Sowing the Seeds of Success
WESTBY, Wis. — Compeer Financial Board Director Mark Cade farms on rolling hills in Westby, Wis., just down the rural road from his childhood home. Growing up on a 75-head dairy farm, Cade developed a passion for farming and a lifelong commitment to agriculture.
“I’ve always been drawn to the genetics aspect of farming and helping with the dairy herds,” Cade said. “When I finished high school in 1980, I took out my own loan with Compeer (formerly Badgerland Financial) and started my own operation. My dad had always borrowed from Farm Credit, and I appreciated the long-term relationship and trust built with financial officers.”
When Cade and his wife Cheryl married, they moved to their current homestead and expanded their livestock to include 55 more cows. However, in 2014, they made the decision to sell the dairy portion of their operation.
“We had to decide whether to expand our dairy operation or move in a different direction with our children having other careers as well,” Cade explained. “We made the decision to start a cow-calf operation and shift to a cash grain operation.”
Today, Cade, along with his sons Travis and Austin, farms corn, soybean and alfalfa on 800 acres and manages a beef herd of 75. His daughter Tiffany operates her own organic tomato farm just three miles down the road. With the intent of preserving the farm for future generations, Cade and his sons established a limited liability company. He hopes to see his sons carrying on the family farming tradition after he retires.
“That’s always been the goal: to keep it going for the next generation,” Cade said. “Hopefully, they’ll do the same for their kids.”
Contributing to the Community
Cade graduated from Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wis., with degrees in farm business management and finance. His passion for both farming and finances inspired him to seek a spot on Badgerland Financial’s Board of Directors in 2006.
“My previous financial officer encouraged me to submit my name and see what happens,” Cade recalled with a laugh.
Over the past 17 years, Cade has actively served on all of the cooperative’s committees, including his current role on the Finance and Audit committees. He has also held the positions of vice chair and chair. Cade brings a unique perspective of being a Board member through the merger process that created Compeer Financial.
“Tough decisions had to be made, and those decisions are what makes Compeer so great today,” he said. “Compeer wouldn’t be what we are today without directors in legacy associations putting the future needs of the organization ahead of themselves as we merged and downsized the boards.”
Cade said one of the most significant changes accompanying Compeer’s growth and scale has been the shift to a digital and on-farm model. He believes this shift has enhanced Compeer’s ability to better serve clients, who play a vital role in the organization’s success.
“Personally, I like doing things online because I can be more efficient,” he said. “Change is never easy, but we have to stay relevant for the future, while maintaining the personal relationships that are a hallmark of working with our cooperative.”
Anticipating the future
Cade eagerly looks forward to expanding his operation further before he retires. From day one on the farm until now, he continues to derive satisfaction from knowing that his work makes a difference in the world.
“I like knowing that we’re feeding the country,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about this job. That, and there are so many other jobs tied to agriculture. It’s all about the bigger picture.”
This article was originally printed in the Fall 2023 edition of Compeer Financial's Cultivate magazine.