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Erin Cumings balances a career at Nationwide with life on the farm. Here she stands on the farm in front of a white barn.

Farm Risk Peace of Mind

Farms and businesses always have risks they need to consider as a part of doing business. In this FarmHer Talks episode, I talk to to Erin Cumings, a FarmHer and part of the Nationwide team, to uncover some of the issues with business changes. We also talk about how to manage your risk through it, and hear how she is adapting on the farm.

She Balances Many Roles and Knows Farm Risk

Erin Cumings is a friend, a FarmHer and the Associate Vice President of Underwriting at Nationwide Agribusiness.  She juggles a professional job in agriculture during the day, and home and farm life at night.  Her farm is a diversified family operation including cattle, hay, row crops and even an automobile repair business. 

Erin and her daughter work together on the farm.  Here they are with their two lambs.

Erin and her daughter also usually have a few farm animals whether it be chickens, lambs or a barn kittens.  Because of her various roles, Erin is a great person to talk to about how we can all think about risk in our businesses and on farms.  Many farmers are being forced to make significant changes to their business. Our discussion centers around how to make sure we can properly manage the risk that inherently comes with those changes.

Risks With Visitors On Farms

Many FarmHers love having visitors to the farm.  During the pandemic farm visits have also become popular!  In considering having friends, visitors or other public come onto the farm, many times farmers take the risks for granted.  Farmers know what to look for but guests may not.  For example farmers know not touch smooth wire because it may be electric fence but a visitor may not realize that. 

It is important to make sure that you have safeguards in place.  Also, really focus on proper hand washing.  The best thing you can do is to just stop and think about it before visitors come on to the farm.

Risk In Shifting Your Customer

The world is changing faster than most of us can comprehend and FarmHers are changing and adapting with it, making changes to their business so they can survive and thrive. Many operations have had to make a shift in who their customer is. 

Another FarmHer, Kara Babinec, has talked to us about how they made that shift. 

Erin says that any time anyone adds a new revenue stream to the farm, insurance is typically not the first thing they think about. However, the risk and liability that can come with that new revenue are real.  Talking to your agent will help you analyze the change and understand the risks to see if they can be mitigated.  It is very important to have an agent you can trust and talk to about your operation.  There are many situations that an insurance agent can help you understand as you navigate making a change.

Erin works with a team of experience Underwriters who focus on providing the right products for their customers.

What is an Underwriter

Erin shares that an underwriter is the gatekeeper between the agent and the insured and the company.  Underwriters work to make sure the policies are priced right and structured correctly to manage the risk for both the agency and the company.  E

Erin has been at Nationwide for over 16 years and loves her job.  She gets to talk to people across the country about agriculture, which is something that she loves.  She leads a team around the country where they work with agents to make sure the needs of their customers, the farmers, needs are met.

Understand Your Coverage

In talking about how business owners need to consider their risk in spreading the virus to their customers Erin says the most important thing is to understand the policy that you have.  If you don’t quite understand it (and don’t worry – most of us don’t) definitely talk to your agent and start asking questions.  It never hurts to ask.   Additionally, you need to continue to focus on the standard of care that you must have to make sure anyone you are in contact with is safe.

FarmHer Erin Cumings works with her husband to unload a bale of hay for their herd of cattle on their Iowa farm.

All Farms Have Risks

Erin says the size of the farm really doesn’t matter when you consider risk.  Large livestock operations selling to a packing plant or a small vegetable farm selling direct to their customers all face risk.  Regardless of the size of the farm, they need to consider their risk. 

One of the ways that farmers can do this is making sure that they have the necessary contracts in place to define where the legal liability lies.  These contracts might define a relationship between the producer and their customer or a partner.  Contracts such as a photography image release have always been an important part of my business at FarmHer.

Find an Agent You Like and Trust

Erin reiterates that it is very important to have an agent you can trust.  No question is a bad question.  To start thinking about your risk you can consider the different revenue streams in your operation and work through the “then what”?  If there is a storm and your milking parlor is damaged what are you going to do?  Can you continue your operations?  How would you pivot?  Do you have the insurance you need to get up and going?  Erin realizes that calling an insurance agent isn’t top of mind when a new idea surfaces, but just making the call can save a lot of stress later.

Peace of Mind

She also suggests that you always weight the cost of the insurance versus the value it brings you.  Yes, it might be an expensive coverage but does that coverage bring value to the business.  It is pretty hard to find peace of mind as a small business owner, but for me, an insurance policy is the closest I can get.

So, if you are thinking about making a change or already have and are running in a new direction, here’s your reminder to give your agent a call and start asking questions!

Update on Erin

Fast forward five years and Erin’s life has abundantly changed. Not only has her role at Nationwide shifted, her daughter has grown, the pandemic happened and her farm is even more diversified than it was before.

For her, an unexpected job change allows her to “geek out on agriculture” like never before. Through previous connections at Nationwide, she has moved to the Sponsor Relations Team. On that team, she has the chance to manage partnerships that Nationwide has with agricultural companies. Because it is a newly created role, she can pave the way and truly use her FarmHer experience to make decisions.

Another perk of her new role is working from home. While she still goes into work one day a week, she enjoys staying home immensely because of the time with her daughter and the farm. Working remotely brings a level of flexibility that is great for mothers and women on the farm.

And just like she did, Erin is raising her daughter to be a true FarmHer. When we last met with Erin, her daughter showed us her first project: lambs! Now she is an active 4-H participant with a slew of projects. Her daughter is especially excited about her dog project. 

A time consuming but rewarding project, showing a dog is special to her because she is using her grandfather’s (Erin’s father-in-law) cattle dog for the project.

Just like the family connection in the 4-H dog project, Erin and her husband’s entrepreneurial spirits called them to adding a trucking operation to their farm. It was so great to catch up with Erin and while several things have changed for her in the last five years, her FarmHer soul hasn’t.

Everybody Eats

Find More Stories at Everybody Eats

We all eat, and that is why farming will always matter.  Everybody Eats is where the stories of food and farming intersect.  

These stories told through my FarmHer lens connect us to our food and more importantly, the people behind it.  

Everybody Eats is a collection of stories of those who protect our rural communities, who grow our food with extraordinary care, and who provide support, education, and assistance to make sure Everybody Eats. 


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