Part two of four: Previously, we introduced you to Maria and Ethan Cox of White Hall, Ill. Maria came back to the farm after a successful career in agribusiness. Find links to additional 'Make room for Maria' installments at the end of this story.
After a period of adjustment both Ethan and Maria began to see how their farm relationship would benefit the business.
"My weaknesses have been Maria's strengths, and vice versa," says Ethan. "Since Maria's been on board, she's taken some of those difficult tasks, like accounting. It's so easy to put finances on the back burner when there's a planter to fix and cattle to feed."
Maria agrees. "Dad is especially happy I returned because he no longer has to go to the FSA office," she jokes.
Introducing new tech
Technology is another area where Maria helped the business.
"Before she came on board we never had a planter guidance system, row shutoffs or GPS mapping, because I'm technologically challenged," says Ethan. "Now we have all that technology."
Maria ran the combine herself for the first time in 2012, mapping fields for future use. "All I've ever known planting a field is with technology, with guidance systems and row shutoffs," she says. "We use the guidance system on the hay fields as well."
Both farmers have different interests, too. Ethan is really in tune with the cattle feeding operation, while Maria's strength is in business, analyzing breakevens or profitability spreadsheets when it's time to buy cattle. Maria developed a spreadsheet for cattle breakevens and cost of gain. She also manages hay and hay sales.
"Maria's hay marketing has improved our work there 1,000%," says Ethan.
Social media moves
Maria has also created a social media presence for the farm. She built a farm website when she moved back and posts on Twitter (@mariacoxfarm) and Facebook. Her new blog, Millennial Farm Manager, is found exclusively at FarmFutures.com.
"I use Twitter and Facebook to keep in contact with our 10 different landlords," she says. Some are in different states, and I post pictures when we are doing something on their farms. They really like that because they can stay connected to their land. I have hay customers who follow me on Facebook and the website."
Social media has helped the Coxes build and maintain relationships with landlords, critically important in a period of low crop revenue.
"A vast majority of our work with landlords is relationship-driven," says Ethan. "They are in tune to our costs, and Maria has been great there, keeping them informed through social media."
Tomorrow: overcoming challenges in the multi-generational farm operation