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IMPACT 2017 of Agriculture in KANDIYOHI COUNTY


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Welcome to

IMPACT TABLE OF CONTENTS AG BUSINESS & MANUFACTURING

2017

6

11 AG TECHNOLOGY 16 AG EDUCATION 20 AG POWER

AG CONSUMERISM/TOURISM

ag·ri·cul·ture

noun the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool and other products. synonyms: farming, cultivation, tillage, tilling, husbandry, land/farm management, horticulture; agribusiness, agronomy “the mechanization of agriculture”

28

38 AG FINANCE 46 AG LIFE ON THE FARM 54 AG TRANSPORTATION 62 AG FARM SAFETY

AG CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT

78

STAFF WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHY CAROLYN LANGE LINDA VANDERWERF ANNE POLTA TOM CHERVENY SHELBY LINDRUD

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS ADAM BOSCH FAMILY

CHERYL JOHNSON

LINDSEY BRUER

SIERRA KANTEN

LOREN CORLE

CONNIE LINDSTROM

KEVIN CROWLEY

HARLAN MADSEN

MICHAEL DUNN

MEL ODENS

JEFF GABRIELSON

CHUCK ROELOFS

JOEL GRATZ

CONNIE SCHMOLL

SCOTT HEIBERGER

TRACY TEBBEN

NATE & NOAH HULTGREN

CURT YOOSE

A PUBLICATION OF WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE 2208 W. TROTT AVE, WILLMAR MN | WWW.WCTRIB.COM

OCTOBER 2017 PUBLISHER: STEVE AMMERMANN EDITOR: KELLY BOLDAN MAGAZINE EDITOR: SHARON BOMSTAD 4 | IMPACT

T

urkeys to dairy and hogs, soybeans, corn and small grains to sugar beets, “traditional” farming, thought of as agriculture, stretches so much further in the community … shrimp are now raised on farms right here in the heart of west central Minnesota, and pig skin taken from animals at a farm near Belgrade was recently used for heart surgery of a rural Belgrade teen this spring. By definition, agriculture seems simple enough – growing crops and animals to provide for the masses. The reach of agriculture, however, goes beyond the fathomable and, in all reality, stretches to most anything imaginable. Throughout this section we try to give readers – both familiar and unfamiliar with agriculture – an idea of just how far-reaching agriculture is in today’s society. Understand this is just a glimpse, it would be a much larger undertaking – nearly impossible – to delve into it all. As it has been put to students: “I don’t care what you are thinking about going into, we’ve got a job for you ... in agriculture.”


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Ag Business & Manufacturing The many faces of agriculture

A

griculture isn’t just planting crops, though of course that is very important. It is also about raising all kinds of livestock – from cows and pigs to turkeys and even shrimp. It is about genetically modified organisms and organic. It is about new technology, engineering and manufacturing. The face of agriculture continues to change as the world changes around it. 6 | IMPACT

Kandiyohi County, and the region around it, is in the heart of ag country in Minnesota. Kandiyohi County is the number one producer of turkeys in the state, which makes sense, being the home of Jennie-O Turkey Store, Willmar Poultry Services and Select Genetics. Renville County holds the crown for corn production, along with ranking high in many other crops and livestock categories.

There are many businesses which cater to agriculture and see their fortunes rise and fall with it. Places like RELCO, Epitopix, Prinsco and Nova-Tech Engineering all build and produce products which directly impact agriculture. Olivia is home to several corn and bean companies and Renville is home to Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative and Rembrandt Foods.


In addition, scattered across the region are dozens of farms, livestock operations and other businesses that work hand in hand with agriculture. These include small engine shops, farm implement dealers, well and tile companies and aerial spraying. According to the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, the region that includes

Renville, Kandiyohi and Meeker counties had approximately 2,070 jobs at 199 firms in agriculture, which rose 7.3 percent from 2010 to 2015. The area’s top employing industry was manufacturing, with 11,289 jobs at 226 firms. Those firms ranged from food manufacturing to fabricated metal, machinery and computer and electronic products.

The region’s well-being still relies on agriculture, just like it did nearly 150 years ago, when settlers started turning the swampy land into some of the most productive farmland in the country. As the world continues to grow and food demand rises, agriculture business and manufacturing will continue to be of huge importance to central and southwest Minnesota. IMPACT | 7


NATE AND

NOAH

HULTGREN

Q&A Hultgren Farms

Q.

Can you give us a little history on Hultgren Farms? A. Hultgren Farms is a fourth-generation family farm that has been in business since 1932. We are based primarily out of the Raymond area but also have another location near Belgrade. I farm with my brother, Noah, and my parents, Duane and Nancy. We raise corn, sugar beets, kidney beans, sweet corn, alfalfa, soybeans and beef cattle, along with real estate and research and development.

Q.

Why did you decide to be involved in crops, livestock and even a dairy operation? A. For me, I like the tangibility of crop farming. We have always had some livestock. We have had about 25 beef cow-calf pairs on our land near Belgrade, and my dad has dedicated the last few years to growing that part of our operation and has it up to 85 pairs. We had an opportunity to work with Riverview to build Meadow Star Dairy on land adjacent to our home farm and wanted to add a larger livestock-based aspect to our business, as well as soil health improvement with the manure/alfalfa rotation.

Q.

How important is diversification in today’s agriculture? A. For our farm, it’s in our DNA. We need to go the extra mile to add value to the crops and livestock we are currently producing. It’s having the livestock piece, or real estate sales, or wetland credit developments, or 8 | IMPACT

custom harvesting … and being a specialty producer within the crops we produce also helps add value. We want to be the first place buyers look when they need a specialized, identity-preserved product, and that typically brings in extra value for doing the extra work.

Q. A.

What are some of today’s challenges?

Every day we are challenged with trying to minimize our impact and do what’s best to sustain the land we make our living on. But somehow the production of these tangible goods has had a shadow cast upon it. It is difficult to stay in business, any business, when you have to spend more time justifying and documenting and regulating what you’re doing than the time you spend actually working a field. The overhead costs created by government and regulatory agencies is the greatest barrier to entry for small businesses like ours, and it is not sustainable for our nation. Another challenge I’m sure many other employers in our area face is the availability of both skilled and unskilled workers. This has forced us to look more at restructuring how we will grow our business in the future. It may involve investments in more automation or a different ownership model.

Q.

Even with the challenges of being a farmer, why do you still enjoy it?

A. I like the idea that we’re producing something tangible, and it will never go out of style. As many farmers will tell you, there’s a special interaction you

have with Mother Nature and God in this line of work. You spend your days dealing with living things, and you can’t help but feel more alive because of it.

Q.

Overall, how important is agriculture to the region of west central Minnesota? A. Agriculture is critical to this region. The dollars from ag commodities turn over many times in the community, and so much of it is business-to-business. We’re buying from local cooperatives and companies, then we’re selling our products to local cooperatives and companies. We don’t have the option of relocation, we can’t outsource our work to China, and the property taxes on our land support the county, townships and schools. When it comes to incomes and economy, a Bushmills Ethanol, or a Willmar Poultry, or a Meadow Star Dairy have a lot more value to our community than a Starbucks.

Q.

What kind of advice would you give people interested in starting a farm or another type of agriculture business? A. For young people who have grown up on or around a farm and are considering agriculture as a career, I would recommend leaving for at least a year or two to see another part of the world that’s not as agriculturebased. This will help you either realize there are other options you’d rather explore, or strengthen your commitment to farming. Also, be sure your family understands the time commitment of agriculture. Lastly, find a good banker!


In today’s worldwide competitive marketplace, one cannot be an inch deep and a mile wide. It is much better to be an inch wide and a mile deep.

LOREN CORLE

Q&A

President, RELCO Q. A.

How did RELCO get its start?

In 1982 I had been teaching industrial welding at what is now Ridgewater College for two years. Enrollment in the welding program declined and my teaching contract was not renewed for the ’83-84 school year. Previous to being laid off, I had arranged to join another instructor doing summer welding work at a local dairy – First District Association in Litchfield. It was that summer job that never did end and today has grown into RELCO.

Q. What does RELCO offer its customers? A. RELCO offers cheese and dairy processing equipment

to customers across the globe.

Q. A.

Why did RELCO focus on the dairy industry?

Although we began in dairy, it was not our single focus in the early years. We did some work in ethanol, egg, poultry, meat, steam, gas and structural. After a time, I realized it was going to be better to focus our attention and commit to one industry as we grew. In today’s worldwide competitive marketplace, one cannot be an inch deep and a mile wide. It is much better to be an inch wide and a mile deep.

Q.

What kind of changes in the industry has RELCO faced? A. There has been enormous consolidation in the dairy industry over the years. The single-site, oneplant company is becoming a rarity. Technology is also changing. Today plants focus on automation that allows fewer people to process higher and higher volumes.

Sanitation requirements and end-product specifications are also continually tightening. Energy use is also a much greater concern than in the past. The ever-increasing cost of energy is driving equipment to greater and greater efficiency requirements.

Q.

How important is innovation in RELCO’s continued success? A. It is so important. Today, if you do not continually improve your products, soon your competition will leapfrog you in the marketplace. As a smaller company battling three giants in our industry worldwide, we rely upon innovation to capture market share.

Q.

Is RELCO affected by the ups and downs of the dairy industry? A. Yes, RELCO lives and breathes with the dairy industry. And the dairy industry goes through cycles much as any other industry. As a capital equipment supplier, our workload comes in slugs. We try to staff to the low point on our business cycles and rely on a pool of trusted and qualified subcontractors to help deal with volumes we cannot handle in a reasonable time. We have also seen success through geographical diversification. While the dairy industry worldwide has some general cycles in common, not all regions of the world are totally in sync. For example, several years ago when our business was slow in the USA, there was lots of work in the European Union and we were able to shift resources and supply from here to there. Today, it is more the reverse of that situation.

Q.

As RELCO expanded why was it important to keep it based in Willmar? A. By default, it is where our people live. If it were not for the people, we would not be here, as manufacturing costs are lower elsewhere. For now we can remain competitive only by hiring the very best talent we can find and doing our best to compete in our global market.

