Theresia Gillie

Freeman: Inclusiveness Key to Successful Association

The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association at more than 4,100 members is the largest soybean association in the United States. We have the most efficient grassroots network, which is important because we work for the most diverse group of growers.

According to the 2012 USDA Ag Census, there are 28,584 soybean farmers in the state and a total of 81,000 farmers. MSGA has earned members by being inclusive to all by working hard to increase the opportunities for Minnesota grown soybeans.

Paul Freeman

Paul Freeman, MSGA Vice President

When diversity is brought up in the association governance some react by asking, “what are they shoving down our throat?” Others believe some will need to beat over their head to get the message.

Diversity is not adversarial. The incisiveness component makes it a goal to be progressive and productive. Diversity isn’t finger pointing, either. I will need a hand at explaining my philosophy on finger pointing. No, literally take your hand and point a finger at someone that has a flaw you don’t like. Take the time to notice where fingers are pointed. One points back to the need for better understanding, another points to self-responsibility and the little pinky points to the serenity prayer. Essentially, one finger points forward and three point back at you.

Unfortunately, the reality is the zealous finger pointers are just a thumb ride further back in their narrow mindedness, a false comfort. Next time you think you have someone rapped around your pinky, I hope serenity comes to mind because people appreciate progress and improvement.

I bring up the topic of diversity because it will be one of the things U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden will talk about next week on her visit to Minnesota. Inclusiveness is what really makes diversity work.

The Denver Foundation, which runs the website, defines an inclusive organization as a learning-centered organization that values the perspectives and contributions of all people. They incorporate the needs, assets and perspectives of all communities of race, gender and heritage into the design and implementation of universal and inclusive programs. Furthermore, inclusive organizations recruit and retain diverse staff and volunteers to reflect the race and ethnic composition of the communities they serve.

Studies have shown diversity with inclusiveness increases successes for a group, and they are typically more progressive in their thinking. As we move forward, diversity with an inclusive attitude will need to be embraced to broaden our voice for the soybean industry. Also, we hope those that are not members learn more about MSGA and hope they want to belong to a diverse, inclusive organization.

After all, we want to be inclusive.

Paul Freeman is a soybean farmer from Starbuck. He is Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and is the chair of the Advocacy action team, which is made up of 12 MSGA directors. Paul can be reached at