The morning started early as we loaded our bus to travel to the nation’s largest nurseries: Bailey’s Nurseries.  On our tour we were able to start from the basic seed and see the process all the way through to full grown plants.  In the grow room we got to hear from Head Grower Mike Hoffman how different light bulbs affect how even the plants emerge.  It was also interesting to hear how the difference between horizontal and vertical placement of the grow lights affects growth rates in the plants.  The use of temperature and humidity at the Bailey’s complex was amazing.  We toured rooms that were 75 degrees with 80 percent humidity and in the next room we were in a freezer at 28 degrees.   Inventory Manager Vickie Pondell joined Mike in hosting the tour through the greenhouse. The automation here was fascinating to see. Bailey’s has an interesting mix of automation and hand labor.

After touring the green house complex, we loaded the bus and went over to one of the main warehouses.  Warehouse manager Brian Garrick took us on a chilly walking tour. In this warehouse employees were sorting and bundling young tree saplings.  Water misters were used to keep the saplings from drying out.  This task was done using a mix of automation with some trial and error.  Every corridor or hallway changed the air flow of the building.  What I took away was how Bailey’s tried to keep as many employees as they could full-time in such a seasonal business.

After our Bailey’s tour we went to the headquarters of the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperative: CHS Inc..  We were welcomed by Stacy Tietjen, Director of Compliance and Integrity, with lunch and warm welcoming words. We got to learn about many of CHS’s endeavors as well as the complexity of the global trading system from several directors, managers and merchandisers: Michael Johnson, Rick Romer, Kevin Doyle, Tyler Ledyard, Scott Svacina, John Engelen and Darrin Carlson.  Jay Debertin, President and CEO of CHS, was able to spend a whole hour with us in a question and answer forum.  Jay asked our group how companies and boards can work on developing new leaders as well as bring more diversity in people and perspectives. He spent a significant amount of time listening to Class X’s thoughts and stories.  As our time with Jay was ending, he left us all with a challenge, “Don’t just aspire to greatness, bring some with you on the journey”.

We finished our afternoon with Kevin Paap (Class I), President of Minnesota Farm Bureau.  Kevin was able to give us tips and insights on how to respond on short notice for interview requests or press conferences.  One of the many highlights was taking a plain sheet of paper and fold it in half three times.  It will give you eight boxes.  Place your priorities that you would like to talk about or your highlights in the top four.  Place questions you would rather not be asked in the lower four, by having some prepared statements you can help control the direction of the interview and keep you on task.  I have personally already used this method in the last week.

Afterwards, Class X was able to spend an evening together to debrief on the last three days and prepare for the fourth and last day of the St. Paul seminar.

Submitted by Aaron Vadnais, Class X


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