Q. What does being a local business in a significant

agricultural region give RELCO in terms of a business edge? A. For RELCO, the advantage is in attracting talent. We have found some of our best long-term technical employees in people who grew up on a farm or in a farming community and want to live and raise a family in that rural, small-town environment.

Q.

What kind of schooling or training should students be looking at if they are interested in working, or starting an agricultural-based business? A. RELCO began as pipe welders. Today we still employ a lot of welders but have significant employment opportunities as drafters, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, electrical engineers, assemblers, sales and marketing professionals and the normal support staff of accounting, human resources, information technology and safety specialists. It is a challenging environment that affords travel opportunities and exposures to many cultures and countries. I have always found a great deal of satisfaction in building equipment and supplying an industry that feeds the world. IMPACT | 9


There were

1,622 farm jobs in Kandiyohi County in 2013. (Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2013)

Fast Facts:

Ag Business & Manufacturing Kandiyohi County has

1,310

farms, down 5 percent from 2007 when there were

Kandiyohi County has approximately

415,090

Kandiyohi County is 11th in the state for the production of vegetable crops,

1,386

(Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

acres of farmland. (Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

6,807

The average farm size is

Kandiyohi County is

acres.

317

1st

(Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

acres.

in the state for poultry production

(2012 Ag Census Report)

(Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2013)

Agriculture is the primary occupation

586

1,310

for of the farms. The remaining

724 said they had

Fewer than

200

farms in Kandiyohi County are considered large or commercial, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The benchmark is ag sales greater than $350,000. (Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

another primary occupation. (Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

Kandiyohi County has approximately

Kandiyohi County is

acres of farmland.

in the state for sheep and goat production.

415,090 (Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

10 | IMPACT

4th

(Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2013)

The average age of a farmer in Kandiyohi County is

58.9 years (Census of Agriculture for Minnesota, 2012)

Major agriculture employers in Kandiyohi County include Jennie-O Turkey Store, Life-Science Innovations, Nova-Tech Engineering, Select Genetics, RELCO, Hanson Silo Company, Prinsco, Versatile and Epitopix. (Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission)


Fast Facts: Ag Biofuels Information from Minnesota Biofuels Association

1

21

bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol as well as 18 pounds of dried distillers grains, which is a high-protein feed for livestock.

ethanol plants in Minnesota produce 1.1 billion gallons per year. It takes an average of

2.7

gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol.

Ag Power Agriculture and energy are growing together A

griculture is embracing the opportunities presented by renewable energy. By all measures, the most important renewable energy source in Kandiyohi County is represented by the Bushmills Ethanol plant near Atwater. It produces 65 million gallons of ethanol annually and represents an important market for corn in the region. Statewide, the ethanol industry is seeing incremental

growth thanks to improved technologies and markets, according to Connie Lindstrom, a biofuels benchmark consultant with Christianson and Associates CPA, Willmar. Other forms of renewable energy are on the grow too. A number of farms in the county have added solar panels to provide electricity for their operations.

There are examples of small-scale, on-the-farm wind generation as well. Connie Schmoll, business development specialist with the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, said the commission is always ready to assist producers and companies take advantage of opportunities renewable energy presents. IMPACT | 11


The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission knows the importance of the agricultural sector, and works to promote its growth. An agriculture and renewable energy development committee focuses on finding and promoting these opportunities. Connie Schmoll, business development specialist with the EDC, tapped the expertise of those working with the EDC on these issues to answer our questions on these important endeavors.

CONNIE SCHMOLL

Q&A

EDC Business Development Specialist

Q.

Perhaps the most important example of agriculture’s role in energy production is the Bushmills Ethanol plant. What are the economic benefits of the ethanol plant to Kandiyohi County? A. There are 20 operating ethanol plants in the state of Minnesota. Together they produced 1,189 million gallons of ethanol in 2016. Bushmills Ethanol operates in Kandiyohi County and produces 65 million gallons of ethanol annually. The ethanol market contributes significantly to the local economy. Bushmills, like other ethanol plants, purchases raw materials from local agriculture producers, mainly corn. They also purchase a wide range of goods and services such as chemicals, electricity, natural gas, water, labor, maintenance services and insurance. Bushmills is a cooperative, farmer-owned plant. The ethanol industry provides farmers the opportunity to add value to their commodity. The contributions of exports of ethanol and dried distillers grains by the industry in Minnesota is estimated to generate an additional $26 million of gross domestic product and support 350 jobs in all sectors of the state economy according to a study done by Agriculture and Bio-fuels Consulting LLP, 2017, prepared for the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. Also according to the study: The ethanol industry 12 | IMPACT

throughout the state supports 2,589 direct farm and farm-related jobs. And, the ethanol industry supported the establishment of new flex fuel pumps in 2016. Q. Is the county looking at other ways agriculture could play a role in producing energy? A. Yes, the EDC is constantly searching for, evaluating and assisting companies and individuals that might be able to achieve that goal, e.g., surveying county ag producers to get their inputs, working with dairy producers to site facilities in Kandiyohi County, assisting a solar grain drying start up business, biofuel efforts such as corn-to-ethanol and other specialty energy crops, etc. Q. A growing number of farms in the county are installing solar and/or wind power for on-farm use. Do we anticipate an increase in the amount of renewable energy production for on-farm use? A. In the past three years, Renewable Energy for America Program grants were awarded for three Kandiyohi County agriculture producers’ energy projects including an 8-kilowatt solar photovoltaic build and a 20-kw solar photovoltaic build. One additional grant was awarded for a 30-kw wind turbine on a producer’s farm. Predicting is hard, but if the costs of solar equipment continue to fall, we should continue to see increasing numbers of solar installations on county farms.

Q.

Do we have the resources to develop a renewable energy infrastructure that could someday meet a majority of our energy needs? A. Absolutely! Kandiyohi County is above average in terms of investable wealth – it’s just a question of allocation. It is a difficult financial decision to invest in renewables when other avenues provide a greater return in a shorter time frame. However, as renewable energy – best example currently is solar – becomes less expensive and more accepted, more resources will likely be directed to those opportunities. Q. On the flip side of the coin, our farm economy relies on affordable sources of oil, propane, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Is the distribution system to provide these energy sources able to meet our needs, or is there a need for expanding the capacity of this infrastructure to meet future needs? A. The answer is yes. Current distribution systems are adequate for current needs, but expansion of fuel transportation capacity is critical to future economic expansion in the United States. Fortunately, there are efforts being made and the American model of capitalism is satisfying the need. In Kandiyohi County a perfect example is Dooley’s Petroleum. They saw the need and opportunity and have successfully expanded their business to include natural gas pipeline construction to serve rural customers in Kandiyohi County that previously had no access to natural gas.


At BNSF, we keep an eye on the things that matter most to you – from commodity prices to weather patterns. And because of you, we’ve made major investments through the years to keep our railroad reliable and safe. So when you want to move your agricultural products to market, you can count on us for the capacity, efficiency, and know-how you need to keep things moving for you…now and in the future. LEARN MORE AT BNSF.COM.


Senior Transportation Program

· Uses volunteer drivers who use their personal vehicle to transport seniors. · Available Monday through Friday 8:00am-4:30pm. · Available to residents who are at least 60 years of age and who register with CCT. · A priority of the program is medical trips and can be used up to 3 times per week. · The Fare/Cost is based on your income in the form of Cost-Share Contributions. · This Program will provide transportation in Kandiyohi, Renville, and Meeker counties as well as outside the service area.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION BUILDS STRONG COMMUNITIES

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• Promotes independence • Creates job opportunities • Keeps rural communities connected • Dial-a-ride service in Kandiyohi, Renville and Meeker Counties • Route service from Olivia to Willmar, Litchfield to Willmar, Cokato to Litchfield and coming soon to Hutchinson and Redwood Falls! • Daily, evening and weekend service in the City of Willmar and Litchfield.

Visit our website for more information www.cctbus.org Olivia Litchfield Willmar 320-523-3589 320-693-7794 320-214-7433


CONNIE LINDSTROM

Q&A Biofuels Benchmark Consultant, Christianson CPAs and Consultants

Q. Is there growth in Minnesota’s biofuels industry? A. Producers are steadily increasing production through

efficiency improvements and expansions. Today, there are four plants in Minnesota with annual production capacities of over 100 million gallons a year. But quietly, technological advances are also allowing the industry to increase production by squeezing more fuel from every bushel, and reducing the energy needed to do so. It is helping make ethanol as a product a truly sustainable resource. We are getting so much more efficient in producing it. The industry is maturing, and markets are stable and showing incremental growth, all good signs for the future.

Q. A.

How much ethanol does Minnesota produce?

Minnesota’s 21 ethanol plants produce 1.18 billion

gallons of ethanol a year, according to the Minnesota BioFuels Association. Q. How much ethanol do we produce from a bushel of corn? A. On average, state producers are squeezing 2.79 gallons of ethanol from every bushel, up from a previous average of 2.66 bushels. There are plants achieving 3 gallons of ethanol per bushel. Q. What is driving the improvements in efficiency through new technology? Producers are investing in new technology to increase A. efficiency partly in response to the tight margins caused by relatively low gasoline prices. Producers are also investing in technologies to improve efficiencies to meet the low carbon standards that California and states in the Northwest, as well as Canada, are embracing. Q. How significant are the improvements?

