Member Profile: Megan Hedges
Montana Farmers Union Member and Farmers Union Insurance agent from Chester talks about farming, rural communities and giving back.
Q. Can you tell us about your background?
I went to Oregon State University and majored in geography and computer-assisted cartography. Most of my clients have some pretty cool maps that I make for them. I interviewed with the National Ag Statistics. They asked me what the one technological advance in agriculture that farmers couldn’t live without was. I said GPS. I enjoy using my degree to help farmers with this technology. My parents and grandparents learned how to drive the tractors and combine so straight, and I could never do it. It’s a skill that I never understood, so GPS is a requirement in my world when operating equipment.
Q. How did you get into the insurance business?
I have three little kids. They are seven, six, and two. Farming was not fitting into that family schedule well, especially since my husband’s busy time is at summer too in construction. About four years ago, I got my insurance license. Gary Seubert owned the agency in Chester before retiring. Farmers Union was looking for somebody with an ag background to take over his position. It fits into my experience and passion for agriculture and helping producers be more educated and mitigate their risk. The majority of my agency is crop insurance.
Q. What do you like best about being an insurance agent?
I’ve always had a passion for ag advocacy and education. As an agent, I can blend my skills from being on the farmer’s side of the desk to being on the agent’s side now. I can help farmers mitigate risk and be profitable in bad years with the help of multi-peril insurance.
Q. What Crops do you insure?
Well, just about every crop grown in Liberty County is insurable. This includes wheat, peas, lentils, flax, mustard, to name a few. We’ve had an increase in pulse crops over the last several years. There have been more locations for delivery and opportunity for producers to grow those. Plus they have a great rotation for farmers to change up the varieties of crops being grown on their land that provides some beneficial nutrients to the soils. I have a couple of clients growing hemp, but that isn’t utilizing the crop insurance program at the moment. It’s just maybe not the best thing for your buck at the moment. Hemp is tricky because there are so many commodities that can come out of that one crop that it’s hard to pinpoint what it is that you’ll use it for and how to insure it.
Q. What factors influence crop insurance coverage?
Every producer picks their level based on their needs, so everyone is different. I help them go through their budget to determine what they need at the end of the year to make ends meet. And that’s usually where we put their crop insurance levels to make sure they’re happy at the end of the year and the banks happy at the end of the year. Just looking at the drought map this year I think it’s gonna be quite possibly a pretty high likelihood of a good chunk of people using crop insurance. It just depends on the year and depends on your level of coverage and where the rain hit that year. Or maybe there was a hail storm. For our area in Liberty County specifically where I have a lot of my business this year looks like one that’s gonna get used.
Q. As an active member of your community, are there any specific rural issues you are concerned about?
Rural Montana is a changing dynamic. This is due largely to COVID, the influx of people, and a change in the socioeconomic status of many rural communities in Montana. So with that comes a lot of challenges. I’ve always been in Chester except for college, but it has changed. When I was growing up I knew every single person in town that you saw walking across the street, and a majority of the families were farm families.
Now it’s just not that way. I mean obviously, farms are getting bigger so there are fewer people on that front. CRP has diminished a lot. We also experienced that back in the ’80s. In Liberty County, a lot of farms went into CRP so those families moved away.
I’m concerned about the lack of childcare opportunities and farms struggling to find employees and skilled workers. It’s not the same community that I grew up in.
I’m involved in a lot of small organizations in the community and we’re trying hard to bring back a lot of the fun activities and events that we grew up experiencing so that others can experience those as well, especially my kids.
Q. Why do you think it is important to belong to a farm organization?
I’ve always been very passionate about it, and it’s because I grew up in a family with parents who were involved in every ag organization there was, I remember paying bills and asking why we belong to stock growers. We don’t even own a cow.
My dad always instilled in us that you need to belong to an organization that supports your industry. And all of these ag organizations support agriculture and its viability and sustainability in the world. There are always ag organizations that you maybe don’t agree with on specific issues, but at the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal to promote agriculture and maintain its viability. I wish there was more involvement from members and more buy-in from producers themselves because, with one voice you’re not very loud, but if we all combine forces and unify great things can happen.
Q. In what ways are you involved with MFU?
I appreciate the hard work Farmers Union does. I remember going to the Farmers Union Camp up in Highwood when I was a kid, and I loved it. Agents get a little kickback if they sign up members with a new policy. I always donate mine back to the Farmers Union youth programs because I think it’s really important to support youth programming. I also helped with Chester day camp organized by Charlotte Kelly. It was really fun. My kids loved the camp! I’m excited to see the Chester Day Camp is still running.