Managing Change with Financial Benchmarking

February 21, 2020

Marina McLean's family owns and operates a 2,600-acre grain and oilseed farm in south Manitoba, rotating wheat, oats, soybeans, canola, and corn. Her son is the fourth generation to manage their family farm; Marina herself has been actively involved for nearly 40 years.

The operation started with 750 acres, shortly thereafter expanding into a small farrow-to-finish sow herd, as well a small cow/calf operation—producing beef and pork. The sow herd eventually became a feeder-only operation. These herds originally consisted of two hoop barns to house the animals, which expanded into three barns to accommodate an additional feeder operation. Later, it became unfeasible to keep the cattle and sow herds, so they were dispersed and the farming operations continued as grain and oilseed crops only.

Marina runs the farm with her husband, son and daughter-in-law. Her son had an interest in being part of the farm his whole life—which led him to get his diploma in Agriculture. After he graduated, the family started their farm company. Marina has always been involved in all aspects of farming—from operating a tractor, combine, or grain truck, to checking for new calves during the night. In addition to the physical operations, Marina handles the farm's bookkeeping efforts and manages the finances with support from her family.

As a BDO advisor, Marina is thankful for the deep knowledge of farming that comes with her involvement in operations and financial management, as it helps her connect with farm clients on a personal and empathetic level. To that end, the introduction of BDO's financial benchmarking tool made a huge impact on her own family farm: "When I showed it to my husband and son last year, they were very impressed. They had always wondered how our operation stacked up against others in our area, as well as which areas need a little extra attention."

The tool allows farmers to select a specific area of focus on their financial statement and discover areas that require attention, gauging ways to identify red flags and increase the bottom line, or add to operational efficiency.

Marina has been working with farm clients for over 20 years. As this is her deepest passion, she gets to know her clients' needs and areas of concern through their conversations. As Marina so poignantly says, "I understand what various crop yields mean. I understand what it feels like to watch the clouds and wait for rain. I understand how it feels to see a beautiful wheat crop devastated by a hail storm. And I also understand the feeling of harvesting the best crop you've ever seen. To really relate to my clients, I know what it is to feel what they feel. This is how I hope to provide them with peace of mind."

Further, Marina is grateful for all she's learned from her clients as a BDO advisor, as it's helped her look at her own farm finances differently.

Living in a community of 800 people, volunteering is a must. Marina is an avid volunteer at the Nellie McClung Heritage Site, where she manages the organization's finances, as well as helping with various events. Marina takes pride in maintaining the amenities of her community, and offering support to the people wherever possible. It's these same people that are neighbours, friends, fellow farmers, and farm clients. In such a small community, the lines between these relationships are blurred—everyone is simply there to help however they can.

What Marina is most proud of is seeing her son, and his young son, riding the tractor together and checking the fields, "It feels so good to know we've left something for the next generation, and maybe even the one after that."

While farm operations and generations change over time, the heart of the farm will always stand.

Watch Marina's story

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