A. In the last 12 years, ethanol producers have reduced the amount of natural gas and the electricity required to produce a gallon of ethanol by 20 percent. At the same time, they increased the amount of ethanol produced from a bushel of ground corn by 7 percent. Q. Do the technological improvements benefit both large and small plants? A. Yes, the technology is not always dependent on the economy of scale. Some of the state’s smaller plants are remaining competitive by taking advantage of their proximity to the corn supply and the reduced transportation costs of getting the raw material to the plant. Overall, producers are optimistic. They’ve seen growth in export markets. And, they feel that consumer awareness and the growing number of flex fuel vehicles on America’s roadways bodes well for the industry. IMPACT | 15


Ag Technology Changing practices on and off the farm W

ith the growth of the internet came more and more changes in farming practices. In the past, farmers would often attend annual meetings of their local University of Minnesota Extension Service office to learn the latest in practices and advances in crop or livestock management. Those meetings still take place, but the topics they cover are vastly different. 16 | IMPACT

Farmers now have equipment that can steer around a field using those global position satellites. They use drones to inspect their soil and determine how to treat the soil to improve their yield. Dave Nicolai, a crop educator and coordinator of the Institute for Ag Professionals, said many farmers rely on suppliers like a local cooperative, the extension service and discussions with neighbors

to keep up to date on new technology. Some turn to consultants for help in developing a precision farming plan. They also rely on television shows about farming. Farm Journal has a daily half-hour show, and the regional AgWeek is another popular source, Nicolai said. Because of the lack of broadband internet service in


many rural areas, many of them rely on cell phones for internet access. Beyond the work of crop farmers is the area of agricultural research as witnessed at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar. Much of the research on campus is geared toward the poultry industry but not all. Companies on the site of a former state treatment

center research vaccines and engineer machines to improve the handling of young birds. Their products are distributed worldwide. All of these changes have caused shifts in agricultural employment. While some jobs may have been lost to machines or robots, other avenues have opened for people who can handle and maintain the sophisticated hardware and software used on today’s farms.

IMPACT | 17


Fast Facts: 64%

of producers under 40 use all or most of the precision farming technology they can find. Millennium Research Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55408

Ag Technology Minnesota agriculture by the numbers

Young farmers are the greatest but not only users of new technology Young farmers, those younger than

44

They make up about one-third of total farmers. Minnesota has a greater percentage of young farmers compared to other parts of the country, particularly the south.

$

21.2B yr.

Economic Impact Source: farmflavor.com, USDA

74,542 Farms

Source: farmflavor.com, USDA

188

Farmers Markets Source: farmflavor.com, USDA

Millennium Research Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55408

91%

use auto steer

Older farmers also use new technology but their use may be more limited. Farmers younger than 40:

Millennium Research Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55408

91% use yield mapping

Millennium Research Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55408

18 | IMPACT

36%

use drones

Millennium Research Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55408

64%

use field monitoring

Millennium Research Inc., Minneapolis, MN 55408

Farmers no longer have to apply water, fertilizers, and pesticides uniformly across entire fields. Instead, they can use the minimum quantities required and target very specific areas, or even treat individual plants differently. Benefits include:

Reduced impact on natural ecosystems Higher crop productivity Decreased use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides, which in turn keeps food prices down Less runoff of chemicals into rivers and groundwater Increased worker safety Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture


Precision Agronomist & Certified Crop Adviser of Willmar, Little Falls & Paynesville

MICHAEL DUNN

Q&A

Anez Consulting

Q.

In what ways has technology changed farming practices in recent years? A. The technological advancements that enable farmers to more accurately map important soil characteristics, such as texture, organic matter and soil moisture, have come a long way in terms of accuracy, resolution and ease of use. Once we have these variables mapped, we can soil sample more precisely and with less labor than conventional grid sampling and enable accurate variable rate applications of lime, amendments, fertilizers and more. Another important technology is cloud computing. Over the years, we have had many farmers lament that they are creating all this data, like yield maps and as-applied data, but often they aren’t pulling their maps off of the farm equipment. Now there are several service providers out there that wirelessly stream yield and as-applied maps from the tractor to the cloud. Farmers can use tablet computers to view maps and even do different types of spatial analysis on their data. In recent years, more sensors are being developed that can be attached to a farmer’s implement to provide more information. One example of this is the SmartFirmer by Precision Planting. (The SmartFirmer functions as a seed firmer regularly would, but it’s equipped with an optical sensor that can measure organic matter, residue, and soil moisture while you drive through the field planting.)

Q.

How does your company use technology innovations to help farmers? A. Anez Consulting uses technology in several ways. We utilize electrical conductivity mapping to visualize

soil properties deep into the soil profile and delineate salinity issues. Unmanned aerial vehicle imagery allows us to delineate relative differences in surface moisture, soil organic matter, classify microenvironments and identify soil type transitions. UAV imagery can also identify crop stress and quantify it more accurately than boots on the ground or satellite imagery. We can also do comprehensive stand counts, map out weed escapes, quantify weed pressure, and more accurately calculate areas affected by severe weather. UAV imagery can be used to create an accurate 3D model of the field. This results in high-resolution terrain models when flown before the crop is up. After the crop is up, we are able to overlay this crop map with the terrain model and visualize the height and density of the crop in 3D. This is an entirely new way for us to visualize the condition of the crop. This new layer is called Relative Biomass mapping and provides depth and context to conventional 2D crop health maps. Additionally, we assist farmers in utilizing and making better decisions from the data they create. For example, running different analyses such as yield by soil type, hybrid or nitrogen rate, and make a multitude of different comparisons. Finally, we utilize mobile nitrate testing devices like the SoilScan 360 to get soil nitrate results within minutes instead of days. This enables farmers to make nitrogen fertilizer decisions much faster than they have in the past.

Q. Is technology making agriculture more efficient?

In what ways? When technologies are properly leveraged to create A. management zones that reflect soil properties, we can gain substantial efficiencies over conventional methods of soil sampling and applications. Conventional grid sampling, for example, requires one sample for every 2.5 acre grid. With zone sampling, we can take fewer samples and create more accurate maps of soil properties. This allows us to sample more frequently and create fertilizer recommendations off of more recent data. One example is that of a 135-acre field (55 samples) that we had done grid sampling on once every three years. We switched this field to management zones (7 samples) and sample every other year and get maps that more accurately represent the field. In terms of efficiency of inputs, when we variable-rate seed by management zone, we enable growers to place more corn seed in zones that have higher organic matter and soil moisture and less corn seed in areas lower in organic matter and soil moisture. Compared to flat-rate seeding, we typically save seed while maintaining or increasing yields.

Q.

How has technology changed the types of ag jobs available in the area? Technology has created a niche in ag jobs and is A. increasingly bringing in new types of people who often do not have a farming background. Roles such as GIS technician, precision agronomist, precision ag specialist and others have increased in demand in recent years. IMPACT | 19


Ag Education Learning starts early, never ends

A

n education in agriculture can lead to almost any career, and the need to keep learning will most likely never end. As Steve Olson, the executive director of the Turkey Growers Association, told Willmar Senior High school students a few years ago, “I don’t care what you are thinking about going into, we’ve got a job for you in the turkey industry or in agriculture.” 20 | IMPACT

The education in agriculture starts young for kids who join 4-H and continues as they move into high school and join FFA. As technology and farming practices grow and change, so does the education available to students in area high schools. A variety of classes can help students complete their graduation requirements and learn skills. FFA

teaches students about different careers and offers opportunities to grow in leadership. High school students learn welding, how to analyze soil conditions and yields, construction basics, and livestock management. The classes offer a more hands-on education for students who feel they learn best that way. In college courses, students can expand on their


knowledge and prepare for any number of careers in agriculture, which is a significant portion of the Minnesota economy. Ridgewater College has been teaching precision agriculture courses since 2001, and the technology has improved and expanded since then, according to instructor Curt Yoose. As the technology improves, the college seeks

to keep up so it can offer its students the latest in software and hardware. Yoose described it as a neverending effort. Drones are part of the curriculum and are a big part of efforts in precise application of chemicals and analysis of crop yields. Because of the rapid changes, agricultural education has become a lifelong pursuit for many farmers, while

they try to keep up with advances that can help them improve their yields and their income. Low farm prices recently have caused a bit of a slowdown in the adoption of new technology on farms, Yoose said. With new ideas and methods coming along all the time, a bump in commodity prices could lead to farmers learning how to use a new wave of technology on their farms. IMPACT | 21


CURT YOOSE

Q&A Precision Agriculture Instructor, Ridgewater College Q. A.

What sort of relationship does your program have

decade. Some notable changes have been robotic milking

least initially, will be employed to operate sprayers and

with the agricultural businesses in the area?

systems, equipment and powertrain electronics/hydrau-

fertilizer application equipment.

Ridgewater college has established many partner-

lics, drones and many others. Of course these industry

Farm Operation and Management graduates will most-

ships with various businesses over the years. Their help

advancements have meant Ridgewater has had to make

ly return to a production ag setting like their home farm.

and support of our programs is vital to training and edu-

investments, both through purchases and donations, in

However, we have seen an increase in the demand for

cating the future workforce. Many of these businesses

new technology to ensure that we have the most up-to-

farm managers of larger farms. In some instances, stu-

have supported us through advisory committee support,

date technology for students to get hands on experience.

Q.

dents have entered our program with the intent of going

What are some of the ag-related occupations your

home but end up employed by another farming operation.

A.

We have several programs within the department.

equipment, training and workshops.

Q.

How does Ridgewater’s agricultural education

A.

To know for sure, I guess you would have to ask them

The primary programs include Agribusiness, Agron-

With the GPS/GIS Technology Program, there are

directly how we have benefited them. Our hope is we are

omy Technology, Farm Operation and Management,

several potential outcomes – employment in the equip-

producing industry-ready graduates who can benefit their

Dairy Management, GPS/GIS Technology and Ag Service

ment industry servicing and troubleshooting equipment

operations from the first day they start work. Our intent

Technician.

or in the service sector. In the service sector, consulting

program benefit area farmers and agribusiness?

is to give students the tools they need to hit the ground running.

Q.

students have moved into after graduation?

Dairy Management graduates will generally end up managing some aspect of a dairy operation.

The Agribusiness Program is designed for students

and making recommendation maps (data collection and

to move into the service sector of agriculture. Predomi-

implementation) or simply taking the information home to put to use in their own operations.

