Daniel Goleman, a best-selling author with a Ph.D. in psychology, once said Western business people often don’t grasp the importance of establishing human relationships. When it comes to Minnesota soybean farmers and their customers abroad, nothing could be further from the truth.
Thanks to farmers such as Mike Petefish of Claremont, Minn., and Jeremy Hanson, who farms near Nerstrand, Taiwanese soybean meal buyers have a better understanding of the value of Minnesota soybeans and the dedication that goes into the production of those soybeans, all of which comes from the family farm.
“I think the value in checkoff programs such as hosting international buyers is that these people can see the actual farmer and the family farm,” said Hanson, a Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) director and member of the Dakota/Rice Corn and Soybean Growers Association. “Our guests from Taiwan were family orientated and seem genuinely interested in my family. I think this event helped show them that our crops don’t come out of a corporate bin but were grown by real farmers.”
Hanson said he was impressed by the visit. He had heard machinery generally was the main attraction with trade team visits, but was surprised that wasn’t what they most wanted to see.
“I found it interesting how invested they were in the actual soybean plant, he said. “It was neat to see them dig down and open up a pod and snap pictures of it.”
The daylong visit, held Tuesday, Sept. 9, started at Interstate Mills in Randolph where they toured the one-year old facility with plant manager Jim Schultz. Schulz explained the ins-and-outs of where Interstate Mills ships its grain and the region it serves. He also explained how trucks are unloaded and how the rail works with the new facility.
The tour then visited Mike Petefish’s Claremont farm before ending the night at Hanson’s farm. At Petefish’s, the focus was on production, from input and seed considerations to the actual harvesting of the crop.
Petefish used his combines to illustrate how soybeans go from the ground into the combines, and how the soybean is pulled from the pods. He also let the Taiwanese delegation operate the combine on his property.
“This is amazing,” said U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) consultant Miguel Escobar. “I’ve been doing this many, many years, and never have I seen a farmer let a group drive the machinery. They’ll remember this the rest of their lives.”
Petefish also took the buyers on a tour of his farm property, with stops at his grain bins, a tour of a corn field and a final stop at one of his soybean fields.
“We as buyers don’t really get the feel of farming in the real world,” said James Huang, a buyer for Taipei, Taiwan-based Taisun Group’s Oilseeds Business Unit. “This is a good chance to touch the reality of the world.”
Huang said many of the people in the delegation didn’t really understand where the product they bought came from or how it was produced.
“It’s a very valuable experience to get a feel for the soybeans, to get to experience how they are made,” he said. “I think what is eye popping is going through the equipment or going to planting areas.”
Petefish said hosting international teams such as the Taiwanese group is important to all Minnesota soybean farmers because it helps to build relationships.
“The Taiwan buyers were a really inquisitive group,” Petefish said. “I appreciated the questions, and I think they have a better understanding of the risks we assume as farmers. They definitely have a better understanding of how we produce crops and how we make decisions on the marketing of those crops.”
The MSR&PC oversees the investment of soybean checkoff dollars on behalf of the state’s soybean farmers. The council is governed by the rules of a federally mandated checkoff program that requires all soybean producers to pay a fee on the soybeans they sell. Funds are used to promote, educate and develop market opportunities for soybeans.