Northern, southern Minnesota farmers selected to ASA Young Leader program

Longtime Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) Director Lawrence Sukalski is always on the lookout for young farmers interested in pursuing leadership positions with commodity groups.

“I always encourage young people in ag who have the interest and drive to help us all out,” he says.

Sukalski found the perfect candidate right in his home county. His protégé, Haley Ammann, has served on the Martin County Corn and Soybean Growers board for the past year, and has been selected as an American Soybean Association’s Corteva Agriscience Young Leader for 2018-19.

“I hear a lot of talk about baby boomers trying to find millennials to get involved, but it doesn’t scare me to get involved,” says Ammann, 24. “I told Lawrence once that I’m always looking to grow myself and become more involved, and he mentioned (this program).”

Ammann was raised on a cattle farm in Trimont, Minn. The farm grew into a cow-calf operation about 15 years ago and her family rotates more than 150 acres of corn and soybeans. She has been heavily involved in FFA, and sells Cenex branded products in the energy department at NuWay Cooperative.

“I work with farmers all day and then go home to my operation,” says Ammann, who is marrying her fiancé, Levi, in August 2019. “It’s exciting to see all the different people you can meet and take you places.”

The ASA position isn’t the first time Ammann has pursued a soybean leadership opportunity. In January 2018, after prompting from Sukalski, Ammann applied and was accepted into the National Biodiesel Board’s “See for Yourself” program to Fort Worth, Texas.

“I want to use these opportunities to my advantage and bring it back to my farm,” Ammann says. “I’m eager to revamp how I do things on my farm.”

The Young Leader Program, sponsored by Corteva Agriscience and ASA, is a two-phase educational program for actively farming individuals and couples who are passionate about the future possibilities of agriculture.

Phase I of the 2018-19 Young Leader program will take place in Johnston, Iowa, in late November. The second and final phase of the program continues Feb. 26 – Mar. 2, 2019 in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with the annual Commodity Classic Convention and Trade Show.

Sukalski says Minnesota couldn’t have picked a better farmer to represent the state at the national level.

“Haley will be a good one,” he says. “She’s one of those people – you give her something to do, she’ll be there. She comes through quickly.”

Family ties

Wannaska soybean farmers Andy and Heidi Pulk were named to ASA’s 2018-’19 Young Leader Program.

Andy Pulk was raised in farm country in New Prague, Minn., but didn’t begin growing corn and soybeans on his own until he moved to northern Minnesota a decade ago. In October, Pulk and his wife, Heidi, were also named Minnesota’s representatives for the ASA’s Corteva Agriscience Young Leader Program.

Pulk credits his grandfather for encouraging him to pursue agriculture.

“My grandpa farmed a little bit and instilled a love of ag in me,” says Pulk, who worked on a dairy farm in his youth. “Now it seems like so many people are two-to-three generations removed from farming and have no clue what goes on with farming.”

Pulk earned a degree in natural resources from Vermillion Community College in Ely, Minn. After graduation he worked on native prairie restoration and settled in Wannaska, Minn., in Roseau County in 2009 with Heidi. Today, the Pulks grow more than 2,000 acres of soybeans on their 4,800-acre farm.

“We made it home at this point,” Pulk says.

There’s not much idle time at the Pulk’s farm. Andy and Heidi, who also has farming roots of her own from her childhood in Brown County, Minn., raise five kids. Heidi also helps maintain all office and payroll duties while both are actively involved in their local church.

After reading a brief in Soybean Business, the Pulks applied for ASA’s Young Leader program.

“I applied a few months ago and had almost forgot about it when I got the call,” he says, laughing. “I’m hoping to learn more details about where my commodity goes after it leaves my farm.”

Pulk says he’ll lean on his mentor, MSGA Director Jim Kukowski, for guidance during his one-year term as an at-large MSGA director.

“I know he’s very active at the local and state level,” Pulk says. “Living up here, I look up to Jim and the commitment he has to MSGA.”

Kukowski says Pulk’s forward-thinking views and strong work ethic make him an ideal candidate to mold into an agricultural leader.

“He’s a really progressive farmer, loves to pick your brain,” says Kukowski, a Strathcona, Minn., farmer. “Andy’s a good guy, and a perfect pick for the Young Leader position.”

Pulk believes he’ll get as much out of the ASA Young Leader Program as he puts into it.

“This is such a unique opportunity that I want to make the most of,” he says. “The farther I go in my career, the more I want to make the public aware of what we’re doing and producing in agriculture.”

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