American naturalist John James Audubon once wrote, “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
Best known for his keen nature observations and iconic paintings of birds in their natural habitat, Audubon eventually brought his advocacy of rural land to western Kentucky and the Midsouth. An avid hunter, Audubon became a strong advocate for conservation. For him, the land was personal.
Two centuries later, Jeffrey Hignight of Jonesboro, Arkansas, delivers much of the same passion with his clients to preserve and manage one of America’s most treasures assets.
“With the land, it’s very personal,” says Hignight, professional farm manager, real estate broker, and partner at Glaub Farm Management in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “You are managing someone’s land asset that may have been in the family for generations. It could also be a significant part of their accumulated wealth. The land owners are putting their trust in you to help make the right decisions so they can meet their goals, whether it’s financial, production or conservation.”
Hignight brings strong agricultural perspective to his current professional farm manager role at Glaub Farm Management, where he advocates for the land owners and counsels on improving the land. Growing up in Lonoke, Arkansas, his connection to agriculture was through his grandparents on both sides of the family, who raised cattle in the southwest part of the state. His father, Tommy, worked at Farm Credit Service and made sure the family made the journey to the family farms whenever they could.
“I spent a lot of time on the cattle farms in the summer months,” Hignight says. “I just enjoyed being around the farm. We used to go out with my grandparents to the cattle ponds, or to a nearby lake, and spent a few hours fishing. Those are great memories.”
Foundation in ag economics
After graduating from Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business, Hignight went on to graduate school at the University of Arkansas, where he earned his Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics. After graduation, he went to work as a research associate for the university’s Division of Agriculture at the Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, where his work centered on the economics of farming.
“I spent a lot of time putting financial numbers to the ag research and helping with the crop enterprise budgets for the major row crops in Arkansas,” he says. “I also was involved with the university’s Rice Verification Program. It was a great experience.”
Looking back, Hignight says it was an internship during his undergraduate years with farm manager Ted Glaub that sparked his interest in eventually working with landowners. He left the university to join Glaub Farm Management in 2010, providing company marketing support, real estate sales and assistance with managed properties.
Today, he refers to farm management as – agricultural asset management, with the goal of providing and executing personalized farm ownership plans, whether it’s acquiring, selling or managing farm assets, or facilitating the transfer of property to the next generation.
“I get the most satisfaction from finding a property for a client and then working with them to develop and implement a plan to improve it,” Hignight says. “Here in the Delta, you can really transform a marginal piece of land and turn it into a grade A property.”
More than numbers
Hignight, who refers to himself as an economics “numbers guy,” says the dynamics of his role keep him highly engaged with sales and consulting with clients from multiple generations and backgrounds.
“I have many clients I haven’t met in person, mostly in real estate sales,” he says. “I may be sitting in my office talking to a client who is from Chicago, and their land is in southeast Arkansas.”
Sometimes, his job is a little like “walking a tightrope.”
“Last year, we were working on a sale of 100 acres of rural land,” Hignight recalls. “It involved 25 heirs located in 10 different states. Luckily, one of the heirs took the initiative and was my main point of contact and worked closely with me, and we were able to find a buyer. Even though everything was done over the phone, the experience demonstrated how land ownership is very personal.”
Hignight is early in his career and has learned to pull from his childhood experience on his grandparents’ farms, his education and also his mentor, Ted Glaub, who encouraged him to join the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) and earn his accreditation. Glaub was ASFMRA national president in 2000, and knew the benefits of the organization would pay off for his protégé.
Hignight not only earned his accreditation in 2012, but also served as Mid-South Chapter president in 2012-2013 and currently serves on a few national committees.
“The benefits of working with an accredited ASFMRA member is that they have shown a willingness and dedication to continue learning and improving,” Hignight says. “ASFMRA is such a tremendous resource and the networking has helped me improve my professional service. It has also provided me with the confidence in knowing that I have an incredible professional network that I can turn to as a resource.”
Traveling abroad has also provided rich experiences. A visit to China as part of the University of Arkansas’ LeadAR program for emerging state leaders in rural and urban communities gave him the opportunity to visit diverse areas of the country and meet with business leaders and government officials.
After long hours at work, Hignight returns to the land, the outdoors and the simple enjoyments of life. “I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I find a way to get out and unwind,” he says.
In warmer weather, you can find him biking and riding trails with his brothers or hiking with his nieces. Summers are also filled with pastimes such as crawfish boils and canoe trips on one of Arkansas’ scenic Ozark Mountain rivers. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a back yard game of wiffle ball with his girlfriend, Colby, and her family and engaging their Goldendoodle, Fitz, in a game of fetch.
“I do enjoy Arkansas Razorback football and hunting. I primarily deer hunt in southwest Arkansas at my grandparent’s place. I’m blessed that both of my grandfathers are still with us and it is great to spend time with them on the farm during hunting season.”