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Q&A with Shari Rogge-Fidler, CEO of Family Farms LLC
Shari Rogge-Fidler is a former investment banker, strategy and agribusiness consultant, cofounder of an organic food company, and a fifth-generation farmer from Nebraska.
She’s also the CEO of Illinois-based Family Farms, LLC. This unique company provides financial management and consulting services to family farming operations covering 1.7 million acres in the U.S. and Canada. Rogge-Fidler succeeds cofounder and longtime CEO Allen Lash, who retired in 2018.
She takes the reins as all farmers face growing challenges, including lower prices and higher input costs.
Before heading Family Farms LLC, Rogge-Fidler managed her own agribusiness consulting company, Cambium Strategies. She has served on corporate boards, that of including Farm Credit Mid-America. All the while, she has remained involved in the Rogge family’s farm near Auburn, Nebraska, and the family recently celebrated 150 years as a family farm.
SF: How did it happen that you founded, along with your parents, an organic food company in the 1990s?
SRF: Wanda’s Nature Farm Foods was a response to what was happening in the marketplace at the time. Organics were taking off and bread machines had become popular. Wanda is my mom, and she developed the organic wheat-flour recipes for breads, pizza crusts, focaccia, and other things. We converted some of our farming operations to organic grains in order to overcome a lack of supply at the time. We sold the company in 2000, but the brand still exists under the Wanda’s name with products for sale on Amazon and elsewhere.
SF: You represent the fifth generation of your family farm?
SRF: Yes. The day-to-day farm operations of about 4,000 acres of irrigated corn and soybeans involve my parents, my older brother, and my uncle. Our family farm faces many of the challenges that other family farms do, including whether to diversify production, when to acquire more land and access capital for growth, and how to involve the next generation in family farming. So, I bring that understanding to my new role.
SF: How does your experience help you plot the future of an organization like Family Farms Group?
SRF: I’m very aligned with the vision of helping family farms succeed for generations to come in the face of significant changes. Family farms need tools and strategies to navigate the economic pressures in the industry. Tools and strategies include our existing resources such as coaching and training. I intend to expand in the four areas of access to capital, land, value-added markets, and innovative business models. With my background with food companies and organics, we will be pursuing more opportunities in that arena.
SF: Should we expect that the members of Family Farms Group will move from mostly commodities to value-added products?
SRF: The group has members who grow commodity corn and soybeans and members who specialize in organics or other value-added products and services. We have a good mix. I’m fortunate to be able to build upon a strong foundation of progressive farms. The company’s mission is Keeping Families on the Farm, and that’s what I’m here to help do every single day.
Name: Shari Rogge-Fidler
Title: CEO of Family Farms LLC
Background: A graduate of the University of Kansas with an MBA from Harvard University, Rogge-Fidler has international experience as well as credentials in value-added agriculture as she heads Family Farms, LLC. She worked abroad, first as an investment banker in London and then across Europe with the Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting powerhouse.