When the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association board met Dec. 3, 2014, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Business was discussed, reports were read, and the gathering of state directors seemed about as normal as any other meeting.
That was before, of course, the group said goodbye to a former MSGA president and one of its most vocal and visible leaders for the past decade.
As Bob Worth, an at-large MSGA director from Lincoln County and an American Soybean Association director took center stage, the mood in the room changed. Overcome with emotion, Worth delievered a final report to his fellow MSGA directors.
“I’m sad to say it, but for the last 12 years it’s been my life,” Worth said after the emotional meeting. “I’ve lived and breathed soybeans and I’m going to miss it.”
Worth’s retirement from both the ASA and the MSGA was bittersweet, to say the least, but he wasn’t alone. Longtime MSGA director and fellow ASA director Ron Bunjer, also retired from his duties at ASA. Unlike Worth, Bunjer will remain as an at-large MSGA director for Lincoln County.
“Ron is the one who got me to be a soybean member,” Worth said. “Two months later, he wanted to know if I had interest in being on the county board.”
Worth eventually joined the Lincoln County Corn and Soybean Growers, and from there he advocated for Bunjer to be elected to the state MSGA board. Eventually, after going through the ASA DuPont Young Leader program as Minnesota’s representative, Worth joined Bunjer on the state board.
“Right away, when I got selected as an ASA DuPont Young Leader, I made up my mind right then that I wanted to be involved,” Worth said. “I knew long ago I wanted to be president because I truly loved soybeans and what the organization stood for.”
Worth did just that, taking over as MSGA president from 2005-07.
“He went on more of a crash course on learning his stuff because he wanted to be president of MSGA,” Bunjer said.
Worth eventually became an ASA director, and when the opportunity arose, he encouraged Bunjer to join him.
“I don’t think there was a harder working director working on issues than Ron,” Worth said. He said the thing about Bunjer that most didn’t know was that he was really good at one-on-one relationships. While some people looked to be a vocal leader, like Worth, Bunjer’s specialty came in his ability to deal with people behind the scenes.
“The biggest thing I’m going to miss is the people,” Bunjer said. “You meet a lot of really good people from all over the nation and all over the world.”
For Worth, he’s going to miss the people, but he’s also going to miss the policy side of being an MSGA and ASA director.
“You have to believe what you are doing is right for agriculture,” he said. “And to do that, you have to go through the policy. What makes you feel really good is when a politician calls you and asks you a question or wants your opinion.
“That makes you think you are sending the right message and that they trust you. And that’s what this is really about, trust.”
Bunjer, who will continue on both the Lincoln County Corn and Soybean Growers board as well as the MSGA board, and Worth, both said the time is right to let some of the younger farmers to step up and lead.
“Somebody’s got to get involved and learn how everything works,” Bunjer said. “You don’t learn all about soybean overnight. It takes time, and if any young person needs help, I’ll always be there to guide them any way I can.”
Worth plans to continue serving on the Lincoln County Corn and Soybean Growers board, and says that while he is stepping away, he isn’t going to fade into the sunset.
“I can’t walk away completely,” he said. “I’m going to go through enough withdrawals the way it is.”