Minnesota Soybean Business

Taking care of Business: MSGA’s magazine marks 20 years

November-December 2022

Minnesota Soybean relied on various communication modes to deliver priorities and promotions during its first 40 years: its Minneline newsletter, in-person events, press releases and the MinnSoy Voice, to name a few. Twenty years ago, in fall 2002, the organization published its first magazine, Minnesota Soybean News & Views, to add another communication outlet to Minnesota soybean farmers.

“We felt (our press releases) weren’t reaching the farmers themselves,” said Sherry Lowe, former Minnesota Soybean director of communications and the magazine’s first editor. “The best way we thought was to put a face to all these farmers who are creating this amazing crop and putting their checkoff dollars into research, and on the Growers side, putting their efforts into enacting policy.”

There was one stipulation: the magazine had to be printed with soy ink.

“That was another interesting product. We promoted that all over the U.S.,” said Lowe, who remained with Minnesota Soybean until 2010. “We wanted to make sure everything we did was printed with soy ink.”

In her President’s Letter – the first piece of original content seen on the magazine’s pages – then-Minnesota Soybean Growers Association President Kristin Weeks Duncanson outlined the mission behind the magazine.

“There is much happening in the soybean industry and soybean farmers need to be kept up-to-date on the issues that impact them,” Weeks Duncanson wrote. “This magazine will address federal and state legislation, ag policy, the emerging biodiesel industry, soybean research, international marketing programs and other activities being carried out to help make soybean farming profitable.”

The inaugural issue featured content that remains relevant to soybean farmers: biodiesel (“Our goal is that at some point in the near future, anyone will be able to pull up to a pump and fill their tank with biodiesel,” Weeks Duncanson predicted); the importance of membership; soybean quality reports; promoting exports via the Pacific Northwest; and a feature on the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) program. Gene Hugoson, then-commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, also wrote a guest column.

“We had a lot of farmer-input. We had a great board and committees,” Lowe said. “They’re very passionate people and always helpful.”

That first issue was a slim 16 pages with just two outside advertisements. The magazine was published quarterly. Today, Soybean Business averages around 44 pages across six annual issues to around 25,000 subscribers, with about a quarter of the issue devoted to advertising partners.

In 2021 and 2022, editions that included the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s Annual Report reached over 70 pages. Soybean Business is not just an outlet to report information on the soybean industry; it’s also a key fundraising source for MSGA.

“We rely on our advertising partners to support MSGA’s mission,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said. “Over the years, as the magazine has evolved, Soybean Business has become a top revenuedriver for MSGA, which is a testament to our board and staff, and the relationships we’ve built within our industry.”

Spreading the news Soybean Business is supported by a farmer-led committee (currently chaired by MSGA Treasurer Ryan Mackenthun) that offers editorial input and advertising tips. The Council also submits articles highlighting checkofffunded projects, events and the organization’s annual election.

“The Council is very proud to support Soybean Business,” Council Chair Joe Serbus said. “It’s one of the strongest ag publications in our state. In talking with farmers, it’s clear that Soybean Business is one of the best places to learn about Minnesota soybean checkoff investments.”

With Dan Lemke at the editorial helm, the publication rebranded as Soybean Business in 2011, featuring the tagline on the cover that is still used today: The Magazine for Minnesota Soybean Growers. In early 2015, Doug Monson became editor in- chief, a title he held until 2021, when he moved to his current role as art director.

Under Monson’s direction, Soybean Business became more focused on design elements and feature stories and took a closer look at MSGA’s advocacy efforts. The magazine also debuted two of its most popular sections: Faces of MSGA and Bean Briefs. Industry peers began to notice: Since 2018, Soybean Business has been nominated for several national agriculture marketing awards.

“When I started with Minnesota Soybean, Soybean Business was at a pivotal place in its history,” Monson said. “Some people didn’t see value in it, others knew how important of a fundraising tool it was for MSGA. “I saw value in the magazine and wanted to prove to the doubters that this magazine could not only be profitable, but a great source of information for Minnesota’s soybean farmers.”

After using outside designers and freelance writers for most of its first two decades, Soybean Business became wholly operated by Ag Management Solutions (the group that oversees Minnesota Soybean) in 2021. That same year, the magazine began using a “soft-touch” coating on the cover. Along with its farmer-advisors, AMS’ staff of writers, designers and editors work in tandem throughout the year to create a publication Minnesota soybean farmers can call their own.

“It’s always a thrill to send the magazine off to the printer and find it in your mailbox a few weeks later,” Managing Editor Drew Lyon said. “Soybean Business is a team effort all the way through the editorial process, and we challenge ourselves to keep raising the bar and publishing a quality and profitable magazine for our farmers.”


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