How have advances in science and technology

nantly, most students who graduate from this program

changed what students are taught in Ridgewater’s

will end up in a seed, feed and supply business such as

Our newest program, Ag Service Technician will pro-

agriculture classes?

a local cooperative. The Agronomy Technology Program

duce a graduate who will be employed by the ag equip-

As you might expect, all areas of agriculture have

was designed to meet the industry shortfall for custom

ment service providers servicing and troubleshooting

seen huge advancements in technology over the last

equipment operation. So graduates of this program, at

equipment-related problems.

A.

22 | IMPACT


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TRACY TEBBEN AND

JEFF

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Q&A Agriculture Instructors, New London-Spicer High School Q. A.

How do student benefit from taking an ag class?

Design program and our new plasma torch. Our shops

recent 20 years we have had 17 female presidents. Our

Students that enroll in agricultural education classes

now operate two plasma-cutting torches. These tools

membership still has a large proportion of young men,

aid in manufacturing projects in our metals courses.

but our female students have filled many of our FFA

benefit from the increased concentration on life after high school. The NL-S Agriculture Department offers coursework with many facets ranging from basic mechanic skills to public speaking to plant propagation in our greenhouse. Our students gain valuable career readiness through hands-on learning, real world scenarios and networking. Almost every lesson we teach has a real world connection or lab associated with it. Our classes also have the added benefit of the connection to the National FFA. Our FFA members learn about different career avenues and how to manage effective meetings. They have the opportunity to travel the world

FFA students are able to keep records exclusively

officer positions.

using computer-designed software, and these records

Very recently, our classes have become more

transfer directly into award and degree applications.

technical to meet graduation requirements required

When budgets are tight, we use technology for virtual

by the Minnesota Department of Education. We

tours of the agriculture world. NL-S Schools has our

have collaborated with our art teacher to fulfill the

own passive solar greenhouse and wind turbine, as

fine arts requirement and we have taught plant and

well as power tools used to build a house each year.

animal sciences for science credits. Currently, we offer

In many ways, technology has increased the level of

mechanical physics to fulfill the physics standard.

efficiency and the level of difficulty. For example, we

For most students taking ag classes, the common

have smart saws that prevent accidental injuries but

thread is the desire for a class to allow hands-on

we also have new technology each year creating a dire

activities. Welding, using tools, engaging classroom

need to stay current. It is truly lifelong learning.

or career based discussions, landscaping, building

Q.

Has the type of student registering for your

projects from metal or wood – they just want to

classes changed over the years?

be active in their learning process. That is where

our community through various community service

With 20-plus years of teaching in the field, we

vocational classes excel; most lessons have a practical

have seen many changes in the types of students that

application that ties the concepts together. Most NL-S

projects.

register for ag classes. In the late ’90s and early 2000s

students are rural but non-farming students meaning

How have advances in technology changed the

many of our students and FFA leaders were young

most of their knowledge of modern agriculture is

agriculture classes?

men. As time progressed, we are now seeing a larger

gained when they walk through our classroom doors.

to places such as South Africa, Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis. They do all that while also serving

Q.

A.

A.

Technology advances in our department have

portion of females taking on leadership roles in FFA

We see excitement from our freshman students when

helped students become more active-visual learners.

and enrolling in class. In the first 30 years of the NL-S

they start to grasp all the possibilities of agriculture

New for this year is the addition of Computer Aided

FFA we had only one female president, but in the most

education – and what doors may open for them.

26 | IMPACT


Through 2020, college graduates can expect to find good employment opportunities in agriculture, food, renewable natural resources and the environment with an average of nearly

58,000

annual job openings. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture report

Fast Facts:

Agricultural Education

About

1/2

of the available jobs will be in management and business. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture report

More than

80%

of all agriculture jobs are off the farm. Source: Minnesota Department of Education

A

1/4

of the jobs will be in science, technology, engineering and math. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture report

Minnesota’s agricultural industry is the

2nd

largest employer and economic sector in Minnesota.

1 in 4 jobs

Source: Minnesota Department of Education

Did You Know?

From 2010-2015, the U.S. economy generated

1.5

jobs in all economic sectors. Source: Minnesota Department of Education

54,400

agriculture-related jobs for students with baccalaureate or higher degrees in food, renewable energy, and environmental specialties. only

Every agricultural production job supports an additional

53,500

graduates were available to fill these positions. Source: Minnesota Department of Education

2%

Today, less than

of the U.S. population is engaged in production agriculture, providing food for the entire world. The world population is expected to double by 2050, and the same amount of land used today will need to supply food for this growing number of people. Source: Minnesota Department of Education

From basic food systems knowledge to advanced processing sciences, agriculture is the key to in Minnesota. Only with sufficient agricultural education can the state continue to grow and prosper. Source: Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council

IMPACT | 27


Ag Consumerism & Tourism Producers, public find connections down on the farm S

ee a print or TV ad for a food product and chances are the emphasis will be on freshly picked, minimally processed and filled with wholesome ingredients. After decades of drifting away from its agricultural roots, American culture is renewing its connection with food production and farms. Along the way, the doors also have been opened to small-scale local food production and entrepreneurship in everything from growing and selling 28 | IMPACT

vegetables to you-pick orchards, berry farms, wineries and specialty products such as cheeses and honey. It’s big business. An assessment conducted in 2007 concluded that if consumers in the region bought 20 percent of their food directly from farmers, it would bring in $70 million in new farm income to the region. The current figure could be even higher as small farm-tomarket operations, small-scale specialty production and

the like have begun to proliferate. Several factors are driving the movement toward locally sourced food. For many, it’s a desire to promote a healthier diet that’s less reliant on processed foods. For others it’s about sustainability – fewer chemicals and less energy spent on manufacturing and trucking products to market. And for many, the value of producing, selling and


buying food locally is an opportunity to establish a connection among the product, the land from which it’s harvested, the farmer and the customer. In conjunction with the surging interest in local food production, rural communities are enjoying a rise in agritourism, which links travel with the products, services and experiences of agriculture. Agritourism encompasses a wide range of activities:

farm tours, farm-based lodging, corn mazes, petting farms, horseback rides, maple syrup-making, grape stomps and more. This growing segment of the farm economy enables farmers to supplement their income as well as educate the public about farming. Regionally, it has led to many new ventures. Residents and tourists can enjoy a tour of Redhead Creamery near Brooten and sample fine cheeses, experience life on the farm and an

annual pumpkin festival at the Nelson Farm in rural Litchfield, and taste wines made at Glacial Ridge Winery of Spicer or Hinterland Vineyard of Clara City. The U.S. Census of Agriculture documents a steady rise in the popularity of the farm as a tourist destination. The 2007 census listed 10,249 farms involved in agritourism and grossing $546 million. By 2012 this had grown to 13,334 farms grossing $674 million. IMPACT | 29


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Fast Facts:

The theme often extends to locally grown flowers, local foods on the menu and even the presence of animals.

Ag Consumerism & Tourism According to the 2008 Census of Agriculture,

367

The 2017-18 edition of the Minnesota Grown directory lists

1,031

farms, Farmers Markets and enterprises ranging from Christmas tree farms to gourmet producers of honey, cheese and wild rice.

Minnesota farms were involved in agritourism and recreational services, generating approximately $8 million in income.

Diners

increasingly want to see local fare on restaurant menus.

Minnesota officially designates Minnesota Farmers Market Week each year to highlight the role of Farmers Markets in bridging the gap between local independent producers and their community. Farmers Market Week was celebrated Aug. 6-12 this year.

32 | IMPACT

A 2016 survey by the National Restaurant Association found that

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CHUCK ROELOFS

Q&A C & S Gardens LLC, Blomkest

Q. Tell us a little bit about what you do. A. I basically grow organic heirloom vegetables

and do farm to table. This is something I’ve always wanted to do — to be able to supply food to restaurants. I sell a lot of herbs. Restaurants like a lot of herbs — things like parsley and basil, pounds and pounds of it.

Q. What is it like to be a small-scale local food producer?

A. I start my garden and start selling in March. I’ll go through December. I grow cold-weather crops early. There’s a lot of varieties that I plant constantly. I’m probably turning over 10-12 lettuces every year. People like going out to the farm and knowing the farmer. Usually in the fall I’ll have an open house and we’ll cook on the grill. Some people will buy pumpkins and squash. Their kids come along and bring their dogs and cats. We just sit

out here and have a good time. It’s not an easy job. It’s dirty. It’s wet. But I love it. I love going to the restaurants and the chefs are jumping up and down over what I’ve brought them. What they do with it is fun to see. They’re very creative. Q. What evolution have you seen in the public’s awareness of locally grown food? A. It’s changed a lot. There’s more awareness of what it is and more awareness of people wanting it. A lot of people understand the importance of eating healthy. I think the younger people are catching on. Some people don’t see the value of it. They don’t care that it came from California or Mexico. Those are the choices that people make. Q. What changes are you seeing on the local food production scene? A. There’s little things happening all over. Some have been around a long time. They just didn’t necessarily call it farm to table.

People are looking to find another source of revenue. This land, if I wasn’t doing this, would be sitting here idle.

Q. What are some of the challenges and barriers faced by local farm-to-table producers?

A. It’s hard competing. I don’t think I make money. Expenses are fairly high. Having an available source of land is an issue. It would be nice if the Cities were closer. That’s where the real market is. The supply is an issue. It’s just like going to a market. You don’t know what you’re going to sell. You have to pick partners you can work with that like your stuff and want your stuff.

Q. What’s rewarding about it?

A. I do it the way I want to do it. I learn things. I

try new things every year. I’m always looking for something new that I can sell and eat. I have fun. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun.

Chuck Roelofs owns C & S Gardens LLC, a two-acre farm southwest of Blomkest specializing in locally grown heirloom produce for the restaurant market. He sells to The Oaks in Willmar and to LoLo American Kitchen in Stillwater. IMPACT | 37


Ag Safety on the Farm Minnesota renews focus on preventing accidents, improving safety

T

he region’s farmers and farm workers help feed the world but their work can come with a personal cost. Farming ranks as the most dangerous occupation per capita in the U.S. — higher even than commercial fishing, mining, logging or construction. Despite this, barriers persist to adopting better safety practices in farming. Fragmentation of education and training is one. Economic pressures are another. Funding 38 | IMPACT

has disappeared for initiatives such as Extension-led education on agricultural safety. Data collection on farmrelated injuries and illnesses also has lagged, creating challenges for identifying risk areas and prioritizing safety efforts and resources. In the last couple of year, however, Minnesota has renewed its focus on preventing accidents and improving safety for farmers.

