Nearly two decades after the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association held its first meeting in a restaurant in Sleepy Eye, Minn., then-MSGA President Chris Tiegum hatched a plan.
At the time, the American Soybean Association restructured its organization to accommodate state associations. Tiegum aimed to do the same for county soybean associations in Minnesota.
Thus, MSGA’s county soybean program was born.
And one county had to be the first. Enter a group of farmers from southwest Minnesota …
On March 6, 1979, more than 100 farmers met at the Chalet in Marshall, Minn., for the first official meeting of the Lyon County Soybean Growers Association. The meeting of a local soybean organization was the first of its kind in the state.
The transition meant MSGA’s Board of Directors would now be elected from county boards in an effort to create a more democratic system of electing MSGA leaders. In 1983, Tiegum formally reorganized MSGA into an affiliation of county soybean association.
The change was also implemented to promote membership to MSGA, cultivate future leaders, discuss policy and help host foreign trade team teams during visits to Minnesota.
As the saying goes (often attributed to former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill), “all politics is local,” and the county associations were – and remain – instrumental in keeping soybean growers informed on issues important in their communities.
The Lyon County Corn and Soybean Growers Association continues to this day. The board is active in the community, partnering with Southwest Minnesota State University on events and sponsors the Ralco Enrichment Center in Balaton. Their investment numbers aren’t as high as the original Lyon County board, but a loyal group of passionate farmers continue to meet every few months at a pizza restaurant in Marshall. When informed of their first-ever status, the board members were surprised at their status as the flagship county soybean association.
“That’s a really neat fact. It shows that these types of groups have longevity because we’re still supporting ag in our community,” says Ken Lanoue, Lyon County’s current chair. “It’s an honor to be a part of an organization that started it all in Minnesota.”
Almost 40 years later, Minnesota remains the only organization in the country that still supports county soybean organizations. MSGA has 44 county soybean associations (many of them are joined with the corn growers associations) throughout Minnesota.
“Everything starts with the county associations,” says MSGA President Michael Petefish, who began his ag leadership career with the Dodge County Corn and Soybean Growers Association. “They’re the reason why MSGA remains a grassroots organization.”