The agriculture industry was built on the foundation of strong family farms and small businesses. Running a farming operation with multiple generations brings together tradition and innovation to create sustainable operations for the future. Maintaining the integrity of this foundation through education and generational farming is essential for the industry to continue to bring safe and affordable products to market.
We spoke with Beau Schooley, son of Chad Schooley, about his role in his family’s farming operation, as well as, his experience with the South Dakota Soybean Genesis Leaders Program. As he prepares to one day take over the farm, Beau shares his thoughts on the program and the takeaways that he’ll translate to his own work.
What made you want to do this program?
My dad is a part of the SD Soybean Association and he talked to someone about it. He sent me Don Norton’s business card and told me to call him. I really had no idea what I was getting into. I got a hold of Don and he was super helpful and got me all signed up.
The first class happened to be the next day so I was very unprepared and nervous, but a snow storm came and we had to reschedule which I had no problem with. At least it gave me a little time to be prepared because I had never done anything like this before.
Do you see yourself as a leader?
I feel like I am a leader. In high school, I was always involved in committees and such and always loved making sure things were getting done right and done well.
What is the importance of leadership training in agriculture?
The most important thing to me about being a leader in agriculture is being able to talk and communicate with other farmers. By doing this, you allow yourself to open up to other ideas and bring them together to compare with your own. That’s where someone can really find something great that may help them solve something that they couldn’t do alone.
How did going through this program help you grow as an individual and a future leader?
During this program, I met a lot of new people and would even call a few of them my friends. I got close to a couple of guys and I know that if I ever needed something they would be there for me. I was the youngest person there by far so it really challenged me to try and be as knowledgeable as everyone else in the room. Having this experience and learning from everyone else just helped me grow my toolbox of leadership skills.
What was the biggest takeaway from this program?
My biggest takeaway would be how to approach new people and how to talk to them, learn about them, and where they come from. Those are the things I remember the most and use every time I meet someone new now.
How will you implement what you learned about leadership into your future in agriculture?
Like I said before, communicating and getting to know people will help collaborative ideas flow and that’s how the world’s problems get solved!
Would you recommend leadership training to others your age?
It’s not so much I would recommend people my age, but if you feel you want to be involved and be a leader whether it be in your community or on your job then you’ll need training. For that, I would highly recommend this.
When working on the farm, how has the Genesis Program helped shape different practices you’re implementing?
It is going to help the business side of the farm more than anything. I am going to college for business and right now that is a huge deal on our farm. My grandma has been doing the books for the farm and now we are transferring that position to my mom and me. It’s been a journey for my grandma to teach us her old ways and bring in new ideas that will be more efficient.
What knowledge from the leadership training are you excited to bring into planting season this year?
I am most excited about getting to work alongside my dad and be able to use my new skills to be as open as possible with him and for us to work with each other. By putting our ideas together and making our planting season the best it can be.
This is big on our farm because we also are calving at this time, which is where my brother also comes in too! For the past couple of years having him running the cows has helped my dad and I tremendously when we are trying to get the crops in.
What does succession planning look like for your family, as you are the sixth generation working on your operation?
I plan on taking over the farm someday. I’d love to have my brother right alongside me for the ride, which is pretty straightforward.
What conservation practices for the future generations and the environment are you instilling in your operation now?
We do a little bit of everything. We do minimal till, drain tile, cover crops, rotational grazing, and variable rate fertilizer. I hope to incorporate a little no-till or strip-till someday, but at the moment, that is for the future of our farm.
The future of South Dakota’s farming is within the next generations of farmers. If you or someone you know is looking for more leadership training, learn more about the Genesis Leaders Program here. And to read more about generational farming, check out Farming Through the Generations with Jerry Schmitz or The Importance of Family and Farming by Hungry for Truth.