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Insights on Change and Innovation from Farm Credit Leaders and Circle of Excellence Winners


Farm Credit’s business environment is continually evolving and responding to economic, regulatory, technological and environment trends. Navigating these pressures requires that both individuals and organizations embrace change as a mindset and seek innovative solutions to new challenges.

FCCS asked several Farm Credit leaders who were named to the 2023 Accelerator of the Year Award Circle of Excellence about how they and their organizations prepare for and embrace change and innovation. Here’s what they had to say:

Influencing Culture to Accept Change and Innovation

Jennifer Hammarin, Senior Communications Advisor, AgWest Farm Credit

It’s imperative at the beginning of a change – in our case, a merger – to be very clear about the purpose behind the change, articulated in a way that employees can rally behind. Throughout the process, our leaders and operating committee have embraced this approach and consistently strengthened our key messages. Clear direction, a shared goal and consistent language have been instrumental in forming our strong, positive culture and building a foundation for our employees and customers to thrive.

Demonstrating a Commitment to Change and Innovation

Russ Wagner, CIO, Farm Credit Services of America, Frontier Farm Credit and AgCountry Farm Credit

We’ve created an environment that encourages innovation and the capacity for our teammates to spend time focused on innovation. In our technology development we dedicate one of our scheduled “sprints” to innovation, and we’ve also established an employee group to spur more innovation throughout the organization. While some people would enjoy working on innovation all day, others prefer to keep their focus on delivering on our mission, so we’ve created an environment that allows everyone the same opportunities and then accept that teammates will choose to participate to different degrees.

Recognizing an Organizational Champion

Jennifer Douglas, Chief Administrative and Technology Officer, AgSouth Farm Credit

An organizational champion creates a culture of collaboration and mutual respect and recognizes that our business is first and foremost about relationships: between employees and the customers who choose to do business with us, and among our staff and teams who work together every day. Keeping those people around is also key – you can’t foster an innovative culture unless people stay to build it – so organizational champions listen to and collaborate with teammates, and treat people well as a basic building block to working together and bringing the organization where it needs to go.

Encouraging Others to Accept Change

Heidi Bubela, VP Decision Sciences and Analytics, Compeer Financial

Much of the resistance to change stems from uncertainty, so sharing information is critical to help people adapt to a change. Throughout the entire change lifecycle, leaders should communicate about the reasons behind a change, as well as the logistics of the change, via every channel available to them – email, intranet, video blasts, town hall meetings, webinars, signage. To help people accept a change, almost oversaturate them with real, meaningful and complete information, and then also offer them multiple avenues to ask questions and learn more to become fully invested in the change.


FCCS is pleased to announce Allyson Tjoelker of Capital Farm Credit as the 2023 FCCS Accelerator of the Year. This award honors leaders who drive organizational advancement, change, and growth. As Senior Vice President of YBS and Mission Lending at Capital Farm Credit in Texas, Tjoelker was nominated by Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Thompson for her success in developing the Young, Beginning, and Small Farmer program. In 2023, Tjoelker launched multiple education and training programs and a YBS conference, nearly doubling CFC’s YBS loans. Her nomination was supported by CFC’s Chief Lending Officer and a grateful YBS farmer. Congratulations to all of the honorees.

About the Accelerator of the Year Award

The FCCS Accelerator of the Year Award recognizes a leader who has made significant contributions to advancing their organization, accelerating change and fostering growth. This is the third year of the Accelerator of the Year award program, which is open to contributors and leaders at every level who accelerate their organization’s success.

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