Northfield farmer Robert “Rusty” Kluver didn’t believe his son Bradley when he told his father that the leader of the free world might visit their small, third-generation farm.
“I kind of thought he was full of (it),” said Kluver, a longtime member of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA). “It got to be a little more real when last week, a couple people showed up, introduced themselves and they wanted to look the place over to make sure this could actually happen here.”
It did happen. Yes, on Nov. 1, 2023, President Joe Biden toured Dutch Creek Farms in rural Northfield. Biden’s appearance marked the first time a sitting president had visited a Minnesota farm in nearly 20 years.
The Kluvers didn’t have much advance notice. The president’s event and security team evidently sought out the Kluvers because of Brad Kluver’s affiliation with Minnesota Farmers Union. The family was informed about the potential visit about 10 days prior and told to keep the news under their hat. But by Sunday, rumors began spreading around the Northfield area after the advance team conducted a practice flight in the Kluvers’ hayfield. The locals sensed something was happening.
“People were wondering why there were so many cars and traffic in the area,” Robert Kluver said. “Once they blew those helicopters down here, there was chatter and we knew it was going to happen.”
The Kluvers complied with a request to clean out their sheds. But they didn’t prepare for a rare October snow accumulation the day before the president’s arrival.
“I thought, ‘They’re not going to have this.’ The wind was blowing,” Robert Kluver said. “But they came out and hauled out some extra gravel.”
Turns out, the snow and cold temps were no match for the Secret Service. One of the logistical managers behind the event has helped coordinate Super Bowl Halftime shows. By the morning of the visit, Kluver’s shed was adorned with American flags, generators, snacks, portable restrooms and enough seating to hold a few hundred people.
“They knew what they were doing,” Kluver said. “Security was over the top, and I can guess why. I never imagined the event would be this big.”
Not messing around
The morning of the president’s event, the Secret Service, with dogs in tow, canvassed the operation several times.
“You’re not going to mess with those guys,” Kluver said.
Finally, after the premise was fully secured, President Biden arrived in the early afternoon. The Kluvers were first in line to shake hands with the 46th president, alongside Gov. Tim Walz and several local and state dignitaries. Following the meet and greet, the Kluvers held a roundtable conversation with the president and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“It was a very pleasant meeting with him,” Kluver said. “When we met for that first photo, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, there he is.’”
Biden landed in Minnesota to begin a “barnstorming tour” of rural America and promote his administration’s highlight investments in farming communities. During his Minnesota appearance, President Biden announced $5 billion in new investments from his Investing in America agenda – including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act – to advance rural prosperity, economic development, competition and sustainability.
“Rural communities have been left behind for far too long,” Biden said. “Because of these investments we’re making, family farms are going to stay in the family.”
Robert Kluver, who taught elementary school for over 30 years, farms with his wife, Nancy, Bradley and another son, Robby. Together, the Kluvers grow soybeans and corn and raise hogs. Robert has lived on the farm his entire life. The first time he ever flew on an airplane happened about a decade ago, when he participated in a Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council-led See For Yourself Mission to China.
“I thank Minnesota Soybean for that,” Kluvers said. “I got to meet a lot of great people who I still stay in contact with. It was a lifetime event.”
‘We were overjoyed’
During another once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, the Kluvers had a chance to articulate some of their primary farm-related concerns to the president: health care costs; transparency in the livestock market; consolidation in agriculture; soil health practices and the importance of uplifting the next generation of farmers.
“We talked about our reduced tillage practices and how it’s important,” Kluver said. “And one thing we said is, we want to make it easy so our kids can inherit the farm. It’s got to be easier for young farmers to get started into these smaller farms. I told him, ‘I want my grandkids out here farming and we do everything we can to take care of our soil.’”
The Kluvers had a front row seat during Biden’s address. Bradley gave an introduction, which left his father misty-eyed. The president later gave him a shoutout from the lectern.
“President Biden has helped to bridge those (definitions of sustainability) with his investments into rural America and climate-smart ag,” Bradley Kluver said. “He has incentivized family farms like ours to innovate and adapt the way we farm to be more efficient and environmentally friendly while also expanding markets.”
MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek also attended the event alongside ag leaders and met the president. Following the speech, the president thanked the Kluvers and complimented the family on their operation. For their part, the Kluvers told the president he’s welcome to return.
“We’re pretty small farmers and don’t have the latest and greatest equipment out here,” Robert Kluver said. “We’re just hard workers trying to make a living.”
It was all a bit surreal, Kluver admitted in a phone interview with MSGA the morning after.
“Anytime you get a chance to meet a sitting president – I never thought that would happen,” he said. “We were overjoyed about that. … It was amazing. He was happy to be here.”
After the president was whisked away in his motorcade and media frenzy died down – outlets ranging from the Star Tribune to NBC Nightly News covered the event – the Kluvers exhaled. When the sun rose the next morning, it was time to return to completing the 2023 harvest.
“We’re way behind on that,” Kluver said. “As we’re talking here, I’m trying to clean the yard up.”