The Minnesota Legislature asked the state Department of Agriculture in 2016 to analyze farm safety and report back to lawmakers in 2017. Out of this process came a dozen recommendations. One was to re-establish the statewide University of Minnesota Extension farm safety faculty position, which was key in developing farm safety programs in the 1990s and 2000s. Another was to improve data collection on


farm illnesses, injuries and fatalities. The recommendations also call for creating a farm safety certification program and supporting partnerships with farm-related industries and organizations to promote safety education. With changes in the farming workforce come new approaches to farm safety. Programs have traditionally been geared to owner/

operators and their families. As farms grow larger and non-family farm labor increases, it has become increasingly important to reach other farm workers, particularly those who speak little or no English. The Minnesota Milk Producers Association, for example, estimates half of hired dairy workers in the state are immigrants, mainly from Mexico. A Farm Safety Work Group, an informal collaboration among state agencies, higher education, agricultural

organizations, farm safety advocates, labor and safety organizations and the private sector, began meeting in 2015. It provides a forum for discussing farm safety issues and helping groups connect in a collective effort to improve farm safety in Minnesota. The report to the Legislature this year recommends keeping the work group active so it can continue to coordinate and monitor agricultural safety initiatives. IMPACT | 39


Fast Facts:

Safety on the Farm

In a 2016 report from the Minnesota Department of Health, the cost of injury and illness in the agricultural sector was estimated at

Nonfatal agriculture-related injuries and illnesses often go unreported or unrecognized. Farmers may be reluctant to seek health care for injuries and illnesses because of Most of this was attributed the cost or because they can’t afford to indirect costs such as lost to take time off or hire help. Chronic productivity at work. or progressive injuries and illnesses such as noise-induced hearing loss, skin cancers and respiratory The majority of conditions might not appear agricultural fatalities immediately or be identified are among middleas work-related. aged and older men. Most farm-related deaths occur between May and October; the peak month is July.

$21 million to $31 million annually

Tractor-related incidents

(rollovers, entanglements, collisions and so on) are the most frequent cause of farming fatalities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other hazards faced by farmers include heat exposure, falls, unpredictable livestock, hazardous equipment, grain bins and pesticides. 40 | IMPACT

In 2016 the Minnesota Legislature appropriated

$250,000

to establish a rollover protective structures rebate program to make it easier and more affordable for farmers to purchase and install tractor rollover protection kits. It gave Minnesota the best-funded tractor safety plan in the U.S.


SCOTT HEIBERGER

Q&A Health Communications Manager, National Farm Medicine Center Q.

Tell us a little about your position and what

order with all safety shields/guards in place, and

do “the right thing” and keeping their employees

you do.

that tractors have rollover protection (either a cab

and family members safe, there is an economic

or rollbar). Ensure that employees/family members

incentive to minimizing lost-time injuries.

A. I am the health communications manager at the

Q.

What progress has been made in improving

National Farm Medicine Center, part of Marshfield

are properly trained for the jobs they are performing.

Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wis. The goal

Keep young children out of the worksite and assign

of my job is to get agricultural safety and health

age-appropriate jobs to youth. Use/provide proper

resources into the hands of farmers and ranchers,

personal protective equipment (e.g., safety glasses,

and safety attitudes are changing for the better. Instead

their employees and their families. I accomplish

hearing protection, respiratory mask). Be visible on

of shrugging and saying “accidents” are just part of

this by working through media and producer

roads with slow-moving vehicle signs and proper

farming, we are using the term “incident” and identifying

groups, talking directly to farmers through social

lighting. Take breaks and stay rested; stay hydrated

factors that could have been modified to prevent the

media, and editing the peer-reviewed Journal of

and don’t skip meals.

incident.

Agromedicine.

Q.

Where does farming rank in terms of overall

Q.

A.

How has our view of farm safety evolved over the years?

A.

Q.

farming as a safer occupation? Safety is increasingly engineered into equipment,

What challenges still remain in lessening the risks associated with farming?

A. It is the No. 1 most hazardous industry with 22.8

I think it’s improving. The incoming generation

A. Changing behaviors. We all generally know how

of farmers grew up with car seats, bicycle helmets

to stay safe, but there is often a disconnect between

fatalities per 100,000 workers annually, followed by

and a new view of safety, which might make

knowing what is safe behavior and actually doing

transportation (13.8) and mining (11.4), according

them more likely to challenge unsafe traditions

it. Another challenge is keeping young children,

to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

in agriculture (e.g., extra riders on tractors, not

especially children younger than 10, out of the

What steps can farmers take to be proactive

wearing seat belts, allowing very young children

worksite. Most injuries to children on farms are

about safety?

to operate machinery). Also, farms are getting

suffered by children who are merely present in the

Make certain that equipment is in good working

larger, with more employees. Besides wanting to

worksite and not actually working.

occupational safety?

Q.

A.

IMPACT | 41


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Ag Finance Communication, expert advice key to farm finances

F

armers who survived the last major farm crisis in the 1980s – and those who are again feeling the crunch of the current fragile farm economy – are well aware of the delicate marriage between their farm and their lender. Without a good line of credit to fund seasonal input costs and long-term land and equipment purchases, most farmers could not operate. 46 | IMPACT

The relationship isn’t one-sided, however. Many small-town banks are financially strong because of their farm and ag-business clients, but they also share the risk when the market fails. Much has changed since the farm foreclosures and sheriff’s sales of the 1980s regarding how lenders work with farmers to provide financing and financial advice, with the goal of keeping farmers and lenders

in business and the marriage between farmers and lenders strong. “Like any relationship, trust and honesty are critical. Both the farmer and lender need to be able to work together,” said John Madsen, Market Vice President of AgCountry Farm Credit Services in Willmar. Most local ag lenders not only provide capital and operating loans but also accounting services, tax


planning management, insurance, appraisals, farm succession planning and retirement planning. Providing a full array of financial services – and not just a loan with a do-or-die payment deadline – is needed in the high-tech, high-expense and low-profit-margin world that most farmers live in. “Everyone involved in agriculture has learned from the lessons of past economic downturns. Agriculture is a

cyclical industry and sometimes can be volatile,” Madsen said. He said a solid farm business plan needs to be based on long-term sustainable income projections, proactively deploying risk management strategies and taking advantage of “good times” to build working capital and pay down debt. “And maybe the most important, (is to) maintain an open

line of communication and be willing to take corrective actions during extended downturns,” Madsen said. Along with commercial ag lenders and cooperatives, the USDA Farm Service Agency also provides farm loans with a variety of special lending programs for beginning farmers and ranchers, speciality crops, value-added businesses, urban farming and loans for youth as young as 10. IMPACT | 47


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JOEL GRATZ Q&A Partner, CPA and Director of Taxation, Christianson CPAs and Consultants Q.

A recent survey of Kandiyohi County farmers said a majority intend to transfer their farm to a relative. What are the the benefits and potential problems of transfer methods? A. There are two basic methods to transfer assets to a relative: gifting or selling. The method choice is generally determined by cash flow considerations of both parties, retirement planning and current and future tax consequences of the estate and the impacted individuals and wealth preservation opportunities. A sale has immediate tax implications for the seller and the downside to a gifting strategy is the lack of receiving a step-up in tax basis. Q. What are the basic steps and timetable for creating a farm transition plan? A. The biggest step is for the current owners to determine their priorities and to determine what their needs will be in retirement, such as protecting the farm legacy, assuring successful farm transition, minimizing estate taxes, maximizing wealth preservation, maintaining asset control, special needs heirs, maximizing cash flow in retirement and specific asset allocation to heirs. Once priorities are identified, a meeting should be organized with your trusted advisers (CPA, attorney and financial adviser) to begin putting a plan in place. This may take two to six months, followed by plan implementation taking another six to 12 months. Once the plan is in motion, we recommend a meeting with the trusted advisers at least once every two years to determine if the plan is working or needs to be modified.

Q.

Farmers are often the strong, silent types. Discuss the importance of communication when establishing a transition plan. A. Communication would be easy (and dangerous) if we could read each other’s minds. The more open and honest communication that can be had with all members of the estate plan dramatically increases the success and satisfaction of all parties. Lack of knowledge and understanding can be the landmines that turn an estate plan into a battlefield between family members.Lack of communication will erode trust very quickly and create an unstable environment for the family to operate in. Q. What can happen to farms and farm families if a well-planned, written transition document doesn’t exist when the landowner passes away? A. This situation will put a tremendous amount of stress on the surviving spouse and the family members who may not be able to effectively communicate the priorities and wishes to the heirs. Without a will or trust document, a probate judge will determine which heirs will get your assets. We have seen farm legacies cut short and family relationships strained permanently. Q. Explain how the terms “fair” and “equal” matter for transition and estate issues when not all family members will be part of the future ownership and management of the farm. A. The “fair” vs “equal” question is asked by our clients almost 100 percent of the time.

Fair rarely means equal with the definition of “fair” being solely determined by the estate owners. It makes economic sense for a farming heir to get the farm assets to protect the farm legacy, but these assets make up the majority of most farm estates. Many non-farm heirs struggle with the “sweat equity” concept that’s offered as the reason for the asset allocation to the farm heirs. To balance this disproportionate allocation, many estate plans have life insurance, stock investments and retirement plan dollars being allocated to the non-farm heirs. Q. What future changes and challenges do you predict as farms transition to the next generation? A. Historically, farming has been a difficult industry to enter without significant help from the retiring generation. I see this trend continuing but it may be compounded as there are significantly fewer younger farmers to transition to. I envision that technology and equipment expansion will have to be at the forefront to allow fewer farmers to farm the same amount of acres and become even more productive than they are today. This in turn will take more capital and create the need for the younger farmer to have strategic partners in financing, crop production and input purchasing. This technology will also allow older farmers to farm longer, which will be needed if a retiring farmer wants to maximize his/her business value.

