An interview with the sisters who founded Three Farm Daughters in 2020 reminded of how the face of agriculture changes. The Sproule sisters — Annie Gorder, Mollie Ficocello and Grace Lunski — sat down with me in the Lunski home in Grand Forks, N.D., for an AgweekTV story to discuss how Three Farm Daughters takes the GoodWheat variety grown on their family farm and transforms it into products like flour and pasta. I want to share the lessons I took from it.
Lunski’s infant son, Hank, fussed a bit throughout the interview. We paused and continued when he was comforted. Gorder’s daughter, Ophelia, was on a kindergarten Zoom class and paused for her mom to participate in the interview. The sisters' mom, Susie Sproule, kept more grandchildren at her home and I didn’t meet them.
But it reminded me: Every farm family I’ve ever met works best as a team. While the public perceives an iconic, romanticized view of who and what agriculture and a “family” farm look like, they’re wrong. No family, farm or business is the same. As a friend in agriculture says often to me, we’re each different like a thumbprint. Yes, all thumbprints differ, bring a uniqueness to every human, and thumbprints are durable, lasting a lifetime.
If we’re going to move ahead in agriculture, we need a new generation in agriculture. In my interview with Three Farm Daughters, I saw a few of those faces I believe to be a part of a changing face of agriculture.
Annie and Grace both earned MBAs. I heard Annie share her passion for finance, agricultural land and the details in business. Grace has a passion for marketing the flour and pasta created by Three Farm Daughters. She shared about building a unique food brand. Mollie earned a law degree and keeps her license active but mostly utilizes her attorney skills in the farm business. Her passion for contracts, understanding logistics and following process came through strongly in our conversation.
Each sister brings her unique thumbprint skillset back into the farm business. They didn’t pause to have a family and then pursue their business aspirations; they’re doing both simultaneously. I admire their drive and chosen professional paths while juggling personal lives.
From what I gathered, the sisters weren’t FFA or 4-H members. They didn’t take agriculture classes in high school or college. They didn’t actively participate in an agriculture organization that led them into their careers. All three sisters went to a private, Christian college for their undergraduate degrees — not a land grant agriculture university.
There are multiple ways the faces of agriculture find their ag careers. Each of the Sproule sisters' educations and expertise led them back into the farm business, and their passions for food and family led them to expand into Three Farm Daughters.
I listened and learned from their examples, growing in appreciation for the changing faces of agriculture.
I hope to continue to learn from who take a unique path into agriculture. I also hope as a midcareer agriculturalist, I provide mentorship and leadership like trailblazers ahead of me provided as I made my way in ag communications and media.
The face of agriculture will change. Is traditional agriculture ready to accept change? I hope so. Agriculture must accept new faces, ones who didn’t follow traditional paths, faces new to agriculture, faces who see different ways of bringing food to reach consumers and open new markets. Like a thumbprint, your way of change won’t look like your neighbors or somebody else you read about in Agweek or watch on AgweekTV.
Be a change in agriculture. Accept changes in agriculture. Mentor and bring in a new face into your agribusiness. Let’s lead and bring closer connection to how each farm uniquely grows food for families near and far from us.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.