A responsibility to lead

2016 ASA DUPONT YOUNG LEADERS

A?PROGRESSIVE FARMER, a good employer, and a proud dad — these are just a few of the roles Jeff Barlow takes on every day. Now, he’s also adding American Soybean Association (ASA) DuPont Young Leader to that list. Jeff and his wife, Dianne Barlow, have been selected by a Grain Farmers of Ontario committee as the Canadian participants for the 2016 program.

PHOTO: THE BARLOWS AT ONE OF THEIR SOYBEAN FIELDS NEAR HAMILTON, ON.

“This program is going to expose me to other agriculture leaders and hopefully I will be able to learn from what they’re doing,” says Jeff, who also hopes to learning about new technology in the industry.

Dianne has a similar expectation. “I’m hoping to learn more about new, modern agriculture because I think it’s important for me to always learn these things even though I’m not directly involved in the farm business. It’s interesting for me to hear what’s going on in other parts of the world and how they do things in different states and what we can learn from them.”

FAMILY FARM
Jeff runs Barlow Farms, a sixth generation cash crop operation in Hannon, along with his father. They grow a strict rotation of corn, identity preserved (IP) soybeans, conventional soybeans, and winter wheat. In any given year, half of their approximately 4,400 acres are planted to soybeans.

“We farm close to the city of Hamilton, so the cost of land in our county is high,” says Barlow. “Because of that, some cash rent farmers just grow soy and wheat. A good rotation that doesn’t rely on the same chemistry year after year isn’t as important to them as minimizing costs.”

However, the Barlows have made a commitment to being stewards of the land. They use no-till, cover crops, and organic nutrient sources such as manure. They are also willing to take advantage of advancements in technology to enhance production. They do extensive soil testing, use variable rate seeding and fertilizer applications, and use drone imagery for soil zone management. All of which compliment the benefits they see with their crop rotation.

“The inclusion of IP soybeans in our rotation helps with insect and disease management and weed control. Over our four-year rotation we are using different chemistry, only one year is just glyphosate, which helps to control glyphosate resistant Canada fleabane.”

The Barlows also operate a private grain elevator and their own trucks. They have three full-time employees, as well as part-time help in the spring and fall. Jeff hopes the Young Leader program can help him in his goal to become one of the top farm employers in his region.

“As you become a bigger operation, you can’t spend all of your time doing everything — you need to learn to delegate. I know that the people who have done well with their farms have had really good people behind them. This program will help me clarify what is really important for me to focus on at the end of the day. If I’m seen as a good leader and people recognize what I do, they will recognize that our farm is a good place to work.”

Jeff already has the support of his employees when he wants to try something new — although they can still be skeptical about some of his ideas at first.

“I’m the guy who comes in and says ‘we’re going to try it different’. I get out the big chart paper and markers, and everyone says oh here he goes again,” laughs Jeff. “We recently did a project where we manufactured our own nitrogen banding sprayer boom for our corn crop. The guys we have are really good with engineering and thinking about how things work, so we just all sat down together and discussed a couple of ideas. We ended up with our own design so we could take advantage of later season N application which is part of our nutrient management strategy.”

SHARING FARM LIFE
It’s that kind of innovation in agriculture that Dianne feels the general public needs to hear more about. Dianne works off-farm as an elementary school teacher but the open dialogue she maintains with Jeff about the day-to-day activities on the farm makes her feel like she has a connection to the operation and a responsibility.

“I have a responsibility of spreading the right message and spreading an accurate message to people,” says Dianne. “I always seem to hear conflicting information from the general public and then I come home and ask Jeff ‘is this really happening?’ and he clarifies it for me. It makes me wonder why that message isn’t getting out to the public. So I find being that person in the middle, I get first-hand information from him about what exactly is going on and all the different steps that are in place to make sure farmers are being responsible citizens, which I can then share.”

The Barlows have three young boys — Liam, 9, Owen, 7, and Evan, 5. Dianne says they’re another reason why she wanted to take the opportunity to participate in the ASA DuPont Young Leader program.

“It’s important to have young, innovative leaders who model and value global citizenship. Having a young family, it’s important for us to share those values and model those values with my family. My boys are so excited when they get to the farm — it’s like their passion, they love to be there. That’s something I want to make sure they continue to have, that passion with agriculture, because they could potentially be the next young leaders in this industry and we want to teach them about being responsible.”

“I’ve finished my leadership courses in my own profession, and I think it’s important for our children to see that we care about our society and that we want to show our responsibility to others,” adds Dianne. “I knew that I wanted to be a leader and to achieve that I think it’s important to find people who are inspiring and encouraging and who also want to learn from others.”

LEARNING FROM OTHERS
Jeff is currently a Grain Farmers of Ontario delegate in District 6 (Haldimand, Brant, Hamilton, Niagara), a position he took in 2012 after hearing more about the organization as a participant of the first Grains in Action program. He sees the Young Leader program as yet another way he can expand his ability to help better the grain industry and hopes the connections he makes with other farmers can inspire new ideas to improve production on his farm.

“After participating in other learning opportunities, I find I learn just as much from the other people in the class as I do from the people teaching at the front of the room,” says Jeff. “With this program, I will be able to network and learn from other people who have a strong interest in the future of soybeans. They’re not just thinking about today, they’re thinking farther than today. When you have like-minded people like that together you can sit down and talk about things that will make the whole industry better.”

Jeff and Dianne will begin their leadership training this December with four days in Johnston, Iowa at the DuPont Pioneer headquarters. The program will continue at the beginning of March with training held in conjunction with the Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The ASA DuPont Young Leader Program has been strengthening natural leadership skills, expanding agricultural knowledge, and developing peer relationships among soybean growers for more than 30 years. If you are interested in learning more about this program, or participating next year, contact Valerie Gilvesy, Grain Farmers of Ontario Member Relations at vgilvesy@gfo.ca or 226-979-5581. •

About Rachel Telford 84 Articles
Communications Coordinator, Publications, Grain Farmers of Ontario; Managing Editor, Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine