Dale A. Clary has been with Greene Farm Management Service, Inc. for 21 years as a farm manager, appraiser, insurance broker, and real estate broker, and is now president of the company. Greene Farm Management manages property throughout Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana, managing some of these properties since the company was originated.

Clary is also on the University of Illinois AG alumni board, Heart of Illinois fair board, Great American Insurance advisory board, and past president of Peoria North Rotary. Greene Farm Management is also responsible for initiating Crops for Kids for Crittenton Crisis Nursery.

He and his wife, Wendy, who is principal at Mossville Grade School, have two sons, Jason and Ben.

What prompted the organization of Greene Farm Management Service, Inc. in 1942? How has that vision and its purpose changed since then?

Greene Farm Management originated in 1942 with Howard Greene and Frank Ames. Due to the Depression and the urbanization of society, a transformation began in the agriculture field which included considerable change in farmland ownership. With the growing amount of absentee ownership, farm management service expertise was an obvious need of the absentee owners. This transformation has continued to present day management firms.

What is your background for farm management?

My basic farm training began by being raised on a grain and livestock farm in northern Illinois. The hands-on experience and knowledge gained on the farm have been invaluable in my profession.

I attended the University of Illinois and received a degree in AG Economics-Farm Management. While in college I worked at the University of Illinois agronomy and dairy farms. During that time period, I spent summers working on a swine farm, and for Del Monte's food division. After graduating I have been employed in the farm management business in the Peoria area for 25 years. In those management capacities I was responsible for a variety of farm operations throughout the Midwest.

Along with the every day experiences, I earned my accredited Farm Management degree from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. To add to our full service mentality of our farm management firm, I also hold a real estate and insurance broker's license.

Describe the services and consultations you provide.

We strive to provide a full service management business. Our staff includes Jim Erlandson, who is a state certified appraiser, and Jerry Huffman, who is an accredited farm manager. All of us have 18 to 25 years of farm management experience.

The main base of our business is to provide farm management, an all-inclusive service. We use our experience and expertise to provide the best return for our clients, taking into consideration their goals and desires for their property. We are hired to manage and make decisions regarding our clients investments.

Due to the full service nature of our business, we also acquire and sell properties for clients. In conjunction with the real estate business, Erlandson is a certified appraiser. He is able to provide appraisals for real estate, sales, gifting, loan purposes, estate planning, and foreclosures.

We also provide farm insurance. Specifically, crop insurance has become a very valuable tool in protecting the client's investment. Insurance maintains a normal income flow for the properties during weather variations and fluctuating world economic situations.

Who is a typical client? What are some common reasons people seek a private management firm?

There is no typical client, because any entity may own farm property. Our clientele includes churches, colleges, doctors, attorneys, park districts, and the list goes on. We have even had past farm tenants acquire our services, hopefully, because we treated them fairly when they were renting property from our client.

People seek out our management services for many reasons. Either they do not have the time, knowledge, or desire to look after their farm investments or, as the generations become more removed from the farm, we can provide the knowledge to manage their investment. Sometimes, even though people are very knowledgeable about agriculture, they require our services because of undivided ownership where, as an unbiased third party, we can help with the decision making process to prevent any conflicts.

What types of farms do you manage-livestock, agricultural, dairy, etc.? What is most typically found in central Illinois?

Our operations vary almost as much as our clients. Most of our farm operations produce corn and soybeans or a variation of those two crops. We are also involved in dairy, swine, beef cattle, sheep, and speciality crops. The scope of our business lies in the fact that each operation has a different set of circumstances we deal with in making our decisions for our clients' benefit. When dealing with the weather or livestock, there is always something out of the norm.

What are some of the ways managing a farm has changed over the last 20 years? Over the last decade?

Due to the quality of farm operators today, and the amount of operations and acreage we oversee, there is less on-site monitoring as there was 20 years ago. The cellular phone is the best invention a farm manager could have. The cellular makes it possible to keep in touch with farm operators. We spend a lot of time informing the clients of what is happening and why it is happening. We are constantly making decisions on the operations because farming has become a business versus a way of life.

Farms have traditionally been handed down to the next generation. Many in the next generation decline to assume ownership of the farm. The number of Illinois farmers in 1997 over the age of 70 was twice that of farmers under 35.

It has been suggested that a lack of on-farm experience can lead to more industrialization of agriculture and a real crisis. What is your opinion?

Due to the economics and the small margins of profit per acre, the number of farmers is declining. There is a void due to past agricultural economic crisis. We have a group of older farmers, and a group of younger farmers as the mainstay in the industry at this time. People must realize farmers cannot own all of the acreage needed to make a living. This is where our clients (absentee owners) provide additional land for farmers to rent to develop profitable economic units.

