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ELI Learning Tour to Puerto Rico

Executive leadership demands a broad perspective across all areas of business operations and a deep insight into potential challenges and opportunities. The FCCS Executive Leadership Incubator (ELI) provides Farm Credit senior leaders a forum to gain this strategic knowledge, most recently on an educational visit to Puerto Rico.

“The ELI offers a forum for senior Farm Credit leaders to engage on a regular cadence to address topics relevant to our organizations,” says Jim Roberge, Chief Diversified Markets Officer for Compeer Financial and founding ELI member. “Experiencing the ag industry in a different way, as on our trip to Puerto Rico, is another way to develop and grow as strategic leaders.”

Working closely with Ricardo Fernandez, CEO of Puerto Rico Farm Credit, to build the multi-day agenda, 25 members of the ELI cohort experienced a mix of presentations and farm tours that underscored the unique challenges ag and ag financing face on the island.

The ELI group first heard from Puerto Rico Farm Credit about its business model, customers and the regulatory environment that drastically complicates food exports from the island nation. A banker from Banco Popular then spoke about the banking industry in Puerto Rico. The Executive Director of the non-profit organization Grupo Guayacán explained its novel method of providing capital to startup agricultural operations through its partnership with Puerto Rico Farm Credit. The group also learned about Puerto Rico’s unique food security challenges – including significant weather events, sweeping legislative issues and the need to import 85% of its food supply, among others.

“The exposure to a different agricultural market and seeing how another Farm Credit organization meets its members’ needs encourages more expansive thinking outside our traditional approach,” says Jolene Curtis, Chief Operating Officer for Texas Farm Credit Services and founding ELI member.

On the two subsequent days of the visit, the group toured Martex Farms, a sophisticated mango, banana and plantain farm, and FINCA YAUCONO/Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters, a coffee plant nursery supplying island growers and exploring new coffee varieties to thrive in Puerto Rico’s climate as well as developing mechanical picking equipment.

“This learning trip offered us exposure to a different set of challenges and a greater appreciation for how Farm Credit supports agriculture across all 50 states and Puerto Rico,” says Jody Campbell, Chief Risk Officer for Alabama Farm Credit and a new ELI member.

The Farm Credit ELI meets twice annually, bringing together leaders from diverse operational areas to share knowledge and insight, work through challenges and explore new ideas. FCCS also hosts a separate ELI cohort of executive leaders from agricultural cooperatives.

“The ELI is executive development at the highest level, fostering strategic-level discussions and encouraging a strong peer network,” says Jay Lux, FCCS Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Development and ELI facilitator. “Experiencing a different kind of agriculture and learning about a different set of challenges, as in Puerto Rico, helps expand this strategic thinking.”

For more information on the Farm Credit and Cooperative Executive Leadership Incubators, including to nominate a leader from your organization, contact Jay Lux at 651.982.4568 or via email.

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