For the fourth consecutive year, Robert “Bob” Nelsen was named the American Soybean Association’s top recruiter in 2016, the American Soybean Association (ASA) announced Dec. 1.
“Every time it’s been an honor to win the award, even though I don’t think of it as a competition,” Nelsen said from his home in Westbrook, Minn., “I’m proud to do it on behalf of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and Minnesota soybean farmers.”
Nelsen recruited 183 members in 2016, helping MSGA increase its membership by the highest percentage in the country.
“Minnesota sets the standard for soybean membership, and has for a long time,” he says. “I hope it always stays that way.”
Nelsen recruits in-person near his home, and at Minnesota ag trade shows like Farmfest and MN Ag Expo. Whether they’re neighbors, fellow farmers or strangers, Nelsen sees them all the same — as potential recruits.
“All you have to do is talk to people and explain to them how important it is to be a member of MSGA,” he says. “We keep our members informed on the issues, and with the benefits we have, heck, it’s a no-brainer to become a member.”
Nelsen’s favorite recruiting tool is in the form of homespun, handwritten letters he pens to non-members and expiring members. Nelsen personalizes the letters and thanks the farmer for being a member; he might also reference family members and extend holiday greetings.
“It’s important to show people that you care and don’t just want their money,” he said. “I like to show and explain what they’re getting from their membership out of the back end, too.”
Nelsen estimates he writes about 300 recruiting letters every year, most of them addressed to soybean growers in counties in southwestern Minnesota.
“I think people appreciate the time I put into those letters,” says Nelsen, who was awarded a lifetime MSGA membership in 1999. “They know it comes from the heart; I even get thank you letters back from some people.”
Even the most decorated recruiters need someone to bring them into the fold. Nelsen recalls a neighbor asking him to join MSGA during the organization’s infancy in the early 1960s.
“I think I’ve been with MSGA pretty much from the start,” says Nelsen, who also helped found the Murray County Corn and Soybean Growers board. “The organization has come a long ways.”
Nelsen has two grandsons who farm, and plans to continue recruiting.
“I’ve got the time to keep doing it,” he says. “It’s nice to win awards, but it’s not why I do it. When MSGA does well, we all win.”
Nelsen will be honored at the ASA Awards Banquet March 3, 2017, in San Antonio during Commodity Classic.
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association is a non-profit, farmer-controlled membership organization established in 1962. Its goal is to assure profitable soybean farming by influencing favorable ag legislation, monitoring government policies and supporting research and market development activities.