One More Potato?

BY Leah Brakke

Annual Meetings

Having meetings cost money. Having meetings take time – the planning and attending. Do fancy meetings where people have to fly in, stay in a nice hotel room, attend events, listen to speakers, prepare presentations and eat good food sell one more potato? We think it does more then that.

Our annual meeting, we believe gives the opportunity to those who do the work to be engaged with the entire company. It allows people to be passionate so when they get home they’ll take that excitement with them back to the farm, where they will be more productive. It allows people to know and understand the company and to understand each other – which in turn will cause fewer mistakes, generate more ideas, leave less room for error. This meeting, lets people recognize why we do what we do. In turn, they will want to go back and focus on what’s important to be successful.

About 150 full time employees braved the North Dakota December weather last week for the Black Gold Farms annual meeting. For some, it was the first time on a plane, the first time seeing snow, and the first time in North Dakota. For some, it was the first time meeting face to face people they talk to on a daily basis making big decisions. For some, it was the annual event that they get to re-connect on a personal level with those they’ve worked with for years.
From planning to connecting

Historically, we spent most of our meeting time planning and getting into the details of the “what” and “how”. As our business and industry has changed, those details are more specific, and not everything relates to everyone else. As the business has changed so has the value of our connections within Black Gold Farms. We all talk from farm to farm, from position to position – however, it’s not very often that we get to actually meet face to face – we’re all so busy getting the work done. Working as a team to do the job right, doesn’t allow for the opportunity to really learn and get to know each other. Now, Black Gold Connect facilitates just that. We get to hang out with each other and share ideas, share insights and experiences – the good, the bad, the ugly – and maybe find out about each of our families, our hobbies and our lives.  We connect. More pictures of the meeting here.

Foundation of Excellence
FOE Logo
With growth come complexities. Among all of the complexity of what we do – there may be times when we have lost focus of what really matters. Where we don’t pay attention to the foundation – where we worry about the “other stuff”. This year at our meeting, we committed to re-energize on the foundation of what makes us who we are, and to do the basic things not just right, but to be excellent at them. The foundation of farming – Planting, Growing, Harvesting – if we’re not excellent at these things, than we are will be stuck with being okay. Those are the things that we need to be excellent at. So, over the course of the week, we talked about that foundation, and to ensure we have focus on making sure the foundation is solid, because when it is – that’s when we see excellence.

Down to Business
While the connect part is essential, we still have business to get down to. We started with a full day of manager meetings. While those meetings are going on the rest of the group got to explore Grand Forks for the day.

Gregg Halverson opens the books to all of the managers about how we did this year. Transparency is key – and this way, we know where we are, and where we need to be as an entire group.

Everyone finally got together at the office Tuesday evening for dinner and to say Hello to new and old friends. We also had the honor of having some special guests as the office building finally achieved the LEED Gold certification.

ND Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley congratulates Black Gold Farms on achieving the LEED Gold certification.

The next day general session was full of updates of how 2014 went, and what 2015 will bring.

Eric Halverson opened the general session with a review, got down to the basics – the foundation sets the stage for excellence.

Once that was over, the buses were loaded up and headed to the Grafton Curling Club. We spent the night curling and connecting.

Thursday morning started off with an innovation challenge, and the rest of the general session was filled with outside speakers and encouragement.

Thursday night wrapped up the entire week with the annual awards banquet. Deserving teams and people received the Giving Back Award, Years of Service Recognition and the Annual Horizon awards.

2014 Horizon Award Winners: John Tweten, April Loken & Nathan Libey.

There was also a special “Thank You” to Gregg Halverson who is transitioning to a new role in Black Gold Farms.

Danielle Golden presents Gregg with a gift from the Black Gold Farms family.

10 years of service award recipients: Chris Hopkins – Columbia, NC, Jeremy Smallwood – Sturgis, MI, Blain Hopkins – Columbia, NC

Nancy Callahan: 30 years at Black Gold Farms!
Nancy Callahan and the Halverson Family: 30 years at Black Gold Farms!

Black Gold Connect sells more than one potato. It contributes to our way of life. It solidifies our culture. It contributes to bringing us together as a Black Gold Farms Family. It’s reinforcing what all connects us.

Giving Back 2014 – Black Gold Farms

The Arbyrd, MO Farm Team received the prize, but all teams did an amazing job this year giving back to their communities.

Arbyrd, MO Farm team received an extra $1,000 to give back to their local community.