilitate the development of these learning communities.

The resources needed will include "EC924 Strategic and Scenario Planning in Ranching-Managing Risk in Dynamic Times", the Balance sheet activity as adapted from University of Wisconsin and used in Annie's Project, present information and provide tools for cash flow, income statements and enterprise budgets, and utilize videos from the Center for Farm Financial Management.

Key Contacts: Shannon Sand and Heather Gessner

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