With 3 full days under their belts, Class IX traveled to the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus. The class was welcomed by Dr. Beverly Durgan, Dean – University of Minnesota Extension, and Dr. Michael Schmitt, Associate Dean for the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.

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Dr. Robert Stupar shared his soybean research and the exciting advancements in genomics. New technologies in plant breeding are emerging and the University is poised to develop and deliver the next generation of plant genetics.

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A legend in the field climatology, Dr. Mark Seeley gave an empowering presentation that encouraged everyone to prepare for future shifts in Minnesota’s climate. Very little can rival weather for its significant impact on agriculture. Understanding tomorrow’s weather patterns is critical to planning for tomorrow’s agricultural systems.


As a lead up to the lunch hour, Class IX had the opportunity view the dissection of diseased animal carcasses in a tour of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The University’s Lab is one of the best in country and vital to diagnosing health issues in animals. Fast and accurate diagnostics is important for both human and animal welfare.16179723_1178161795566390_573460888374243941_o 16179234_1178161945566375_2186466821821328451_o 16179816_1178161798899723_3068666079482023123_o 16107355_1178161862233050_2884917941260486614_oLab photos by University of Minnesota Extension

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Lisa Gjersvik is thanking Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory director Jerry Torrison, who provided the tour.

Submitted by Jason Garms, Class IX

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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The focus on Thursday for MARL Class IX was touring various agriculture businesses and industries that are located in the metro area.  For many of us, it was a great opportunity to explore the diversity within agriculture that exists within the great state of Minnesota.

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Our first stop was Baileys Nurseries Inc. where we learned that Minnesota is home to the largest wholesale provider of bare-root trees and shrubs in the entire United States.  Inside their many warehouses, an extensive process of washing, storing and inventory control commenced as the nursery prepares for their busy months of March and April.  We also visited a separate location where their greenhouse and demonstration gardens are located.DSC03247 DSC03256DSC03248 DSC03264

Our second stop was at CHS Inc, the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the United States.  CHS Inc. is truly an agribusiness with global connections as they have access to markets all across the world, with offices and grain handling facilities in many countries.  Among the many facets of their company, we were welcomed with an introduction to CHS and learned more about their Crop Nutrients and Country Operations sectors.

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The third and final stop was the Food Building in northeast Minneapolis, home to three separate business entities called Red Table Meat Co., the Lone Grazer Creamery, and Baker’s Field Flour & Bread.  Each company is housed in the Food Building to process and produce their respective products, then marketing those products to the growing local and niche markets around the metro area and entire United States.  In addition to the tour, we were able to sample the meat, cheese and bread that were produced there.

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While at the Food Building, we also had an opportunity to hear from two individuals about Policy and Programs for Farm to School.  Kate Seybold from Minneapolis Public Schools and Erin McKee VanSlooten from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy addressed our group about the growing Farm to School Program in the Twin Cities.  They also talked about some of the farmers who grow fruits and vegetables for the Farm to School program, providing more locally grown foods from small farmers.

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After the tours were finished, we enjoyed a ‘free evening’ to do as we wished.  Some from our class went to a Minnesota Wild game while other groups visited a few local restaurants and ‘watering holes’ in the St. Paul area.  Thursday was a great day indeed!

Submitted by Joel Talsma, Class IX


Lt. Governor Tina Smith

Vox populorum, est vox Dei is a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”  This phrase, found on the wall of the House of Representatives Chambers at the Capitol, empowered MARL Class IX, and all Minnesotans, to share our voices on issues facing agriculture and rural areas with elected state leaders.

Vox Populorum

To prepare us for sharing our “voice,” Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President and MARL alum Kevin Paap and Bruce Miller, Minnesota Farmers Union director of membership, shared their expert guidance on impacting change in St. Paul and the legislature.  We learned legislators want to hear your story, rather than big picture numbers.  Stories resonate.  Make your story memorable, so legislators can repeat it to others.  If a legislator can’t repeat your story back to someone else, they won’t support your issue(s).  Stories persuade and are relatable.  Kevin indicated that often it’s not what you know, but who knows you, when trying to influence change.  Trust must be built.  And, burn no bridges!


