In late April, Sander “Sandy” Ludeman’s career came full circle.
The Lyon County farmer and former Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) chair was honored as the 2018 recipient of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades-long service to agriculture.
Ludeman accepted the award in the St. Paul Student Center, where, 50 years earlier, Ludeman worked overnights as a janitor when he was an agriculture economics major.
“That was pretty neat for me to be back in that same building,” says Ludeman, who graduated from UMN in 1969. “It really put things into perspective. 50 years is a long time.”
Ludeman served on the Council for 15 years, beginning in 1978. He had previously served on the Lyon County board; he was reluctant at first to serve on the Council, but literally drew the short end of the stick among his fellow board members.
“Someone had to be on the Council, and it ended up being me,” he says. “Looking back, I’m glad it happened.”
In 1982, at just 32 years of age, he was elected as the youngest’s chair in MSR&PC history.
“Back then, the Council was really focused on supporting and funding breeding programs,” Ludeman says. “New uses like biodiesel weren’t even on the horizon. When I think back to where we were, budgeting $60,000 to $70,000, and now we’re talking about millions.”
In 1984, Ludeman led an effort to increase the state checkoff to 2 cents. The proposal failed by a small percentage, but Ludeman had helped lay the groundwork for a national checkoff program. In 1985, he served on the board of the American Soybean Development Foundation (ASDF), which was a precursor to the United Soybean Board, and later became ASDF president. In the early 1990s, Ludeman was the first chair of the United Soybean Board, and helped craft the necessary checkoff legislation as part of the 1990 Farm Bill.
“It was the right thing to do at the right time,” Ludeman says of the checkoff program. “If we had waited for a different time, it might not have gotten done.”
Ludeman, 70, continues to farm 2,800 acres of corn and soybeans in Tracy, Minn., with his nephew and brother. He credits his wife, Peggy, with shouldering the parenting load during his years of agricultural leadership.
“She’s been the best partner all the way through,” he says. “For a lot of those years, she was mom and part-time dad, too.”
Ludeman has mostly been retired from leadership positions because he believes those roles are best suited to grow young leaders.
“I’ve always thought it is best to do what you can in your role, and then step aside and let someone else take over,” he says. “Agriculture needs young people leading the way.”