There is some concern where industrialization of agriculture could create a crisis. Due to the uncertainties of weather, and timeliness of planting and harvesting, as the difference between a profit and a loss, direct ownership in the operation is badly needed. New blood is needed in agriculture, but the major investment needed in farming makes it very difficult for younger farmers to farm enough acres to make a decent living.

The general public is concerned about agriculture becoming too commercialized-losing the lifestyle image of the American farmer. Can you speak to that issue?

In some cases, urban society moving back to the country creates conflicts with the farm lifestyle. The public also is demanding high quality foods without accepting the farmer's methods to produce those foods at the cheapest prices in the world. Fewer people can survive the ups and downs of agriculture. We do see lifestyles changing drastically on farms as we see many urbanites wanting to live in the country. People must realize when moving to the country that it is not literally all milk and honey.

Is it an impossible dream today for someone to buy land and begin farming in Illinois? What is the average cost of farm land and how many acres are needed? What is the cost of farm machinery today and how do farmers afford to own the equipment?

It may be possible to start farming in this day and age. You probably would not be able to purchase the land to farm, or acquire all of the inputs and needed equipment, unless you have considerable capital to start with. Also, if you could find absentee owners to rent you the land, then you could still start today and, with a few breaks, be successful and provide for your family.

What are some of the ways agriculture affects the economy in central Illinois that we may not be aware of?

Society as a whole does not realize the number of jobs, professions and the total amount of dollars generated by agriculture throughout the country, and the world. There are many jobs involved with adding value to the raw products as they are moved to the consumer. Most people in central Illinois, if they would sit down at their job and look at the items they work with, or the products or services they are associated with, would see some connection to agriculture of small town America.

What is your opinion of government intervention in agricultural concerns? Too much? Too little? In what ways?

Because of the politics of the world, the government is involved in our business in a big way. Farmers wish this was not the case, but it has almost become a necessity or the farming community could collapse. Obviously, the food chain would be broken and all of us would be quite concerned where our next meal would come from. I know there are many days we gripe about government programs and, if we had our way, we would implement farm programs differently, but there are also many days we thank God when the government check arrives. The government must get involved many times to create a level playing field for world economics. As a consumer nation, our agriculture products can be very valuable as export items to offset the trade deficit we face in this country.

Central Illinois has recently been dealing with issues surrounding a growing hog farm industry. Is the opposition mostly from neighbors over environmental and property value concerns? What is your position from a business standpoint?

The consumer is ultimately responsible for the growth in the hog industry and the negativity towards large operations. Consumers have demanded uniformity in meat products, which has forced the processors to push hog producers into larger operations where environment and the genetics result in larger uniform numbers. The addition of venture capital into the hog industry has also added to this transformation. The clash comes when everyone who lives in the country, or wants to live in the country, only remembers the nice things about living there and not the matter-of-fact life situations on the farm.

Maybe the large hog units should be put in industrial parks with waste being taken care of along with human waste. This is contradictory to the family farm mentality, but economics may have already made these decisions for society.

Can the average farmer support his family from the farm income only? Has the reliance on organizations or a second income that would provide benefits– like group health insurance–become necessary?

Most of the farmers we deal with need to farm a minimum of 1,000 acres to make a living. You may hear about someone who farms 2,000 to 3,000 acres, but, in many cases, this larger operation actually has two to three families to support. The catch is, it takes such a large investment in equipment to generate and provide a living similar to their counterparts in the city. As in other parts of society, the two income family becomes a necessity. Some farmers do take off the farm jobs to acquire benefits equal to their urbanite counterparts.

Where do you see farm management in the next decade?

We believe the farm management business will continue to grow due to the generations being removed from the farm, and their lack of knowledge regarding farming. Our plus is that there are fewer and fewer of us that have knowledge of how to grow crops to fit the world. Also, as people invest in farm ground, it makes sense for them to hire someone to look after that investment. At this time, we are seeing an influx of investment money into farmland, since people are growing leery of adding large amounts to the stock market.

Also specific to our firm, we work with one program that is somewhere in between organic farming and farming as we knew it 20 years ago. We provide a chemical-free product produced in such a way that the farmer doesn't have to change his method of farming. It looks very promising, especially with society's mentality toward the way we should farm.

What, if any, misperceptions does the general public have about our agricultural industry in central Illinois?

With an affluent society, we have reached the point where food has become a right instead of a privilege. Many of us, myself included, can go to the grocery store and complain about how much we spend, yet we can drive down the street and buy an expensive television or any other item and think nothing of it. The other sad point is that there any many people in the world starving to death. We have the capability and knowledge to produce the food, but the politics of the world prevent common sense from prevailing.

On the contrary, agriculture is still an exciting industry because there are so many different things happening. In our business we deal with a great variety of people and situations. Being in a decision making position every day, our working career becomes very challenging. People need to eat, therefore, agriculture and farming will continue to be a viable industry. IBI