Joel Gratz specializes in business and individual taxation including estate and succession planning. Utilizing his background of growing up and still working on his family’s farm, Gratz also specializes in the ag sector. His clients are from many backgrounds including livestock and crop A. production, service and retail businesses, trade contractors, renewable fuels production, ag retail and commodity processing facilities. 50 | IMPACT


KEVIN CROWLEY Q&A Senior Vice President, Heritage Bank, Pennock Q. Describe the current ag financial climate. A. The present farm economy is very fragile.

It is not in a crisis mode now but further reduction in crop prices without reduction in input costs could cause more problems. The farmers with tight financial statements are affected the most. Large crop yields have off-set low prices in recent years but I am concerned we may not see bin-buster crops this year because of the weather. Most older farmers have real estate equity and can get working capital while borrowing against assets like land. This also causes another payment to be made, which we must show will work on the cash flow. Some farmers may not have the equity to refinance. In a tight ag economy, the farmers spend less which also hurts machinery dealers and other related businesses. Q. What are the current economic challenges for farmers? A. The present crop pricing options make it difficult for farmers to cash flow the input costs of putting in a crop, making machinery purchases, making land payments and having enough left-over to cover family living expenses. In more farm families, you will find someone working off the farm to help with family living expenses and/or for the benefits, like getting health insurance. Some farmers do custom work with their equipment to

generate more income. Q. What’s anticipated for the price of purchasing and renting farmland and interest rates on ag loans? A. The price on farmland will be steady to slipping some in value. I personally believe we will start to see a bigger price variation between types of land. The very good, welltiled land will remain strong, while some of the poorer land will not be as high. Farm rents will – and should – be reduced some, but not a great deal since it is cheaper to rent than to own. Interest rates could see a slight increase as the government tries to steady our overall economy but I do not see us going back to 18 percent levels that were in effect in the early ’80s. Q. What is the importance of the Federal Crop Insurance program? The Federal Crop Insurance Program gives an A. individual a safety net. If the crops go bad that year, a farmer can protect the investment made in that crop. It is truly not a 100 percent protection plan, but if needed the farmer can purchase coverage up to 85 percent of their proven yields. It also provides additional security to their lender providing operating loans to cover crop input expenses. If a farmer lost all their crops due to severe weather, crop insurance will help provide funds to pay for the input costs.

Q.

Explain the financial challenges for beginning farmers. A. A young person wanting to start farming first needs someone to help them get started. In some cases, an older farmer or a relative may rent land to a younger person and allow them to use their equipment in exchange for labor on their farm. There are programs to help beginning farmers through the local Farm Service Agency, which can offer a longer term and lower payments. The FSA also has a guaranteed loan program which banks can use to fund operating loans and machinery purchases. Q. What are the future financial challenges and rewards for agriculture? A. We are in a downward cycle for crop prices, largely due to the amount of production the farmers have been able to raise with the improved seed genetics, better chemicals and fertilizer plans. We need increased demand worldwide to help use up our excess crops. Locally, we have a stronger market for our corn with the large amount of turkey feed that is delivered out of our area. We also have four ethanol plants in our marketing area. Strong markets give ag producers more options to sell their crops which helps with the prices. If the farmers are making money, they will expand, which will help overall ag community.

Kevin Crowley is Senior Vice President at Heritage Bank N.A. in Pennock. He grew up on a dairy farm in Slayton and has worked in the banking A. 34 years at Heritage Bank with a focus on ag lending and as a crop insurance agent. and Insurance fields for 40 years, including IMPACT | 51


Fast Facts:

$ $$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ Ag Finance Optimism & Pessimism About Farm Economy

Availability of Financing Ranks High

28

of the respondents said financing was good and

22

said it was excellent. Only

1

participant ranked available financing as fair.

When asked to list business factors on their farm, many of the

51

Kandiyohi County farmers surveyed said the availability of financing and the need to borrow money to operate was one of the most critical issues to their farm operation.

When asked to rank the availability of financing, nearly all of the 51 farmers surveyed ranked in the good or excellent category.

An in-depth ag producers survey conducted in the spring of 2017 of 51 Kandiyohi County farmers indicates most are optimistic about the economic outlook for agriculture in the county.

said they were optimistic and about

11%

Next Generation of Farmers

51

About

Most of the

Kandiyohi County farmers surveyed this spring said they intend to transfer their farm to a relative. 52 | IMPACT

The survey also indicates most would encourage the next generation to return to their family farm to pursue a career in production agriculture.

55%

said they were likely to encourage the next generation and about

12%

they were unlikely to do so.

1/2

Another

33% were neutral.

said they were pessimistic. Another

39%

fell in the middle with a neutral opinion.


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Ag Life on the Farm

Family farms still the backbone of U.S. agriculture

T

he images many people have of life on the farm likely are stuck in the 1950s. Overall-clad men on open-air tractors, wives in the kitchen cooking meat and potatoes and the kids feeding animals and packing straw bales into the hay mow. Expectations are the children will take over the operation to continue the joy and pride of owning the family farm. 54 | IMPACT

While the hard work from the past is still there today, how that work is done and who does it has changed drastically over the decades. New technology has brought auto-steer tractors and combines to fields and GPS mapping that allows the precise amount of fertilizer to be applied to crops. Dairy farms have robots to milk cows. The technology allows more work to be done more

efficiently but also increases the cost of operation. The high cost of farm inputs has resulted in larger farms. Farmland sometimes becomes available when aging farmers don’t have an heir who wants to farm. But still, most farms are owned and operated by families who live and work together on land that’s been in the family for generations.


Women play an increasingly large role on farms today by being active producers, managing farm finances or holding off-the-farm jobs to obtain healthcare benefits for the family. Farmers are also taking on public advocacy roles to help consumers better understand such hot-button topics as food grown using genetically modified

organisms and the care used to raise animals. After the farm crisis of the 1980s, it was hard to convince kids to stay on the farm and many left to find new careers. But as older farmers retire, there are opportunities for the next generation to take over family farms. Those opportunities, however, come with significant financial

risks as a dangerous combination of high input costs and low commodity prices continues. There is a part of the 1950s image of farming that is still true today. Families who farm together truly enjoy working with and alongside family members. IMPACT | 55


HARLAN MADSEN Q&A Farmer & Kandiyohi County Commissioner Q. Could you please provide a brief history of your farm? A.

My dad started his farming career in 1931 in the drought and Depression when he was 11 years old and would help his dad cut hay and plow fields. He spent the next 81 years on the farm. Dad and many in his generation worked several jobs to make ends meet during those difficult times. In 1941, he expanded his dairy herd and built a barn and silo that was blown down by a tornado a few months later. It was rebuilt and is still being used today. My parents spent their lives working on the land they loved, and we have been blessed to expand from 160 acres to 700 acres. Our son joined us 17 years ago and our daughter began part-time five years ago. We have 100 dairy cows and raise corn, soybeans and alfalf We have three generations on the farm now, and when Mom and Dad were here, we had four generations each day, which was a wonderful gift.

Q. What are the most significant changes made on your farm over the decades?

A. The changes on our farm, as well as all of agriculture, have been significant. Going from horse and manual power to mechanical and technological power. GPS, autosteer, computerized feeding, variable rate seeding, fertilizing and spraying, harvest monitors and the list goes on and on. Our dairy expanded in 2004 with the construction of

a free-stall barn and milking parlor. We use technical consultants to assist us with data analysis both in the dairy and crop production. The flexibility and options available have greatly expanded, however, so has the volatility of markets and the cost of inputs.

Q. A.

Describe the risks and rewards of farming.

It has been said the original gamblers were farmers. The risks are always present – weather factors, price fluctuations, rising input costs, disease, marketing challenges, increased regulations and an ever-changing political climate. However, the rewards surround us each day, such as teaching your children to feed and care for livestock, watching a grandchild learn to ride bike and then to operate machinery, harvesting a bountiful crop, working with family as they help to deliver a new calf, pausing for a hot dog roast and s’mores, setting a positive example for the next generation to follow, working alongside family in an occupation that we all love and respect – even on the tough days, working together to improve the business and problem-solve, enjoying the kids as they imagine in their playhouse, planting, weeding and harvesting a garden as a family.

Q. A.

Why do you like farming and living on a farm?

Farming offers a great opportunity and responsibility to care for the gifts that God provides for us. I can interact with nature and its creatures each and every day – and do it with my family.

There is nothing better in life for me.

Q. What lessons did you learn while growing up on the farm that you want your children and grandchildren to learn? A. I learned the importance of having a strong work ethic and how to get the job done. It was clearly demonstrated to me how important family values and teamwork are in achieving success in any undertaking. It is also vital to learn to accept when things don’t go as planned. A sick cow or hailstorm can change a business plan in an instant. I would like to see my children and grandchildren grow up to demonstrate the values that I learned: dependability, responsibility, integrity, passion and stewardship.

Q. Would you encourage the next generations of your family to farm? Why or why not? A. I would certainly encourage the next generation to farm. One thing is certain, and that is that farming will be different in the years ahead. Technology, politics, environmental changes, consolidation of suppliers, consumer demands and regulations are just a few of the dynamic shifts that are occurring in agriculture. The next generations must be flexible and innovative with their business decisions. I will always encourage people to pursue their passions. Farming is a great life made even better with family.