Agriculture and rural areas don’t have the political power they once did.  As ambassadors for agriculture and rural issues, Class IX was encouraged to build alliances and educate urban stakeholders on why agriculture and rural issues are important to the whole state and its economy.

We were encouraged to warmly embrace social media.  Legislators and news media read tweets and drive public policy.  On the floor, elected officials use Facebook, Twitter and news feeds. Social media is an incredibly effective tool at getting information in front of legislators.


Minnesota Agri-Growth Council President Perry Aasness also offered his valuable perspective on lobbying to educate elected officials.  Perry reiterated that legislators need to hear real stories from real people.  He said, “This is a relationship business.  Your word is your bond.”  Be honest, factual, professional, and succinct.  Keep your word…and don’t be a pest.  He encouraged us to prepare and be ready to share your 30-second elevator speech at any moment.

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At the Capitol, the class sat in on a Joint Minnesota House Ag Finance and Ag Policy Committees meeting which was a great learning experience.  Pat O’Connor, Katie Schneider and Heidi Peterson did a terrific job sharing their stories and perspectives on MARL and its impact on them, as individuals.  Next, we met with elected officials from each of our regions, giving us opportunity to share our stories.


Kevin Paap arranged for the class to meet with Lt. Governor Tina Smith in the beautiful Governor’s Reception Room in the Capitol.  The Lt. Governor graciously shared her time and advised us to “never underestimate the power of sharing your story, your voice” with legislators.


Jasmine Brett Stringer Moore being interviewed about MARL for local TV.

Later in the day, we reviewed the agenda for our upcoming trip to Washington DC and met with our Emotional Intelligence coaching teams where we shared our individual action plans and goals to purposefully develop our emotional intelligence. We will continue these team check-ins throughout the remainder of our MARL journey, with the focus on becoming more effective leaders.

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Wrapping up the day, Paula Mohr, editor of The Farmer magazine and MARL Class VI alum, shared tips for writing compelling letters to the editor, an additional tool in our leadership toolbox to help raise awareness on critical issues facing agriculture and rural areas.

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Class IX cohorts introduced themselves to the many MARL friends, alumni and supporters at the evening banquet.  AURI Executive Director Shannon Schlecht spoke and U of M Professor Dr. Phil Pardey provided a keynote address focused on “The Shifting Global Structure of Agriculture and Investments in Agricultural Innovation.” Much food for thought.

Submitted by Lisa Gjersvik

Seminar 3 began on Tuesday, January 17th at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in Saint Paul.  We were welcomed by Mike, Eriks and Olga.


The Commissioner of Agriculture, Dave Frederickson stopped by and introduced himself and explained some insight on what a typical day is like for him.  The key message he wanted MARL participants to take away was the importance of a bi-partisan approach to agriculture and agricultural policy.

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Class IX in action with “Ag in the Classroom” projects

Next on the agenda was “Growing Ag Literacy”.  Sue Knott and Keri Sidle, Education Specialists with Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom were the presenters.  The Vision for MN Ag in the Classroom is “Agriculture Valued by ALL” Sue and Keri were very passionate about their positions and really got us thinking about how we can become more involved with Ag Literacy, which they demonstrated to us through a typical activity that grade school children would use as a  learning tool.DSC03134 DSC03140 DSC03138 DSC03136

After our lunch break sponsored by Hmong American Famers Association, we traveled to The Good Acre a non-profit organization that is helping small local farmers sell their produce in a more conventional way with access packaging their goods.  We were able to tour the facility and learned about their operation and how farmers are growing for the local market.  We listened to a panel, of which one of the panel members Pakou Hang was a MARL Class VIII member.  She expressed that one of the biggest trends is consumers wanting organic foods.

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Next on the agenda was traveling to Peking Garden where we enjoyed an authentic Chinese dinner sponsored by AURI.  Our last stop of the evening was a Tour of the Capitol.


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We had a fantastic tour guide who was very knowledgeable and had many insightful facts for us.  After the tour we met with Representative Paul Torkelson (Class IV), Representatives Poppe and Hamilton, and lobbyists from Farmers Union and Farm Bureau. MARL members were able to ask some behind the scenes questions.  The seminar was off to a fantastic start and we are looking forward to our Legislative appointments the next day.

Submitted by Jill Manthei, Class IX