After 15 years as a chiropractor, Patrick O’Leary made a drastic decision. For many years, he ran his chiropractic practice part-time and worked on the farm the remainder of the time. But in 2009, his strong roots in agriculture drew him back to his family’s farm in Benson, Minnesota. He decided to leave his practice and return to farming full-time.
“I came back to Benson because, simply said, farming is in my blood. It’s who I am,” says O’Leary.
O’Leary and his family raise corn and soybeans, contract feed hogs and sell seed. Nearly three years ago, he became involved with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) because he believes organizations like the checkoff continuously move farming forward. O’Leary currently serves as vice chairman of MSR&PC, and is a District 4 representative.
“My involvement in Minnesota Soybean is primarily driven by my passion for market development, especially international markets,” says O’Leary. “Seeing farming progress and growing the market for soybeans are why I’m involved.”
He calls international marketing his pet project. He’s an advocate for promoting essential amino acids as a way to increase the value of soybeans in international markets. He’s traveled abroad several times, and continuously looks for ways to engage in meaningful conversations about overseas markets. Building interpersonal relationships with global prospects is an area in which O’Leary thrives.
And his international involvement runs even deeper than soybeans. Over the past 12 years, he’s hosted 16 foreign exchange students from all over the world, including Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Colombia and Brazil, to name a few.
O’Leary takes great pride in sparking conversations about farming and agriculture with his host students, many of whom don’t come from a farming background. Thanks to O’Leary, they have experienced farm life in Minnesota and walk away from their international experience with a strong understanding of the agricultural industry.
“When you look at me as a person, and then you look at my interest in international marketing, you realize it’s a part of my personality,” jokes O’Leary. “The students get to spend time with me on the farm, learning about our equipment, our tools and farming practices.”
While it’s a smaller portion of soybean use, he also enjoys having conversations about soybean products. Whether it’s lip balms, lotions, sunscreen or candles, he believes connecting with consumers on the uses of soybeans is really powerful.
“Approaching those conversations as a way to illustrate all the uses for soybeans and to talk about how the investment of checkoff dollars continues to develop new uses for soybeans is a really wonderful thing,” says O’Leary.