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Leaders Adapt, Engage, Communicate
Mary Brazeau Brown shoulders a lot of responsibility, and advocates for progress in the farm community...
By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Futures Magazine
As a direct descendent of T.W. Brazeau, patriarch of what was the Central Cranberry Company, Mary Brazeau Brown has some big shoes to fill. Today as the owner and President of Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc., she shoulders the bulk of the responsibilities for producing nearly 11 million pounds of cranberries, marketing branded products, and hosting guests at the farm. As an advocate in the industry, Mary is recognized as a leader among the growers in central Wisconsin. She’s promoted cranberry production, encouraged initiatives related to the fruit, and advocated for fair marketing practices.
As a mark of sustainability, in 2016 Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc. will celebrate 143 years of commercial cranberry production. The land was originally acquired in 1873 by a lumberman. To manage the land and access the forests, the owner built dikes and ditches around the native cranberry vines and developed the growing beds. Beyond crop production, the 6000 acres of reservoirs and forested uplands of the farm are home to ducks, geese, cranes, deer, fox, river otter, and many other wild animal species.
As one who is fascinated by multigenerational success and ever curious about the traits of a leader, I recognize the distinct qualities Mary employs to succeed in farming today. As a leader, she’s adapting to changing market conditions, engaging in the cranberry industry, and communicating with interested consumers. Mary’s determination is almost infectious as she talks about her new enterprise, Honestly Cranberry, and what she’s doing to grow her new venture.
From an observer’s perspective, some of the characteristics Mary may use to succeed include:
- Responsible and accountable – Mary works hard and shoulders the responsibility for results. She holds herself accountable and readily adapts to accomplish the tasks necessary to generate the desired results. Mary knows that stable markets and sure production methods are a myth and she must remain vigilant to changing conditions.
- Respectful and appreciative – Mary’s efforts demonstrate the respect she feels for those who’ve come before. She acknowledges that, without the vision of her grandfather and the dedication of her mother and father, the family might not have a business opportunity today. Mary understands stewardship and promotes practices that promote sustainability.
- Productive – In a world that often confuses ‘busy’ with ‘productive’, Mary is no slouch. She works to achieve clearly defined objectives and knows that good planning is paramount to achieve outstanding results. Her mantra for creating Honestly Cranberry, a niche specialty product, was, “Go where they ain’t; think like they don’t.”
- Persistent – Being a business owner is not for the faint of heart. A proprietor must be prepared to do whatever it takes to generate the results necessary to meet or overcome any challenge. Mary persists even in the face of the most overwhelming adversity. No matter what the challenge, she finds a way to overcome the odds and move forward.
- Astute – A person with the ability to accurately assess a situation and then act accordingly is blessed with an uncanny advantage. They can positively exploit opportunities or avoid situations that may derail efforts. In spite of early setbacks, Mary has used her abilities and business acumen to achieve her goals.
Though challenges in the business sometimes overwhelm the spirit, Mary knows they’re just temporary. With a serious dose of pride and humility she’s dealt with a number of family business issues. She’s stood up in a male dominated occupation and demonstrated professionalism. Mary’s negotiated with family to fulfill her goals for the operation and continue the family business. She’s been at the helm through pricing cycles and production downturns. She’s managed personnel and stepped in to compensate for absentees. Mary is the consummate owner-leader.
So, what are the take-aways from Mary’s experience? As a leader, are you:
- Determined to take the actions necessary to achieve your goals?
- Prepared to grow in a leadership role and assume more responsibility?
- Surrounded by supportive consultants and confidants who will step in during times of need?
- Informed with the latest information in order to make informed decisions?
- Equipped with the skills and abilities necessary to manage into the future?
Under Mary’s guidance, the Brazeau family’s cranberry business in central Wisconsin is improving. She’s introducing unsweetened dried cranberries into a market that craves healthy, local food choices.
Published as ''Leaders Adapt, Engage, Communicate", by Kevin Spafford for "Farm Futures" magazine, February 2016.
By Kevin Spafford, for Farm Futures Magazine
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