The seed that would begin a career helping farm families through personal and financial turmoil was planted the day Andy Junkin stepped off his family’s farm in Canada to attend college.
Junkin, owner of Agriculture Strategy of Solon, Iowa, is the keynote speaker and a workshop presenter at WESTI Ag Days Feb. 12-13 in Worland, an annual conference whose themes this year follow agricultural legacy, management and production.
Junkin’s stories about how he came to offer his services involve topics not usually in farm or ranch discussions around coffee shop tables or on farm and ranch conference agendas. Rather than commodity outlooks or fuel prices, the gist for his emphasis to create lasting legacies are divorce, suicide attempts and shattered families.
That day Junkin left the Bobcaygeon, Ontario, farm, about 100 miles northeast of Toronto, to attend the University of Guelph, his mother showed him the farm’s financials and said if he didn’t fix the numbers she’d leave his father.
The farm had not made money in 10 years.
Upon graduating and returning to the farm, his father agreed to a five-acre demonstration plot to show if what Junkin learned could be put to use on the farm. When a farm visitor observed Andy would probably be more productive on the one acre than his father on the rest of the farm and then laughed – Junkin’s father did not. His jealous father plowed the crops under.
Junkin said he quickly realized knowledge and skills aren’t the only things needed to turn around a failing farm.
Junkin recalls his mother telling his father he needed to write a business plan before he could buy any machinery. His father then bought a manure spreader at a farm auction.
“A story like that gets around,” Junkin said. “I became the guy all my friends would take out for a beer after having tough times with their own family. I started having a knack for mediating family disputes. Turned out I was pretty good at it.”
The final push came when he saw a family fall apart at a wedding over a succession dispute and family members never speak to each other again.
“I said the way we are doing succession planning has got to change,” he said.
Since then, he has been helping family farms in Canada and North America. He married in 2017 and he and his wife, Bernadette, settled near Solon, Iowa.
He said they are in the business of improving the odds of a family’s name being on the farm’s mailbox for generations to come by getting everyone to focus on what matters.
“We never tell farmers what to do but focus on improving how your family makes decisions together,” he stated. “We eliminate the BS of working with many egos and make farming fun again.”
Junkin will present a three-hour workshop and participate in the youth career dinner during WESTI, said Caitlin Youngquist, University of Wyoming Extension educator based in Washakie County.
More details about the farm program will be available soon. Youngquist said WESTI sessions will follow the legacy theme, including estate planning, taxes, management transition resources and communicating about difficult topics.
“Running a multi-generational business isn’t easy, and I hope some of these tools will be useful to people,” she said.
Junkin’s keynote presentation is Tuesday morning, and his workshop is Wednesday afternoon.
His workshop is free, but pre-registration is required by calling the Washakie County extension office at 307-347-3431, said Youngquist. Those who pre-register can get a free workbook.