By Gregg Halverson
Attention to business matters keeps family operation focused
As the fourth generation takes control of Black Gold Farms, Gregg Halverson says structured conversations about succession and the requisite follow-up are the keys to a successful plan.
It has been recognized by many that farming is a way of life. I look at production agriculture from a slightly different point of view, more as the "business of farming" that leads to a way of life. Our farming enterprise, Black Gold Farms, has evolved in many ways in its 80-plus-year history.
When my grandfather A. E. (Hallie) Halverson planted his first potatoes in 1928, he had no idea how many lives his farm and its legacy would touch. His first potato venture, 10 acres of seed potatoes, has grown steadily over the years: Black Gold Farms is now managed by the fourth generation of the Halverson family. The business has grown dramatically in size, both horizontally and vertically. With potato acres now exceeding 20,000 acres spread over 11 states, I am certain that Hallie and his only son, Jack, if they were alive, would be shaking their heads in wonder. But the lessons and philosophies they imparted certainly remain an ingredient of the Black Gold Farms culture.
Sustainable success. Environmental, social and economic sustainability play a part in nearly every decision we make. "Capacity to change" may be a better way to put it than sustainability. Change happens routinely as we move through the challenges of production agriculture on a daily basis.
Success, from a succession planning and family life point of view, was nurturing my children through the different phases of the growth of Black Gold Farms. When my wife unexpectedly died nearly 13 years ago due to a health issue, I did a lot of soul-searching, from both a business and a personal vantage point. I had three offspring to mentor, teach and prepare for life.
As I work through my succession plan, it is more and more evident that we must keep these discussions "on top of the table," as we say. Structured conversations about succession and the requisite follow-up are the keys to a successful plan.
Future action. Black Gold Farms is a growth company focused on world-class execution. As a family and a business team, we recognize this vision is a journey, not a destination. Therefore, we believe it is mandatory that we spend time and effort on the necessary training, hiring and employee retention to move us in the right direction.
Even though we are a family-owned company, it is important that every employee understands they are part of a corporate family as well. We are all pulling in the same direction. With a structured approach to business, we hope to continue to grow, change and serve our customers. Hopefully, over the next four generations our Halverson family and our Black Gold Farms family will continue to embrace the changes necessary to propel our family farm into future generations.
Gregg Halverson, the 2012 Top Producer of the Year, is president and CEO of Black Gold Farms, a small North Dakota farm that grew to become the world’s largest producer of fresh-crop chipping potatoes.
Watch this episode of "Leave a Legacy TV" to learn more about how Gregg Halverson has steadily expanded his operation: