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he sense that there is something different happening is hard to escape. But if you stop to think about it, this is really nothing new. United Farmers Cooperative and its members have been experiencing and dealing with change for more than a century now. I have addressed change before, but in this issue I’d like to take a slightly different approach. I’ve always believed that change is not necessarily bad or good in and of itself. What makes change bad or good is how we respond to it. Do we retreat in fear or do we try to predict and plan for the change we see coming? Around UFC, we have a saying: “Watch your own bobber.” This saying reminds us that we can only influence and control what’s right in front of us. I have been reminded of this bit of wisdom when fishing with my grandsons. At age five, they can already out-fish me. If I spend too much time watching them fish, they will eventually say, “Poppa, watch your own bobber.” So how does this apply to agriculture and cooperatives? Well, if you grew up on a farm, you can probably recall trips to town that involved slowing down as you passed the neighbors’ cornfields and listening to Dad comment on what the crops looked like. We called it “the crop tour.” We were rubbernecking the competition instead of making plans for next year based on our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t on our own land. As independent farmers and cooperatives, we are best served by making sure we have our own plan, honor our own commitments and focus on what we need to do to be successful. Independent co-ops and farmers need to have a plan and the courage to follow it. Through the Fieldviews magazine, we try to keep you informed about the projects we are working on, the choices being made and our constant commitment to honoring our strategic plan. I have been asked many times— most recently at our annual meeting in January—why we do what we do or how we make decisions. This space doesn’t allow for a full explanation, but I can boil it down to simply having a plan and seeing it through by making solid business decisions. These decisions are not always

based on the present. Often they are based on where we need to be to serve future generations. The Brownton project, for example, has been in process for nearly 10 years, and it is only fully being realized today. But it will serve you and your children well, for decades to come. At the annual meeting, we discussed our planning process in detail—including the market analysis, project design and, most importantly, the financial implications of every decision we make. Instead of running from change, we try to anticipate it and use it to the advantage of our member-owners. At the same time, we never fail to remember that we are only stewards in leadership of this co-op for a short time. Our founders wisely adopted the cooperative model to make sure we remain relevant for a long time. This model is central to everything we believe and do. If you were able to attend our annual meeting, you heard from the board and leadership team that UFC had another very strong year. Thanks to your support, we generated $7.5 million in earnings. At the same time, we built facilities, added equipment to serve you and reduced our leverage—strengthening the balance sheet of your company. None of this happens without a plan and the courage to follow the plan, even when roads get hilly, bumpy or ice-covered as we experienced this past winter. Again, what is the importance of a plan? A talented baseball player and unintentionally witty philosopher by the name of Yogi Berra said it pretty well: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Simply put, we need to have a plan, and we do. UFC remains committed to being your business partner and to doing all that it can to add value to your farming operations and to your communities. This commitment is as consistent and unending as the changes happening around us. In closing, there are a lot of things we can’t influence, but we can influence those things right in front of us. As my grandsons wisely advise, “Poppa, you’ll catch more fish if you pay attention to your own bobber.” ●

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2017 UFC Fieldviews - Issue 09 Spring  

Fieldviews is a publication of United Farmers Cooperative located in Southern Minnesota.

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