Twenty years ago, when John and Cheryl Linder’s two young daughters began asking about getting involved in organizations and activities, the response was always, “Either you’re in or you’re out. You decide up front because no one needs a seat filler; they need active individuals,” John recounts.
It’s that proactive management style that creates focus on his 3,000-acre farm in Edison, Ohio, that he runs with his wife, Cheryl, and his brother Mike. But it’s also that determination to make a difference that has landed him many leadership roles throughout the years. Most notably, Linder recently took the helm of one of the largest commodity organization in the U.S. — the National Corn Growers Association, which started a new administrative year in October.
HUGS: John Linder shares a hug with his granddaughter Ashtyn Gall on the farm.
However, his service to the industry dates back 30 years, to when he served two terms on the Ag Credit Co-Op Board. “But it was humbling when I wasn’t elected to the third and final term,” he says. “Nobody likes to be defeated, but then I thought, that’s fine; turnover can be a good thing, bringing fresh thoughts, fresh ideas and perspectives.”
He decided the next time he had an opportunity for board service, he would evaluate it and apply the principle, “You’re either in or out.” About a year went by before he went for — and secured — a seat on the Ohio Corn Marketing Program Board, for which he would go on to serve as chairman.
“To be honest, I felt a little like a fish out of water,” he says. “There were some very smart and passionate people on that board, and I was a little intimidated. But I dug in, found my feet, and attended leadership training.”
PREPARING: John Linder uses the calculator in his phone to establish the fertilizer quantities needed for a day of applications.
Prior to being elected NCGA president, John served as the corn board liaison to the Market Access Action Team, on the Resolutions Committee and chaired the Finance and Engaging Members committees. Additionally, he represented NCGA at the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research and the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center.
As NCGA president, John also serves as president of the National Corn Growers Association Foundation, as an executive committee member of NCGA’s Allied Industry Council, and as the association’s delegate to the U.S. Grains Council.
At 62 years old, John, who is a fifth-generation farmer, says it’s easier now than when he was younger to offer service back to the industry. He’s been married to Cheryl for 40 years, and they have two grown, married daughters: Katie (husband Mathew) Hankinson; and Joanna (husband Mike) Gall, who have two children Kaden, 13, and Ashtyn, 11.
Joanna and Mike own some land and farm together with John and Cheryl, trading labor and equipment use. Mike also runs outside management of the family’s propane business.
MORNING WORK: As the sun comes up, John Linder heads to the shop.
Katie, who has an agronomy degree, works for The Climate Corporation and helps on the farm with technology and bookkeeping. Mathew works for Ohio State University as a wheat researcher.
The farm runs a 50-50 corn-soybean rotation, with two-thirds of the soybeans being seed beans. They mix in some soft red winter wheat when there’s conservation work to be done in the summer. The farm is predominately no-till, and good stewardship of the land is demonstrated through filter strips on drainage ditches, grass waterways, strip tillage and cover crops.
John worked many years with his father, William, who served in the Korean conflict and came home to raise row crops and livestock.
“Neither me or my brother were really interested in the livestock; we prefer being in the field,” says John, who no longer has livestock. “We lost my dad in 2005, but Mom — Ginny — is 93 and still zips around on the zero-turn mower and then jumps in the car to get groceries.”
John (the youngest of four) and brother Mike bookend two sisters.
“I don’t know if it was the dirt clod fights my brother and I had, or the feeling of being in the field in the fall, farming just felt right — this is who I am and where I belong.”
FIELDWORK: John Linder readies a tractor for a day in the field.
Need for speed
For fun, the Linder brothers have been very successfully pro stock pulling for 40 years. They have a John Deere 4320, pro stock-class, six-cylinder diesel — 680 cubic inches, with one single turbo approaching 4,000 horsepower. It’s put on the ground with 24.5- by 32-inch tires. “It’s mostly my brother behind the wheel, but it a real pleasure to be able to do this together,” John says.
Learn more about their racing team on Facebook at “Linder Brothers Pro Stock."