Minnesota Soybean Business

Mo’ Joe: New Council chair hopes to attract younger farmers to leadership positions

September-October 2021

Joe Serbus is ready to lead.

The Bird Island farmer was elected chair of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council in late June during the organization’s quarterly meeting. He officially took over as chair last summer, replacing Brown County farmer Cole Trebesch, who served as chair for two years and will continue as a director.

“I’m honored my fellow farmers have put their confidence in me to lead this first-class organization,” Serbus said. “Being part of the Council has allowed me to be more involved in Minnesota agriculture, and I’ve seen firsthand how the soybean checkoff improves Minnesota farmers’ bottom lines.”

The affable Serbus is an experienced checkoff leader. He joined the Council in 2016 and served as the treasurer in 2018 and 2019 before serving as vice chair for the past two years.

“Joe brings a wealth of knowledge to the chair role, as well as his ability to exchange with a variety of industry leaders from his years of experience of not only farming, but selling seed and crop insurance,” MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka said. “Change in leadership is important to every organization for diverse thought, and each leader brings a new set of strengths to the forefront.”

As he assumes his new role, Serbus has several checkoff investments for the Council to continue prioritizing. He wants to continue supporting growth on Plasma Blue and construction of the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC), in addition to investing in more than a dozen research projects aimed at improving farmer profitability.

Council Chair Joe Serbus, pictured here at the 2021 Farmfest, is a passionate supporter of FFA.

Plasma Blue technology has the capability to create biodiesel using less energy. The machine allows for smaller processing plants to stay competitive and can produce 1.5 million gallons of biodiesel in a year. The AIC, which is being constructed in Crookston, Minn., will be a full-time crushing plant with space for private investors to work in for research. The AIC recently broke ground with a goal toward beginning production in 2022.

The third goal Serbus touched on is bringing younger farmers into the fold, both on local and state boards. He hopes that if they can get younger farmers interested at the local level, they will be prepared and interested in joining at the state level later on.

Serbus believes recruiting younger farmers will give them a firmer grasp of what the Council accomplishes for farmers, and to prepare them to take on greater leadership positions at the local and state levels.

“We all have the same goal,” Serbus said, “and that’s to further Minnesota Soybean through research and or other practices.”

Trust factor

Serbus represents Districts 5 and 6, which cover six counties across western Minnesota. Since becoming a director, Serbus has worked to stay involved in his counties in his two districts, and he will continue to participate as much as he can with the counties as he takes on the duties of chair.

“I attend my county events and stay involved so that they can put a face to the name,” Serbus said. “They can see that I’m somebody that’s one of them. I consider myself a very casual, common person, and if I can participate in those things, hopefully I’ll give them a sense of trustworthiness of what we are doing at the state level and possibly encourage them to participate and get more involved with Minnesota Soybean.”

Serbus has stepped into his new role armed with the knowledge of past chairs as well as advice from his fellow board members. He knows he’s following in big footsteps.

“It’s a little overwhelming taking over as the chair,” Serbus said. “I believe I’m possibly more of a face or a name to the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, but really, it’s the staff and the board members that are getting the work done.”

He led his first Council meeting in August, when the Council approved its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“I think he will do a good job,” Trebesch said. “Joe cares about the people and everything the Council does, plus he’s been on the executive team for several years. With his time on the Council and the support from past leaders, I think he’s a great fit for the position.”

Prior to running for a position on the Council in 2016, Serbus joined his local Renville County Corn and Soybean Growers Association.

“There are good people on the Renville County board who have been there for years, and they encouraged me to take on a more county role,” Serbus said.

Following his experience on his local board, he was encouraged to run for a director position on MSR&PC. The rest is history.

Joe Serbus discussing MSR&PC checkoff priorities at the 2021 Farmfest.

“I think there’s been great role models on the Council that made me want to take on a leadership role,” Serbus said. “They have attempted to guide a person along and encourage them. It’s really not all about me; it’s about what we can all do together, and I think that’s why I enjoy reaching out to past leaders.”

The family plan

Serbus has been farming for more than 40 years on his family farm, where he is the second generation to work it, with the help of his family. He attended Willmar Vo Tech college where he earned a two-year degree in ag business. Besides farming and being involved in numerous boards, Serbus is a private insurance adjuster.

Serbus served on the BOLD school board for 28 years, retiring from the board in 2016. He currently is serving on his church board, local mutual insurance board and a soybean transportation coalition board.

Serbus and his wife, Doreen, have been married for more than 35 years. Their three children, Trevor, Kelsey and Joseph are all giving back to rural Minnesota through their full-time jobs as well as helping out on the family farm.

Follow the leader

Joe Serbus takes over as MSR&PC chair after Cole Trebesch served in the role for two years. Trebesch brought a wide set of skills that he used in his leadership role.

Trebesch oversaw the Council through numerous projects, including the development of the Ag Innovation Campus, Plasma Blue and TruSoya. As a member of the research action team, he also helped review and approve dozens of checkoff-funded research projects. As a member of the Ag Management Solutions board, he has played an integral part in the organization’s development and financial well-being.

Oh, and he also helped the Council navigate a pandemic.

“Cole did a fabulous job as chair,” Slunecka. “COVID put him a position that, quite honestly, we couldn’t have imagined, and he handled it like a champ.

Serbus said he’ll continue to lean on Trebesch for advice. The Council is a team effort, he said.

“The transition from Cole to myself has gone really well,” Serbus said. “I’ve used him as a great resource for going through the committee assignments and what common things have come up before. I just value his input in going forward.”


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