Harlan Madsen and his wife, Julie, farm near Lake Lillian with two of their three adult children on a dairy and crop farm that was started by Harlan’s grandfather in 1928. 56 | IMPACT


SIERRA KANTEN Q&A Family Farmer Sierra Kanten and her husband, Tim, farm on the Kanten family’s fifth-generation farm near Milan, along with Tim’s parents, Kim and Kent, his brother, Jim, and sister, Kristi. Started in 1916 by Tim’s great-great-grandfather, the family grows corn, soybeans and sugar beets and operates “3 Below,” a year-round custom manure hauling and spreading business. The couple lives in the original farmhouse, which serves as the “main hub and heartbeat of the farm,” according to Sierra Kanten, who provided a look at life on her family farm. Q. What are the most important lessons learned from the past generations that continue to guide your farm operation today? A. “Family first” is the most important message we use as a guiding principle from past generations. Blending family relationships with the demands and stresses of running a business can sometimes be a delicate dynamic to balance. Regardless of the frustrations that can arise, at the end of the day, working together as business partners makes us stronger family members. Q. What do you enjoy the most – and least – about living and working on a farm? A. What I love most is the hands-on experience of working the land and the connection that comes from working alongside family to achieve a common goal. The unpredictable weather and grain prices can be some of my least favorite things about farming. The grinding pressure of hoping all our planting

produces something can also be a burden. But even with its flaws, it’s a lifestyle not everyone gets to experience, and I am very thankful for this opportunity. Q. What common public misconceptions about farming would you like to correct? A. A common misconception is that all farms are huge, corporate businesses and not independent family farms like ours. There is also confusion about the difference between organic food versus non-organic food and if genetically modified organisms are safe. I have taken a personal interest in educating my community about our use of GMOs – how and why we use them, what we do to ensure and comply with food safety regulations, and to dispel misconceptions that all GMOs are unsafe to digest. We have an open-door policy on the farm and welcome anyone who has questions about where their food is grown and how. We’re proud of our farm, happy to offer tours and, like true Minnesotans, have a good chat. Q. How do you see the role of women in agriculture changing? A. I think the role of women in agriculture is changing in a major way. We’re finding our voices and taking a more visible role in the day-to-day operation of farming. Women are not only running larger operation farms, but are also advocating on all levels for agriculture. Q. What ag advocacy and education organizations are you involved in and what have you learned from them? A. I am currently a part of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program and have recently joined

Common Ground, an organization of farmers who are having conversations about the food we grow and how we produce it. I am also involved with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association Biotechnology Spokeswoman group, where women from across the country who live and work on sugar beet farms educate people about the biotechnology of sugar beets and advocate for agriculture in general. Q. Your farm has a Facebook page (KantenFarms) where photos and updates of the season’s work on your farm are posted. Why do you do this? A. We started our Facebook page to offer an approachable and accessible look at modern family farming. Our goal is to give a personable and realistic view of what a family farm is and how it’s run. We use our page to educate people about current farming practices, give updates about the day-to-day operations, and announce exciting news. We also use this space to engage with our community and answer their questions. Q. What are your hopes and concerns for preserving your family farm for the next generation? A. We’re dedicated to conservation and staying up-todate with the latest farm technologies. We do these things to safeguard the land, so Kanten Farms can continue its legacy as the family-owned and -operated, multigenerational farm it’s always been. These practices not only make us more able to farm in efficient and effective ways, but sets the pace for success for generations to come. IMPACT | 57


Fast Facts: A 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, says

97%

of all U.S. farms are family-owned

88%

are classified as small family farms.

The NASS report, which was based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology, calls family farms the “the backbone of the agriculture industry.” 58 | IMPACT

Ag Life on the farm

The USDA defines a family farm as any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, including through blood, marriage or adoption.

The report includes these

5 FACTS ABOUT FAMILY FARMS Food equals family – 97 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family-owned operations. Small business matters – 88 percent of all U.S. farms are small family farms. Local connections come in small packages – 58 percent of all direct farm sales to consumers come from small family farms. Big business matters – 64 percent of all vegetable sales and 66 percent of all dairy sales come from the 3 percent of farms that are large or very large family farms. Farming provides new beginnings – 18 percent of principal operators on family farms in the U.S. started within the last 10 years.


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Ag Transportation

Bigger loads, more challenges for transportation network A

griculture is projected to put more freight on Minnesota’s roads in the years ahead, but will likely face more challenges in doing so. Most of the freight moved over Minnesota’s transportation system is carried by truck. The condition of Minnesota’s highways is predicted to deteriorate over the next 10 years. These are the important points raised by Lindsey Bruer, planning director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Willmar. She cited a statewide freight system plan that identified the importance of our transportation system to agriculture and other players in our economy. 62 | IMPACT

Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Mel Odens also reports that our county transportation system is seeing increased demand as farms produce more goods, and we rely on larger trucks and equipment. And of course, there’s no overstating the importance of our transportation network to agriculture. In terms of tonnage, cereal grains represent 25 percent of the freight carried on it. The movement of animal feeds and other agricultural products represent another 17 percent of the tonnage moved, meaning that agriculture accounts for 42 percent of the overall freight on our highways, according to a study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The study, based on 2012 data, projects the amount of freight represented by agriculture will continue to increase at a rate of 2 percent a year. When all freight is considered, Minnesota’s transportation system – including roads, rail, water and pipelines – carried 1 billion tons of freight in 2012. That is projected to grow to 1.8 billion tons in 2040, or an 80 percent increase overall. Trucks are the heavy lifter in the transportation system, and will remain so, according to the study. Trucks carried 67 percent of the state’s freight value, or 67 percent of $912 billion worth of product in 2012. Rail carried 21 percent.


Fast Facts:

Ag Transportation Information provided by Minnesota Department of Transportation

The average annual daily traffic (from 2012 data) for all state and U.S. highways in Kandiyohi County is

264,050

The heavy commercial (this is not all ag equipment, it includes all heavy commercial vehicles) average annual daily traffic is

21,798

The percentage of heavy commercial vehicle traffic on state and U.S. highways ranges from slightly over

17%

on U.S. Highway 71 south of Willmar (from state Highway 7 to Kandiyohi County Road 3) to less than

5%

on U.S. Highway 12 through downtown Willmar.

The average percentage of truck traffic on state and U.S. highways in Kandiyohi County is just over

9%

MnDOT Facts

regarding the state’s transportation network:

50%

of all state highway pavements will be 50 years old within the next 10 years

35%

of bridges will also be 50 years old in the next 10 years

1 in 5

highways will pass their useful life in less than 3 years

IMPACT | 63


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Farms in Kandiyohi County are producing more produce and using larger trucks to transport it.

MEL ODENS

Q&A

Director, Kandiyohi County Public Works

Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Mel Odens is seeing demand on the county roads continue to increase. Farms in Kandiyohi County are producing more product to move, and using larger trucks to transport it. The county is also seeing new demands on the transportation network due to the development of large dairies. The county engineer offers his insight to questions we posed: Q. Are our county roads handling a larger volume of agricultural related products? A. Yes, while the number of acres has not changed, except for those that have been drained, I believe the yields have nearly doubled in the past 20 years. With that said, there would be nearly two times the amount being transported. And, since it seems much of the crop grown today does not get consumed on the farms where it’s produced, the commodities are transported more miles to get to processing facilities. Another increase in volume of ag-related product is milk production. Recently, large “point-source” milk production facilities have been constructed that haul 70 | IMPACT

across county lines. They appear to be replacing the smaller family owned dairy barns. Q. Are we seeing a trend toward the use of larger, semi-tractor trailer rigs in place of the smaller farm trucks, and if so, how does this impact our county roads? A. Yes we are. You see fewer and fewer farm tractors and wagons used to bring grain to storage. Large grain carts are used in the fields to get grain to waiting semi-tractors that bring it to storage or market. In addition, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar of Renville continues to also increase production. Beet piling stations have been constructed in strategic locations. Truck traffic hauling beets from the field to the piling stations during the harvest continues to grow. Then equally heavy traffic moves the product to the processing facility in Renville. Q. Are we expanding or seeking to expand the number of miles of 10-ton rated roadway in the county due to heavier freight loads? A. We are expanding our 10-ton network as we reconstruct roads. We simply increase the strength of the surfacing to accommodate the current and

20-year forecasted traffic. Q. There is a gap between our road maintenance needs and available funding. How large is this gap, and what are the possible consequences to agriculture if we are not able to close it? A. Yes there is a gap in need versus available funding. We have a backlog of roads that are 50 years or older along with aging bridges that don’t have a dedicated funding source. With the increased use of heavy hauling equipment, not only do we need to upgrade the road network, but also replace bridges to allow for a complete network. Q. Looking forward, do you anticipate an increase in the volume of agricultural products being moved in the county, both in terms of locally produced goods shipped to markets and the chemicals, fertilizers, equipment and other inputs needed by our producers? A. Yes. Willmar and Kandiyohi County have long been a home to ag-related processing. As yields rise, and operations grow, logistics and processing will likely grow as well. County and city leaders view ag-related processing as an area of growth potential.


LINDSEY BRUER Q&A Planning Director, Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 Q. Our transportation system is vital for shipping agricultural products to markets A. The outside the area as well as to deliver the chemicals, fertilizers, and equipment

in Kandiyohi County is 264,050. The heavy commercial (this is not all ag equipment,

needed by farmers. Do we have an idea of how much of our agricultural-related

it includes all heavy commercial vehicles) average annual daily traffic is 21,798. The

goods are transported by road, and how much by rail in the Kandiyohi County

A.

area and District 8 counties? No information specific to Kandiyohi County or District 8 is available, but statewide

in 2012, 1 billion tons of freight moved over Minnesota’s transportation network. Trucks carried 63 percent of all tonnage, while rail carried about 25 percent. By 2040, the load is expected to increase to 1.8 billion tons, an increase of 80 percent overall.

Q.

average annual daily traffic (from 2012 data) for all state and U.S. highways

An agricultural-based economy means our roads and rail system move a lot of freight. Do we know how much freight our roads carry in comparison to passenger traffic?

Fast Facts: Transportation The calculated funding gap totals

Freight traffic on our roadways and rail traffic will continue to

$6 billion increase over the next 10 years

percentage of heavy commercial vehicle traffic on state and U.S. highways ranges from slightly over 17 percent on U.S. Highway 71 south of Willmar (from state Hwy. 7 to Kandiyohi County Road 3) to less than 5 percent on U.S. Highway 12 through downtown Willmar. The average percentage of truck traffic on state and U.S. highways in Kandiyohi County is just over 9 percent.

