Darren R. Frye, President and CEO
Darren grew up in Illinois agriculture, on an innovative farming enterprise that stretched from a poultry operation consisting of turkeys and layers to an orchard to a helicopter crop dusting business. He started his first agricultural business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. His genuine concern for the success of farmers propelled him to start his own consulting business in 1994. His company, Water Street Solutions, helps farmers across the Midwest with profitability by leveraging financial analysis, crop insurance, commodity marketing and legacy planning. He's traded commodities since 1982, and is a dynamic speaker and leader. Listen to Darren talk about the company he founded. Darren Frye comments Darren is a regular guest analyst on US Farm Report’s weekly marketing roundtable, and a contributor on Ag Day and the Rural Radio Network. He writes a weekly blog, Finance First, on www.farmfutures.com and a monthly column, Money Matters, in Illinois and Indiana AgriNews.
Mike Gustafson, Chief Operating Officer
Mike was raised on a grain and livestock farm in Lyons, Nebraska. He holds degrees in Mathematics and Biology from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD and degree in Systems Science and Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. He worked 10 years for IBM, supporting North American and European clients through various sales and management roles. He also worked for Fortune 500 clients as a Senior Manager for Ernst & Young Consulting. Mike led consulting practices at Whittman-Hart/marchFIRST in St. Louis as a Managing Partner, and he supported Panera Bread's national growth as Director of Technical Operations. He joined Water Street Solutions in 2011 to ensure that as a company, we're achieving client success.
Deb Etheridge, Vice President
Deb grew up on a grain and dairy farm in central Illinois. After attending the University of Illinois, she lived on a hog, cattle and grain farm in the western part of the state. She's spent her entire life in agriculture, from chores as a kid to the 4-H years, both as a participant and as a long-time leader. She's been active with ag organizations including Pork Producers, Cattlemen, Extension Council and Farm Bureau. Deb started her insurance career as a multi-line agent in 1986, and has focused on crop insurance since 2000. Her experience ranges from adjusting to being a field rep for a crop insurance company to sales and sales management. She joined Water Street Solutions in 2007, where she now leads our team of insurance veterans.
Dean Heffta, Senior Director
Dean was raised on a family farm in northeast North Dakota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with Bachelor's degrees in Agronomy and Ag Business. He obtained his MBA from Drake University in Des Moines. Dean launched his career in agronomy sales. He has completed the Iowa Corn Growers' I-LEAD Leadership Program. Dean writes a monthly column in Corn and Soybean Digest. Meet Dean as he's interviewed by Max Armstrong HERE.
Larry Custer, Director
Larry is a native of Illinois who grew up around his grandfather’s cattle operation. He majored in Management of Information Systems at Midstate College and then spent four years in active duty with the U.S. Army. Larry is an entrepreneur who brings 17 years of business management experience to Water Street Solutions. He joined us in 2008 as Director of Operations.
David Dam, Director
David was raised on a family farm in east central Nebraska. He was very involved in 4-H and served as Nebraska State FFA President, where he began his passion for teaching. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Education. David has 20 plus years of experience working directly with farmers and farm families, largely in the seed industry. His role at Water Street Solutions is Director of Training, growing the skills in our employees that lead to client success. He joined us in 2012.
Becky Frye, Director
Becky co-founded Water Street Solutions with her husband and business partner, Darren Frye, in 1994. As controller of the company, she oversees the financial success of the organization. Becky's passion for agriculture was fostered by the hands-on experience she received working in the production, livestock and helicopter spraying businesses of her in-law's family farm. Becky prides herself on the "family" culture she helps maintain at Water Street. She ensures that the core values and the organization's passion for serving producers are imparted to all new employees through the orientation program she helped create.
Mike Johnson, Manager
Mike is an Ag Science graduate of Illinois State University. He worked for Pioneer where he was responsible for support and testing of their field research equipment, along with cost reduction and data analysis projects. Mike worked as an annuity specialist, financial analyst, and sales associate in the capital markets industry. He was also Head of Operations, Technology and Product Development for an introducing broker in Chicago. He manages our Ag Finance department.
Jason Ladman, Director
Jason was raised on a small family farm in east central Nebraska that consisted of row crop production and included a cow-calf operation. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor's degree in Ag Business. Jason began his career in a large cooperative system in Nebraska where he specialized in fertility and integrated pest management. He soon found his passion was helping farmers in every area of their business. Jason joined Water Street Solutions in 2006. He currently manages our first regional office, located in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Kim Lang, Director
Kim grew up on a Nebraska dairy farm. She holds a degree in Broadcasting from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Since 1989, Kim has combined her passion for agriculture with a career in marketing and communications. For 9 years she was the Farm Director for WOW radio in Omaha, NE. She spent four years working on worldwide marketing initiatives for the Valley brand of center pivots. Here since 2008, Kim helps connect the grower to the possibilities for their successful future through the company's marketing and PR initiatives.
Ben Metzger, Director
Ben grew up on a family farm in eastern Iowa. He graduated from Taylor University with a degree in Business Administration. He spent eight years working in his family's food distribution business before joining us in 2010. Working within his family business, he experienced firsthand the importance of Estate and Succession planning. This established his interest in the field and led him to apply his skill set to this department at Water Street Solutions.