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 Midwest farmers achieve success through financial analysis, insurance, commodity marketing and legacy planning. He's traded commodities since 1982, and is a dynamic speaker and leader. Darren writes a weekly blog, Finance First, on 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 degrees 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.
Dean Heffta, Senior Director
Dean was raised on a family farm in northeast North Dakota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with 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 and was named one of Peoria Magazines’ 2013 40 Leaders Under Forty. Dean writes a monthly column in Corn and Soybean Digest called Think, challenging farmers to think differently about their operations. He joined Water Street Solutions in 2006. Meet Dean as he's interviewed by Max Armstrong.
Lance Burditt, Director
Lance grew up on his family’s grain and livestock farm in northeast Missouri, where his passion for agriculture was developed through involvement in 4-H and FFA. He has bachelor and master’s degrees in Ag Economics and Agribusiness Management from the University of Missouri. Lance started his career with Monsanto through various sales, product management and marketing roles. He left the business world for a few years while pursuing his master’s degree and taught undergraduate courses in sales and marketing. He then spent nearly six years as a Vice President and Managing Director for Osborn Barr, a marketing communications firm focused on agricultural clients. Lance joined Water Street Solutions in 2012 to work alongside farmers and challenge traditional thinking in the area of risk management.
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.
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.
Jason Ladman, Director
Jason was raised on a 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 regional office, located in Lincoln, Nebraska.
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.