Sarah Beth Aubrey joins the AcreForward conversation this week to share her role in helping build the support blocks that strengthen the agriculture value chain. As the owner of Elevate Ag, LLC. and the recently formed IN-Climate, Aubrey lends a unique perspective to leadership and the path forward for ag retailers.
Starting her career in the crop protection business, Aubrey worked in sales before pivoting to start her own business. And while she admits that a sales role wasn’t the best fit for her, what she learned from her time in the space, working within teams to accomplish common goals and serve farmers, is invaluable to her.
“What I loved about crop protection was the conversations,” she says. “And that has translated well to what Elevate Ag is and does. We do work on customer engagement strategy and build coalitions around important dialogues. I haven’t had a job since 2004; they say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
In her work with retailers and their customers, Aubrey says two things are evident: The customer is changing, and the value chain is changing. Finding perspective is one of the most powerful things a grower can do to position themselves for success, a first step in Aubrey’s work.
“The first thing that farmers need to understand is that every farm is a global business, big or small. The product we put out from every farm goes out as a global product in some way. It’s a crucial element to think about,” she says. “Retail has also changed. There are things that retail advisors can do at the local level that large companies physically cannot do and compete with. Service is probably the biggest—it’s personal, it’s physical, and it’s face-to-face. Retail will never go away.”
But that doesn’t mean that all retailers will continue to see success. Aubrey says key indicators and adoption strategies are paramount to an ag retailer’s success and longevity. First and foremost is evolution: retailers who don’t evolve to serve farmers’ needs better and who do not continue to improve their value proposition will struggle to find a place in the rapidly changing dynamic of the retailer-farmer relationship.
What’s also changing are the farmers themselves. A modern grower, Aubrey says, is a farmer that is looking at what they do through a global and holistic lens.
“A modern farmer is talking about legacy, where their business is growing, and they have a long view of what they are going to do and a step-by-step action plan,” a plan that she shares more times than not involves their advisement team.
Host Mike DiPaola, Chief Commercial Officer, agrees.
“What growers need is an advisor, and that role is here to stay. To be successful, you have to marry the logistics and the pain points a farmer has,” he says. “An advisor helps to provide something that they can’t get elsewhere. To be a trusted advisor, you have to earn it. The more you know someone, the more you love them, and the more you want to serve them. Retailers aren’t going away because they are integral parts of the communities. No big company or technology can replace that.”
To hear more about the “niching down that every farmer needs to do,” how retailers can better serve farmers, the bullet points of a successful sales and support team, and even a discussion on carbon markets, where they are headed and how advisors should be talking to their customers about them, listen to the full podcast.