GREENWICH, N.Y. — Jean Gallagher’s story started on a small dairy farm in Sangerfield, NY. Several of her immediate and extended family members were farmers or worked in the agriculture industry, so her roots run deep in agriculture.
Growing up Jean was involved in several youth organizations including 4-H, the New York Jr. Holstein Club, and the New York Jr. Guernsey Breeders’ Association. Through these and other activities she grew her knowledge and experience in the dairy industry. “For years I competed in public speaking, dairy quiz bowl, dairy judging and exhibited dairy cattle at local, state, and national shows,” said Jean. “I was also part of the Junior Dairy Leaders Program and participated in Cornell’s Dairy Discovery Workshop. Both of these programs gave me early exposure to opportunities in agriculture and the dairy industry. All these experiences helped me build my technical skills and knowledge within agriculture. However, the best part of these experiences were the people I met along the way- friends, mentors, and industry leaders who taught me, influenced me, and helped shape my journey.”
Jean attended Cornell University with the intent of becoming a dairy nutritionist. However, during her time there she discovered she had an interest in business as well. “I discovered, almost by accident, that I really enjoyed business. I took a microeconomics class, loved it, then continued to take more business courses from there.” Through this interest Jean was able to participate in internships with Farm Credit saying, “I knew Farm Credit existed, but hadn’t thought much about it until I was exploring internship opportunities, and the rest is history.” She later earned a Master’s Degree in Ag Economics from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
During her formal education Jean also had the opportunity to travel which proved to be very influential for her. “Some of my most formative and important experiences revolved around travel and experiencing agriculture in other parts of the world,” she said. “I studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester in college, my MS-MBA program included an international study trip to Brazil, and the LEAD NY program took me to both Kenya and Cuba. I encourage anyone with the opportunity to travel to take that opportunity. Agriculture looks different in many parts of the world, but it always humbles me to realize we share similar values and face similar obstacles (labor, regulatory, weather, etc.) no matter the country.”
Upon graduation Jean was hired by Farm Credit East and has worked for the company her entire career. She has served in various positions within the company and in various regions of the Northeast. These positions include Credit Trainee, Credit Representative, Loan Officer, Director of Recruiting and Training, and Branch Manager.
Today, Jean serves as Director of Talent Management. Similar to her uncovering a love of business, a job in Human Resources was not on her radar until she considered a move to a more “people-focused” position in 2015. In this role Jean oversees the building of the team of individuals who work for Farm Credit East. Jean shared, “In this people-focused role, I work with our team leaders to recruit and hire people to Farm Credit East, develop our bench of future leaders, coach our newest leaders, and help ensure we are maintaining an equitable environment where people can grow and thrive.” Two facets of her job that she enjoys are the opportunity to spend time in deep, strategic thought and the opportunity to connect with people from across the country in order to gather insights to maintain and improve the services of Farm Credit East. Some of Jean’s current projects include a re-write of the company’s job descriptions, building out more clear career paths and development opportunities for staff members, building internal leadership development programs, and developing Farm Credit East’s Human Equity strategy.
Farm Credit East is an agricultural financial cooperative that provides loans, appraisals, and farm advisory services (i.e. tax, accounting, payroll, consulting, crop and revenue protection insurance) to people in the farm, forest product, commercial fishing, and agricultural business sectors. Jean and others in the agricultural finance sector help producers handle the financial needs that come with operating farms or other agricultural endeavors. Jean said, “The agricultural industry is complex, and it often takes a lot of capital to get started in farming and keep a farming operation running and growing. Our team at Farm Credit East provides the expertise to help businesses navigate the ever-evolving business environment, and we are a stable source of capital for their ongoing financial business needs- whether it’s covering operating expenses, buying a key piece of real estate, or just about anything in between.”
Through her experiences Jean has come up with several pieces of advice for future job-seekers no matter the line of work:
- Stay curious, the world is big and your interests may evolve over time- that’s okay!
- Seek out as many experiences as you can throughout college, technical school, or shadowing/apprenticing programs. This will help you figure out both what you like and don’t like to do.
- Similar to above- travel! Travel is an amazing way to broaden your perspective and gain appreciation for new ideas and ways of being.
- Focus on building authentic relationships. People you meet along the way are going to be so important to your career journey. Be grateful to them, and think about how you can give back to them or others through your time, service, and/or mentorship of others.
- If you are going to be working for someone else (vs. operating your own business)- join an organization that is focused on its people. I found that with Farm Credit East, and it has provided me with great opportunities to grow within the organization.
Jean is happy to answer any questions about her own position or about the ag finance world and can be reached at Jean.Gallagher@farmcrediteast.com.
A new column from Morning Ag Clips, “Cultivating Ag Careers” introduces agriculture students and FFAers to the wide variety of careers that exist in agriculture. Each week a new individual will be introduced, who will share their journey: their educational experiences, their work, and what role their job plays in the wide world of agriculture.
Tune in each Wednesday to learn more about the different jobs and personalities that make up the ag industry!