Q.

Rural roads do not have the traffic counts as do urban roads, but freight takes a toll on them. How are we doing in terms of maintaining our roads?

A.

Here are some general facts about the state’s transportation network:

We predict Greater Minnesota roads in poor condition will jump

125

percent by 2027

We predict a 30 percent increase in truck traffic by

2030

IMPACT | 71


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Ag Culture & Entertainment

Celebrating agriculture in grand style

W

hether you like to eat sweet corn, enjoy spending time with farm animals or want to learn about the past, there is something for everyone at the many agricultural-themed events and festivals held each year across the region. Because of the rich history agriculture has in central and southwestern Minnesota, there are quite a few celebrations that feature agriculture prominently. 78 | IMPACT

Town festivals including Olivia Corn Capital Days, Renville Sugar Beet Days, West Central Dairy Days, Clara City Prairie Fest and Raymond Harvest Fest say agriculture right in the name. Atwater Threshing Days, the Good Old Days Threshing Show in Hanley Falls, Spicer Pioneer Day and the Heritage Hill Antique Threshing Show in Montevideo all give the public a chance to go

back in time and see how things were done before the huge, computer-filled ag machines of today took over. These events include things such as old steam engines, homecrafts and a lot of hands-on opportunities for all ages. Each county has its own fair, taking place during mid- to late-summer. Agriculture is front and center at the fair, from the 4-H barns full of poultry, rabbits,


horses and cows to the photos of farm sites and the judging of the best garden crops. Even some of the entertainment is agriculturethemed – antique tractors, bull riding, pig races and tractor pulls. At many of the town festivals, it wouldn’t be the same without a kids’ pedal tractor pull or a petting zoo with a mini horse or cow for people

to cuddle with. One might not think entertainment or fun when the word agriculture comes up, but perhaps they should. With such a wide selection of celebrations, fairs and events to attend and enjoy throughout the region, it is no wonder people still love to call this area home.

IMPACT | 79


Fast Facts: There are

93

Ag Culture & Entertainment The United Pullers of Minnesota, established in 1988, is a merging of two tractor pulling organizations in Minnesota – Minnesota Tractor Pullers Contest Corporation and Gopher State Tractor Pullers.

county fairs in Minnesota, even though there are only

87

counties.

Olivia celebrated the 50th anniversary of Corn Capital Days in 2017. The town festival is a celebration of the city’s agricultural heritage. It includes events like the Cornlympics and a free sweet corn feed. 80 | IMPACT

The Minnesota Tractor Pullers Contest Corporation was one of five founding state organizations which formed the National Tractor Pullers Association in 1969.

The Lac qui Parle County Fair is Sept. 7-10, the last in Minnesota. It is held after the Minnesota State Fair. The county 4-H has an achievement day in early August to judge its projects, so the county can be represented at the State Fair.

Prairie Pothole Day at Stoney Ridge Farm near New London is a fundraiser for the Prairie Pothole Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. The group uses the money to protect and enhance local wetlands.

Renville’s town festival, held in early June, is called Sugar Beet Days, in honor of the sweet crop.


IMPACT | 81


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“You don’t really think about it because you don’t have to. After a snowstorm, the roads are cleared so you can get to work on time and your kids to school safely. If there is an accident, you call 911 to summon help quickly. You don’t think about it because it’s your county, Kandiyohi County, doing it for you. Every day in our community, county government is hard at work providing the quality of life services that make our community an outstanding place to live and raise a family. When it comes to recycling, convenient locations are near your home and workplace. At times of relaxation, trails, parks and campgrounds are there to explore. Whether operating programs that keep communities safe or providing emergency services during a disaster or protecting children at risk of abuse, counties are at the foundation of what makes our state great. Take a closer look at your county and you’ll find that 24/7 we are working for you.”

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ADAM CHERYL KYLE JUSTIN AND

EILEEN

BOSCH

Q&A

Atwater Threshing Days

Q.

Can you please give a little history on Atwater Threshing Days? A. The Atwater Threshing Days has been going on for around 31 years. It started with Adam’s dad and a few other guys. They wanted to showcase agriculture equipment. You still had a lot of people alive who farmed with that equipment. Now it’s getting fewer and fewer. Now it’s shifted to educating people of later generations. It’s gone from memories to education.

Q. What kind of activities, events and entertainment

are at the Atwater Threshing Days? There is music, threshing displays, corn shelling, gas engines running. They have hot air engines, sorghum making, a blacksmith shop, a kids’ pedal pull. They have an old schoolhouse and church you can go through. There’s flour grinding, and you take a bag of whole wheat ground flour with you. Rug weaving, they have an old sock machine. A lot of working displays, where people can see things. It’s living history. Q. When planning for the Threshing Days, what do you look for in terms of entertainment and activities? A. Every year we do a feature to change it up. It might

A.

84 | IMPACT

be a line of tractors. One year we featured garden tractors and snowmobiles. One year we featured trucks, every farm had a truck on it. There is always something new to look at. It’s good to plan a few years in advance. Our music we start lining up in the summer. We are noted for our music. Q. Are there fan favorites that have been around for a long time? A. Certainly the music, and there are a lot of things like the threshing. A lot of the things in the ladies room, they can keep doing their stuff.

Q. Is a younger generation starting to be involved? A. We’re trying to. Honestly, we would like to see a

lot more. I could see in a number of years, if we’re not continuing to grow, it could be a struggle. Q. Why do you think events that have a focus on, or are a celebration of, agriculture are so popular? A. It is looking at what your grandparents and greatgrandparents lived like. You can show the younger generations what it was like. For a lot of the older generation, they can see things working that they may have used. It is a fun experience for kids, they get hands-on

experience. There are not too many places you can go as a family and enjoy it. I want to keep it a valued family event. We have stuff for the guys, we have stuff for the ladies and stuff for the kids. That is a nice piece. Q. Why do you think towns and counties in this region like to celebrate and recognize their agricultural history? A. It is still a source of pride. Even though agriculture is changing a lot, we are still a rural area. A lot of the businesses still count on agriculture too. A lot of people are directly impacted by it. Q. Why do you think people who don’t have a close connection to a farm, or agricultural in general, enjoy coming to events like Threshing Days? A. Some of it is still it’s a family activity and they are learning something. It’s not pure entertainment. It is a learning opportunity. It offers a variety of things. In Atwater these things are being used. At a museum you see the rug mill, at Atwater you see the rug mill working. When people have exhibits of gas tractors and engines, they are running. The plows will be out plowing.


CHERYL JOHNSON

Q&A Secretary, Kandiyohi County Fair Board Q.

How long has the Kandiyohi County Fair been going on? A. The fair was established in 1901 as the Willmar Street Fair Association and was held on the city streets of Willmar as a Street Fair and Harvest Festival. In 1912, the fair was moved to the current location and has since remained. This year the fair celebrated 117 years of the Kandiyohi County Fair. Q. When planning for the Kandiyohi County Fair, what do you look for in terms of entertainment and activities? A. The board really strives to offer entertainment and activities that are multigenerational and would interest a wide range of fair attendees. The board looks at offering a wide variety of music, trying to reach all styles and interests. The board realizes the public is looking for value of their gate fee and we want to meet that expectation. There are many free events and activities during the fair. The board strives to provide educational and informative opportunities for the youth and adults of Kandiyohi County. The board evaluates the grandstand events each year, which led to moving the bull riding outdoors this past year. Q. Do you try to bring in new things every year, or are there fan favorites that have been around for a long time? A. There are the traditional events such as the antique and out-of-field tractor pull, which is a longtime favorite and a fair tradition for many families. We understand those

generational connections are important, but at the same time we recognize times are changing and we need to look at and offer new activities and events. Something new at the 2017 fair was Knocker Ball. It was offered free of charge and there were approximately 1,500 fair attendees who participated. Bull riding was also introduced several years ago as a new event and it has become an event attendees look forward to and is becoming a traditional event. Q. At fairs and festivals around the area, activities like pedal pulls and tractor pulls are still very popular. What do you think are the reasons for that? A. Many of the participants of these activities have been doing so for generations. Going from great-grandfather to grandfather to dad to son. It is a family tradition. This is true not only in the antique out-of-field tractor pull but also in the livestock shows. This is a time to get together as families, visit the neighbor down the road, come across a longtime acquaintance, enjoy friendly competition and grab a corn dog. Q. Is it important to have agricultural-themed activities and entertainment at the fair? A. The Fair Association has a mission and purpose statement. Part of that statement is to provide educational opportunities to the general public as to inform and familiarize the public to all aspects of agriculture, including farm life; farming; the raising, care and knowledge of livestock; and the economic effect agriculture has on our community.

In 1901 this fair was partly originated as a celebration of the fall harvest and this board has strived to continue the promotion of agriculture in our county. The Kandiyohi County Fair has prominent agriculture and livestock exhibits in 4-H, FFA and open class. Many fairs are losing their livestock exhibits, but Kandiyohi County has maintained very well. I also feel our community has an expectation that the fair will promote and support agriculture. Q. Why do you think county fairs and other celebrations focused on agriculture are so popular? A. Part of what the fair is doing is showcasing our county, whether it be in the livestock barns, the needlecraft, culinary, horticulture or floriculture buildings. The fair is offering an opportunity to showcase agriculture products of the county and offer friendly and well-spirited competition among individuals of Kandiyohi County. Q. What is the draw of these events for people who perhaps don’t have a close connection to a farm, or agricultural business? A. For many children and adults, the County Fair is the only exposure they have to seeing a cow, pig or llama. Q. Why do you think towns and counties in this region like to celebrate and recognize their agricultural history? A. This community has deep roots in agriculture, whether it be crops, livestock or ag-related businesses. Ag has been very prominent in our community and I think people realize this. IMPACT | 85


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IMPACT: Ag 2017  

A look at the IMPACT of Agriculture in Kandiyohi County - 2017

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