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Jim Droege, Jim Gillooly, Max Beer and David Sommer Tom J. Bechman
SHARING ADVICE: This year’s Master Farmers talk after the panel discussion. They are Jim Droege (left), Jim Gillooly, Max Beer and David Sommer.

Straight talk about working with people

2020 Indiana Master Farmers share insights about agriculture and people skills.

One characteristic most Master Farmers share is the ability to work well with people on the farm and in their communities. During a recent panel discussion, Jim Mintert asked the 2020 Indiana Master Farmers to explain what they’ve learned about working with people.

The Master Farmers on the panel were Max Beer, Berne; Jim Droege, Mount Vernon; Jim Gillooly, Washington; and David Sommer, Berne.

Mintert, Purdue University Extension agricultural economist and director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture, shares insights he gleans from these discussions with his students at Purdue. The responses he received from this question are worth sharing with everyone:

Tell us about keys to success when working with people.

Sommer: We’re lucky to have Brad Kohlhagen as our Adams County Extension ag educator. He puts forth an effort to work with and provide service to people. We try to do that as well.

It’s important to be active at the county level and to have input into things. We know it’s important to be involved with different types of people in the community.

Beer: It’s fun to be involved with things and work with all different types of people. Since we sell dairy cattle across the U.S. and into Canada, we have friends in many places. It’s important to develop and cultivate relationships.

When it comes to the farm, David [Sommer], his family and our family have independent operations, but we work together on tasks, like making silage, baling hay and harvesting crops. We have a self-propelled forage harvester and baler, and they have the combine. We keep track of the major expenses and settle up at the end of the year. But we don’t sweat the little things, the incidental things. It’s a great relationship, and it requires give and take to make it work. You must be willing to look at the big picture, not sweat the little things, and move forward.

Gillooly: You love God and you love each other. I’m reminded of a story someone told me about two boys who were fighting. Their father broke them up and said, “Boys, you both can’t be right, but you both could be wrong.” That’s good advice to remember before arguing with someone.

When I was 10 years old, we had an ag teacher in the community who came out and worked with me, helping me with my 4-H calves. Every time before he left, he would always do something to let me know I was more important than the calves. That made an impression on me. That’s how you work with people — you care for them.

Droege: I learned things in 4-H and FFA, like parliamentary procedure, which have helped me all through life. One of the biggest things I learned was that all things don’t revolve around me. And when you’re working with people, all solutions don’t come from you, either. You need to listen to what others have to say.

Sometimes people are in need, and you should be willing to help. About 15 years ago, three other guys and myself started Partners for Food, donating beef and pork to food pantries. We have an annual meeting each year, and we’re open, honest and transparent about everything we do. That’s important in relationships.

Read more from the panel discussion in this related article: Master Farmers look back and ahead.

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