‘It’s such an honor’: Former MSGA director earns ASA award

Theresia Gillie couldn’t believe the good news when she received a call from the president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association in late 2023.

“It came out of the blue,” Gillie recalled.

President Bob Worth wasn’t ringing to bend Gillie’s ear about the latest policy news from St. Paul, or to talk about the weather up where Gillie farms in Kittson County. Instead, Worth wanted to be the first to inform Gillie that she was going to be honored with the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) Outstanding State Volunteer Award.

“It’s such an honor,” Gillie said prior to the event in Houston at Commodity Classic. “I look around this room and see so many volunteers who are just as passionate and deserving of this award.”

The Outstanding Volunteer Award recognizes the dedication and exemplary contributions of volunteers with at least three years of volunteer service in any area of their state association’s operation. Gillie certainly qualified. The Hallock farmer is a longtime member and former president of MSGA, serving more than 15 years as director. She has also participated in numerous fundraising events for the organization and became one of MSGA’s most successful membership recruiters.

“It was such a thrill to share this wonderful news with Theresia,” said Worth, who won the same award in 2022. “It’s a big deal to be recognized by your peers at the national level, and very humbling.”

Click here to watch a video montage highlighting Gillie’s advocacy career.

In 2017, Theresia Gillie’s husband, Keith, took his own life. Theresia has since become a national advocate for farmer mental wellness.

Gillie is well versed in policy issues that affect soybean producers and the industry. She has led visits with legislators in St. Paul, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., in addition to participating in numerous Capitol Hill visits. In 2016, she was elected MSGA president.

“I truly believe MSGA is one of the best ag organizations around,” said Gillie, who still serves as a director on her county board. “We have evolved so much over the years.”

Gillie has served as a strong voice in advocating on issues important to soybean farmers, such as farm policy, biofuels, transportation and infrastructure, crop protection and trade. She is not only a staunch policy advocate but also encourages her fellow farmers to engage in advocacy to achieve policy successes. She is also a Kittson County commissioner.

“As farmers, we have a lot of passion for what we do,” she said, “and I love to talk on behalf of my industry. If we don’t tell our story, no one’s going to speak up for us.”

At the state level, Gillie has advocated for protecting the state’s biodiesel mandate and increasing awareness of rising health care costs. She is also an important national advocate for farmer mental health having suffered the tragic loss of her husband, Keith, by suicide.

“Minnesota Soybean protected me when I was at my weakest,” she said during her remarks, “and they built me up to help me understand the value of understanding mental wellness and how we work with that in our society, especially in the ag community.”

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