Polk County Engages Young Farmers with Tour, Night Out

Local, grassroots agricultural groups are exploring different ways to get young farmers involved in their organization. Recently, while returning on a bus from Minnesota Ag Expo, a group of farmers began talking about how they can get young farmers interested in attending the event.

“Every year it is the same people on the bus down to Ag Expo,” said Elliot Solheim, a Polk County Soybean & Corn Growers Association Director. “We decided to invite a group of 20- to 30-year-old young farmers to learn more about what our organizations do, how our work is helpful to them as farmers and how they can get involved.”

polk-young-farmer-2The result was putting together a young farmer mentor program. Solheim reached out to other local organizations and put together a group of young farmers from his county to do an agricultural tour Wednesday, March 25.

The group of farmers began their schedule at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Agricultural Experiment Station Research Greenhouse Complex in Fargo, ND. Kristine Neu, Assistant Greenhouse Manager at NDSU, gave them a tour of the facility. She gave the group a summary of the different facilities housed in the building to assist in the research and plant development process.

Dr. Richard Horsley, NDSU Head of the Department of Plant Sciences, barley breeder and NDSU malting barley improvement program coordinator, followed along on the tour to answer various questions from the farmers concerning how research is done in the greenhouses.

When asked by one young farmer about how their research is funded, Horsley discussed how these farmers’ checkoffs are heavily invested in researching various plant varieties, pest management and quality.

After a tour of the Greenhouse Complex, the farmers went to the Northern Crops Institute (NC) located on the NDSU campus for a tour of their facilities and gain insight into the value of NCI’s programs.

John Crabtree, NCI Assistant Director, gave an overview of the history of NCI, its value to the northern crops area and farmers specifically and then held a tour of the main facility. Crabtree shared how the Institute helps groups from overseas understand how to bake with different ingredients from our Northern Crops, or specifically how the food can become healthier or more viable when using crops grown in the northern area covering Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

He specifically spoke about teaching African groups attending the classes how to bake using soy flour from the region to help provide more protein to their customers. With that in mind, one young farmer specifically asked Crabtree if one day elevators will start giving farmers a premium for the quality of protein they have in their crop instead of just basing it specifically on the amount of protein.

Crabtree cautiously answered that some elevators are starting to test for the types of protein in the grain arriving at their facilities, however there are many factors figuring into the cost that farmers receive and so that is unlikely to happen for some time.

Following an eventful morning, the group of 16 had lunch at the Fargo Curling Club, followed by a friendly curling match and then finally ending the day at the International Beet Show.

“This whole event gives us the opportunity to talk to the young farmers and let them know how they can get involved,” Solheim said.

Solheim and Polk County Soybean and Corn Growers Association Director Greg LeBlanc brought the group of young farmers on the tour. The farmers were invited to go along by local organizations representing the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation and the Sugarbeet Growers Association.