Build Business Acumen at TEPAP

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
(Getty images; Photo illustration by Barry Falkner)

You can practically see the light bulbs flicking on above people's heads during The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers, better known as TEPAP.

"What it really does is changes your way of thinking and brings perspective," says Erik Oberbroeckling, the Iowa farmer featured in the April 2024 issue of Progressive Farmer magazine. He completed TEPAP's two units, each a week long, in the mid-2010s and returned as an alumni in 2023.

Oberbroeckling says the experience can be like drinking from a fire hose. There are classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, a two-hour discussion session after dinner and dedicated space for conversations and beverages.

That's where I met Evan Hellerud, the Minnesota farmer also featured in the cover story, this past January. Over the past decade or so, he'd focused on growing high-yield crops but decided to attend TEPAP after determining that he needed to understand the business and financial aspects in greater detail.

"Farming is a business, but there are a lot of people stuck in a rut thinking, 'Aw, it's just farming, anybody can do it.' No. When you master the business end of it -- along with your production -- it's big, viable business," Hellerud says, adding that the instructors' firsthand experience with farming brought the business application home.

In the first few weeks after returning to his Red River Valley farm, he implemented a software program to track his breakevens, overhead costs and grain marketing.

Oberbroeckling says he left TEPAP with a practical to-do list, such as writing down the farm's standard operating procedures. He still uses the TEPAP template for financial analysis today. But, the real benefits come from the conversations and people you meet.

When Oberbroeckling first attended TEPAP, he had six employees between the farm and his trucking company. By the time he returned last year, that had grown to 40.

"There's no other farm in my immediate area that has that many employees," he says. At TEPAP, "you can rub elbows with people who are working through the same issues you are."

Applications for TEPAP open at the beginning of July. The limited slots for Jan. 6-12, 2025, fill up quickly.


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