By Gil Gullickson, Successful Farming, AAEA 2019-2020 President
Rich Fee was my next-door neighbor at Successful Farming for seven years before he retired in 2012. Over the years, we swapped stories about work, farming, family, and just about everything else. (Except sports. Rich is the least sports-minded man I know. Mention Tom Brady to him, and he’d probably say, “Isn’t he that guy who started strip tilling in southern Minnesota about 25 years ago?)
Through it all, though, burned an enthusiasm for agriculture and agricultural journalism as bright in year 32 of his career as year one. The biggest thing he left me with, though, was this mantra with which he approached every story— “Tell me what I don’t know and how it will make or save me money.”
Most of the time, when folks say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. We experienced that in the Agricultural Communicators Network this past year. Last August, I strode into the board meeting and saw a couple numbers on our balance sheet that…..well, didn’t look completely encouraging. “Inside, I thought, ‘So is this president gig in a year going to be such a good deal?!
Good news—it is! I’m looking forward to serving you as your president for 2019-2020.
It turned out that as an organization, we weren’t immune to the agricultural economic downturn of recent years. AAEA’s two major income sources—the Ag Media Summit and corporate sponsorships—fell short of expectations in 2017-2018. The result was a $24,000 deficit.
We have and will continue to do many great things in this organization. But in the end, it’s about money. We can’t do them without financial stability.
So, your board swallowed hard and made some decisions—many with great member feedback—to get us back in the black.
We aren’t out of the woods yet. But, it appears that we will end the year with a slight positive income of $3,400.
So how did we do it?
Well, members played a big part of it. We are all shelling out more for dues—the first dues increase since 2011. Membership committee co-chairs Mike Wilson and Amy Roady and committee members beat the bushes for more members. We hiked fees for our awards contest. Some administrative duties were switched, and we became smarter about how we do business. In April, the board met via Skype rather than shelling for a meeting in person. We continued to beat the bushes for sponsorships. And we’re hopeful that our recently concluded (and successful) Agricultural Media Summit in Bloomington, Minnesota, will resume the monetary flow that AMS supplied a few years ago.
Fiscal responsibility will be an on-going battle until agriculture turns around. But financially, we are on track for a successful year.