CAFNR Celebrates Women’s History Month: Q&A with Charlene Finck

Finck is a CAFNR Column award winner and CAFNR alumna

Charlene Finck speaks at the 2021 Column Awards
Charlene Finck speaks at the 2021 CAFNR Column Awards ceremony.

Charlene Finck is a pioneer in the agricultural journalism sector, with a nearly 40-year career at Farm Journal. She joined the company as assistant editor in 1985 and working her way to division president of producer media before being named to her current position of president in April 2020.

One of her most remarkable accomplishments is establishing the Farm Journal Test Plots in 1991, and 29 years later, they remain the independent “Consumer Reports” of production practices in agriculture. Thousands of acres across five states span the field-testing program that create independent results that help farmers maximize production, profitability and sustainability.

In 2020, she received the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources’ Column Award for Distinguished Alumni, the only award specifically for alumni presented by the college. The awardee class includes one graduate from each of CAFNR’s six divisions, reflecting the six historic columns at the University of Missouri.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked Charlene a few questions about her distinguished career, women who have inspired her along the way, and how she is supporting the next generation of women in her field.

Tell us about your current or most recent role and what you enjoy about it

I have the honor of serving as the President of Farm Journal, a company I have worked at for 33 years. As a key member of the executive leadership team at Farm Journal, I am immersed in all Farm Journal franchises including magazines, websites, mobile messaging and other digital offerings, events, nationally broadcast television, and radio programs and content studios as well as marketing and human resources. I’m passionate about Farm Journal’s commitment to serving farmers, ranchers, growers, and agribusiness. As a company, we put farmers first and are all agriculture all the time — a mindset that aligns with my deep agricultural roots. I also treasure Farm Journal’s innovative spirit and the ability to create and launch new, meaningful products and programs the provide unique service to our audience and customers.

Share with us a woman who has inspired you in your life/career

Two women have been what I call my North Stars of my life/career: my mom and Katherine Graham, who courageously led the Washington Post through the crisis of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

My mom was a confident, strong-willed, hardworking achiever who farmed with my dad. Together, they built a family farm that continues today. She was ahead of her time as an advocate for female leadership. Any time I would say, “I can’t” do something, she’d tell me “there is no I can’t…you can do anything you put your mind to”.

Katherine Graham wasn’t as empowered as I was growing up, but she discovered her own strength and became a media leadership icon who inspired many. She didn’t let “boys clubs” drive her business decisions or limit her aspirations. She was committed to doing what was right even if it wasn’t easy. That mindset, drive and wisdom fueled her ground-breaking leadership at the Washington Post.

How do you strive to set an example for the next generation of women leaders?

Leading by example is an important part of life. In our family, I’ve always encouraged and empowered our two daughters to blaze their own paths. I followed in my mom’s footsteps in frequently reminding them that they can do anything they put their minds to. 

In addition, I’ve quietly mentored dozens of young female teenagers, team members and ag industry professionals. It is so rewarding to see them spread their wings!  

What advice do you have for women entering your industry?

Never underestimate what you’re capable of and always swing for the fences.

Treat everyone with respect and demand that you are treated in the same manner.

Inspire other women to follow in your footsteps as trailblazers.