Minnesota farmers gain leadership, marketing experience during international trip

Four Minnesota soybean farmers returned home with a wealth of knowledge from a 12-day international marketing and leadership experience to Malaysia and the Philippines. Supported through the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), farmers met with potential soybean buyers and toured production facilities while absorbing Southeast Asian culture and honing their leadership and marketing skills.

“Traveling abroad really opens your eyes to the culture,” says Ben Storm, farmer and MSR&PC director. “It feels good to build these relationships with our buyers and show them that we really do care about providing them the best product possible.”

The group’s journey began in the Philippines, where they learned from officials at feed mills and feed processing facilities, some of which use 100 percent United States soybean meal in their facility. Christian Lilienthal, one of the farmers selected for the trip, says both groups saw eye-to-eye on the quality of U.S. soybeans.

“I was surprised how easy it was to communicate with soybean users abroad,” says Lilienthal, who farms in Arlington, Minn. “Their opinions on the consistency and quality of U.S. commodities were the same as ours as they continue to weigh the quality and price of South American soybeans verses ours in today’s market.”

The farmers also had the opportunity to meet with the United States Foreign Agricultural Service to gain a better understanding of the importance of grain and meat exports, and how new marketing tactics are needed in the current agricultural climate.

“Southeast Asia is truly an emerging market and we definitely need to spend more time over here,” Storm says. “Developing these relationships with the fastest growing middle class in the world will have a huge impact on our soybean market back home.”

Growers traveled to Malaysia to immerse themselves in the culture by staying with a host family for the weekend.

“When you have such a passion, you find it a comfortable place to interact and converse with everyone, even on the world stage,” says Margie Salentiny, a Dundee farmer and participant of the development experience. “Taking the anxiety out of being in a new country and focusing on the importance of relationship building is truly amazing.”

Before departing home, participants’ traveled back to the Philippines to take part in the U.S. Soybean Export Council’s (USSEC) Ag Supply Chain Asia Conference to learn more about the importance of the growing Southeast Asia market.

A group of Minnesota farmers met with soybean buyers during a tour of Malaysia and the Philippines in late March.

“We have the soybeans that are high quality and they need them for their growing population,” Salentiny says. “The transportation within the country is where the problem arises, and we are trying to help them find new solutions.”

This one-of-a-kind experience, hosted by MSR&PC, provided the growers with the opportunity to return to Minnesota with new skills and abilities to impact the agricultural sector in their communities.

“The growth and development of these farmers was impressive over the experience,” says MSR&PC Chair Patrick O’Leary, a Benson farmer. “As they continued to strengthen their relationship-building and communications skills, it was exciting to see the impact they were making on Minnesota agriculture overseas. I look forward to seeing how they will continue to do that back at home.”

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