The Successors, Ep 9: Spreadsheets galore, managing a business, and the joys of strawberry farming

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The Successors is a RealAgriculture podcast series hosted by Kara Oosterhuis focusing on agriculture from the perspective of the up-and-coming generation.

How do you find your place on the farming operation? What can you do to keep the lines of communication open? What can a peer group provide to both you and your career?

Fiona Jochum, farmer at Saint François Xavier, Manitoba, helps us answer these questions (and more) in the latest episode of The Successors podcast.

Jochum, who is in the process of succeeding into the business operations of her family operation, was always interested in the farm, but it wasn’t always her be-all-end-all. Numbers and spreadsheets are amongst the things that make her tick. This had her growing up wondering, where do I fit into the farm?

“I always liked financial analysis and looking at the markets, so that’s what intrigued me for sure on the business side of things. I felt like I could learn a lot of agronomy things just through my summer jobs and working on the farm, but I felt like the business side was really hard to pick up. So I wanted to get a head start on that by focusing on the business side of things at university a little bit,” she says.

Fiona Jochum, 2022

Jochum holds a diploma in agriculture, and a degree in AgriBusiness from the University of Manitoba. This kick-started her interest in the business world. Following university, she went to Australia and worked on a farm there, which at that point, she communicated to her parents that she was ready and wanting to be a part of the operation.

“We were thinking, how is this going to work? And the cards ended up falling into the right place. One of the hired guys we had left the farm to go do something else. And there was that opening — an obvious opening — and I was like, you know, if you’re looking….I’ll send in my resume,” Jochum recalls. “My dad said, well if you want to come back to the farm, you’ve got to get your Class 1. So when I did that, and then started working on the farm, that was back in 2019. So when I came back, I did my first year full-time on the farm.”

The position she currently holds wasn’t one she just walked into — Jochum started as an employee that did everything from running equipment, maintenance, crop scouting, office work, and learning the books.

“I’m still doing that, but we’re really trying to transfer over some of the management knowledge. So my dad is the head boss of Blue Diamond Farms. So we’re in our transition plan, I would say you could call me a manager in training. So I’m starting to learn a lot more about the management things, and I’d say now I’m being including in pretty much every decision on the farm, whether that be with loans, what loans we’re getting, equipment purchases, the crop rotation, etc. Everything that’s going on…and being included in the decisions. And every day, every month that goes by, I feel like I have a little bit more influence,” Jochum explains.

Listen on for a full conversation on farm transitioning, the trials and tribulations of strawberry farming, the importance of family-business relationships, and more:

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