Local ag breakfast meetings are common this time of year, but on Tuesday in Kosciusko County, a different kind of ag breakfast was held. This was not a breakfast to celebrate agriculture but to build better relationships between the agricultural community and the local business community. The keynote speaker, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, said farmers and local business leaders have a lot in common, “Issues like broadband, regulations, transportation, and workforce development are all issues both groups wrestle with.”
She said it is important that local business leaders see agriculture for what it is: a major economic driver in many Hoosier communities, “It is easy for those who don’t grow up close to agriculture to undervalue its impact as an industry.” She added state leaders understand how agriculture drives the state’s economy and provides many of the inputs for many sectors of the Hoosier economy. Yet, this message sometimes is lost at the local level.
Bob Bishop, Kosciusko County Farm Bureau president, one of the key sponsors of the event, told HAT that bringing farmers and local business leaders together at a meeting like this helps foster better communication and a better understanding of the challenges both share, “The dialogue that occurred today was around our common issues like labor.” Mindy Truex, with Creighton Brothers Farms, said finding and maintaining good local employees is one of their biggest problems. She said finding enough employees actually limits their expansion. With a county unemployment rate hovering around 4%, workforce development is a critical issue for businesses and farmers.
In her remarks, Ellspermann stressed the need for more post-secondary education for Hoosiers. She said, currently, only 34% of Hoosier high school graduates have some kind of post-graduation education. She predicted that, in 10 years, 65% of all jobs in the state would require some form of advanced training.
Organized by the Kosciusko County Community Foundation, the Ag/Business Breakfast replaced the traditional Ag Day breakfast that had been held for many years. The meeting was structured to promote connections between farm and business people and to foster a conversation about the local issues that impact both groups. Foundation Executive Director Suzanne Light said they hope to make the meeting an annual event.