Thursday January 21, 2016
Dominic Jones, a member of MARL class II and the manager of Red Rock Rural Water Systems was our first tour guide of the morning. He gave us a quick tour of Windom’s Industrial Park before we headed to Jeffers, Minnesota to the Red Rock Rural Water office. The Rural Water employees treated us to donuts and coffee which was so appreciated! Mr. Jones walked us through a presentation of their system. I was very impressed to see the extent of the connections across all the communities in the area. They supply water through 2000 miles of pipeline to residents, businesses and livestock.
Les Anderson, MARL class I also shared some information about the system to our class. Mr. Jones and Mr. Anderson took us on a tour of the Lake Augusta water treatment plant nearby.
The next stop was at the Minnesota Soybean Processor Plant in Brewster, Minnesota. Scott Austin presented on the plant, and the industry of soybean products and byproducts. This plant is a coop that was founded by farmers and produces a variety of soybean products that are traded globally.
While in Brewster we toured the fertilizer plant nearby. Denny Weber gave us a tour of the plant, including a walk along the catwalk above the storage facility. Mr. Weber explained how they use computers to maximize efficiency in their plant. He also spoke to safety measures taken by their plant and the fertilizer industry.
The most interesting part of the tour for me was visiting the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington, Minnesota. JBS staff treated us to a pork chop lunch while presenting about their facility. JBS is owned by a Brazilian family and is a large global company. The Worthington facility employs 2200 people that speak 56 languages. They supply food to 80 million people each week in 26 countries. They have a number of initiatives to retain and continue training employees at their facility.
The banquet was held in Windom with keynote speaker Colleen Landkamer, Minnesota State Director of USDA Rural Development. Colleen had a message of the importance of coalition-building and cooperative efforts in public policy- especially for rural-based organizations and communities. Her strong leadership in Minnesota was made evident as she eloquently used the plot of Wizard of Oz to demonstrate the success that can be found through collaboration, complete with ruby pumps!