Farmers serving other farmers has been a guiding principle for a Huron family now looking toward its second generation.
The roots for Bauman Agency are deeper than that though, beginning with Curt Bauman’s grandparents, who were farmers near Hitchcock. When Curt married Louise, they also farmed in east-central South Dakota.
When a neighbor who represented Pioneer Seed retired, a manager approached Curt to see if he’d be interested in taking over the business.
“It was right in his wheelhouse,” Louise said. “Although Curt’s degree from SDSU is in animal science, he’d always been interested in plant science and agronomy, so he grabbed at the opportunity.”
It was a timely move in the early 1990s. While the family continued to farm, the business models in both the seed industry and crop insurance were changing. Bauman saw the future and embraced it. Curt continues to serve as a Pioneer sales rep and crop insurance agent, while Louise is the overall business manager and a crop insurance agent.
“Both Pioneer Seed and crop insurance have grown greatly from where they began,” Louise said. “Our main area is a 50-mile radius around our home base, but when our daughter, Callee, wanted to come back into the operation, we expanded again and now serve all over eastern South Dakota with our Precision Planting business and crop insurance.”
Callee Bauman Wachter and her husband, Jonathan, moved to Sioux Falls after she graduated from SDSU in 2008. She originally entered the advertising industry but soon realized she missed the lifestyle and people in agriculture.
“The technology offered by Precision Planting was very new, and there was a big hole in eastern South Dakota,” she said. “I could be based anywhere, show the new technology at farm shows and grow my customer base. My dad recognized the opportunity and asked if I could run with it, and I found I really enjoyed learning about people’s operations and seeing what their needs might be.”
The couple returned to Huron in 2012 with the birth of their son, and the Precision Planting side of the business grew fast enough that Jonathan joined to support it in both sales and as a planter technician.
“I like the sales and education side, and he likes the service and technical end, so it’s a really good pairing,” Callee said. “And I have grown my involvement to include insurance. My husband and I both enjoy contributing to other people’s operations. That’s a special place – being a contributor, and we know that as farmers ourselves — so we take it seriously.”
Now, with four family members in the business as part of a team of 10 full-time people, the Baumans are focused on preparing for the future of their businesses. They’ve leaned heavily on resources provided through the Prairie Family Business Association.
“We have loved getting to know the Bauman family,” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association. “This family blends so many skill sets but shares a common commitment to helping other farming families, and it’s been rewarding to see them take advantage of all the resources we have for them.”
We asked Louise and Callee to detail how the organization is helping them position for the future.
How did you originally get connected with Prairie Family Business Association?
Louise: A young woman we’d known for a long time in Huron actually nominated us for one of their awards, which was very nice of her, but what I most appreciated from it was the connection to the association. We received a free initial membership and began connecting to the resources Prairie Family Business offers. I love it. I enjoy learning those kinds of things, and the opportunity to have these resources is amazing. I was so excited to attend the first Prairie Family Business conference. Someone from the association came to my office, so it was a warm introduction, and they would keep telling me about things available, and it was amazing. I find the membership fee highly valuable, with many opportunities at no cost and others at a low cost. During the pandemic, it truly became my lifeline as their calls and videos provided the support and information we needed.
Callee: It’s filled a lot of gaps for us. I find myself making sure to make time for the webinars; even things I didn’t think I’d be interested in, I always take away something. I find my business acumen and knowledge has benefited, and I learn things I didn’t even know I wanted to learn. Transitioning from one generation to the next is a process, and these resources have been very helpful.
You participated in a live case study through Prairie Family Business Association a couple of years ago. What prompted that, and what were the benefits?
Louise: We thought it would be useful as Curt and I knew we needed to step back but didn’t know how we were going to do that. It was a great opportunity to get a lot of different perspectives all at the same time on different pieces we needed information about. It was very helpful. One of the things I really appreciated was connecting with a network of people who bring different viewpoints and expertise. I’ve talked to a couple of the experts many times and some not again, but I would not hesitate to reach out to any of them. When you’re in a small family business with a unique business model, sometimes it’s not as easy to find resources, so this was very helpful.
Callee: For my husband and I, it was helpful because we had concerns about succession. Who do you talk to about those things? How do you have it be unbiased? One of the great parts of a family business is making it a natural extension of who you are, but we’re not the same people as my parents. So it was trying to figure out how do we make it an extension of ourselves while being true to how it started. It doesn’t have to be identical to be successful, but there are ways to work through it, and it was helpful and reassuring to have those perspectives. It felt like both a support system and mentorship piece and was very positive for us.”
What has your family’s experience been with Prairie Family Business Affinity Peer Groups?
Callee: My husband is actually in a group, and it’s been great for him. The spouse of a family business has a unique perspective, and for us, things were good already, but I have seen a change in his confidence and a special mentorship and friendship that’s developed as he’s met other spouses and family business people from all different fields and businesses. He feels ownership in their success, and he comes back from the group bringing great ideas to our business. It’s really been good for him to plug in on a higher level. He’s originally from California, and this group has been life-giving. He loves to go and talk about business with others, and now he feels like he fits in as a South Dakota business owner. I would recommend the peer groups in a heartbeat.
Louise: I’m also in a group, and it’s been great. I am very grateful for the opportunity. Our group is split between Sioux Falls, Watertown and Huron, and I’m so thankful to have met them and really appreciate and covet their support, their advice, their questions, their ideas. Even though we all bring issues to the group, I always learn the most listening to everyone else’s issues and pick up insight I didn’t know I’d be getting. My peer group holds me accountable, and I would recommend a Prairie Family peer group to any family business.
If you are interested in a live case study with Prairie Family Business Association, send an email to assistant director Peter Hauck at email@example.com.