Minnesota Soybean Business

Team player: Tom Frisch steps up to the plate for MSR&PC

September-October 2023

Upon entering the town of Dumont, Minn., (population: 75) a welcome sign greets visitors: “Boyhood Home of Dick Bremer, TV Voice of the MN Twins.” 

All due respect to Bremer, but perhaps the sign should be amended: “Lifelong Home of Tom Frisch, Chair of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.” In Dumont, both farming and baseball have been a way of life for generations. 

“It was a small town, and that’s what everybody did – played baseball,” Frisch said. “A lot of farm kids played.”

While Bremer broadcasts for the hometown baseball club, Frisch has become a leading voice for Minnesota soybean growers and plays an important position on Team Soybean. But soybean leadership, like the national pastime, requires input from all the key players in the lineup. 

“Every one of our directors has great ideas,” said Frisch, who replaced Joe Serbus as chair. “They’re all experts in their fields and I think it’s important for a chair to provide an atmosphere of open and honest dialogue where directors can disagree in a respectful manner – all with the end goal of best directing the checkoff.”

Farming, of course, is another Frisch family pastime: Tom currently grows soybeans, corn and alfalfa on the fourth-generation family farm alongside his cousins Dean, Greg and Paul. Prior to joining the Council in 2019, Frisch served on his local golf course board. For the past 20 years, he has been an active member on the Dumont Volunteer Fire Department, previously serving as chief. He’s also the current township board chairperson. 

“My grandfather prided himself in serving the community that had provided so much for him,” Frisch said. “I try to follow the same philosophy.”

Tom and his farm aren’t just part of the community in spirit; they are literal centerpieces. Frisch’s office, along with his cousin Paul’s insurance agency, are located on Main Street. His farm shop is located just behind it, and his bin site is across the street. Oh, and their fields and other farm sites surround the town. 

Board, not bored

Along with a commitment to community, Frisch is an all-star player for soybeans. He helps direct national checkoff investments on the United Soybean Board (USB) and serves as treasurer of the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC) board, along with the myriad duties that come with leading MSR&PC.

With USB, Frisch teams up with members from across the country to create profit opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers.

“It’s a lot like serving on MSR&PC, only a hundred times bigger,” said Frisch, who was appointed to USB in 2022. “It’s interesting to see some different perspectives with farmers from different regions, but in the end we all want the same thing and that’s to add more value to soybeans.”

Frisch first became involved with the Council in 2014, when he participated in MSR&PC’s See For Yourself mission to Japan and the Philippines.

“Being a part of the mission opened my eyes to what our soybeans are used for overseas and how our checkoff board can make a difference,” he said. “It showed me the big picture – how our checkoff dollar investments can help the local farmer.”

MSR&PC Chair Tom Frisch is one of four farmers who represent Minnesota on the United Soybean Board.

Before becoming MSR&PC chair, Frisch has been involved in two of the Council’s recent investments: TruSoya high oleic varieties and the AIC. “Last year we grew a TruSoya soybean variety on our farm, and those beans will be the first specialty soybeans to be crushed at the new Ag Innovation Campus in Crookston,” Frisch said. “Both those projects are very exciting investments for the checkoff and it’s neat to see them tied together.”

The meal from those beans will be used to study the benefits of high oleic meal for aquaculture.

Research & Promotion

Tom and his wife, Dr. Jane Vangsness Frisch, live about two miles north of the original Felix Frisch and Sons homestead. Off the farm, the Frischs enjoy the good life with their dog, Josie Jo, and relax by traveling, hunting, fishing and golfing. The Frischs, who married in 2010, met during a golf outing when Tom was paired with Jane’s father, uncle and brother.

“My wife is way better than me at golf,” Tom said of Jane, who owns a small consulting firm focused on nonprofits and higher education, while also serving as an affiliate graduate faculty member at North Dakota State University.

Frisch operates a small crop consulting business and has directed his energy toward research following his election to the Council. He focused on studying new lines of soybeans with disease resistance and ways farmers can grow more productive soybeans. 

As chair, Frisch is also focused on the promotion of soybeans. 

“I’m excited to change gears a little bit and see what we can do to bring Minnesota soybeans to new markets and increase demand,” Frisch said. “We have a trip to the Port of Halifax coming up to see if we can get more of our soybeans shipped out of Duluth through the St. Lawrence Seaway and over to countries like Uzbekistan, where we recently had a trade team visit as well.” 

Future of soybeans 

As Council chair, Frisch will lean on his managerial approach and expertise to help guide the organization, but said his director peers help Minnesota soybeans take home the pennant. 

“There are 14 other directors who serve on the Council, and they have all been tremendous to work with,” he said. “They’re all very knowledgeable and they all want what’s best for Minnesota soybeans.” 

Vice Chair Gail Donkers joined the Council in 2019 alongside Frisch and has watched him hone his leadership skills. 

“Tom has been a great asset to the MSR&PC, especially with his work on the Ag Innovation Campus,” she said. “I really value his input and I’m eager to work alongside him in his new role.” 

Being chair also means a lot more time away from the family farm, but Frisch is lucky to have an understanding family standing behind him. 

“It’s a lot of time and investment to serve as chair, and I couldn’t without the support of my family to help out on the farm,” he said. “There’s a lot more travel, meetings and functions, but the guys on the farm understand what I do is important for them and the big picture when it comes to soybeans.” 

After four years on the Council and serving on numerous checkoff boards, including the North Central Soybean Research Program, Frisch understands that not every checkoff program is a grand slam. Some projects hit the gap; others, bunt singles. But, with a mix of patience and awareness, the runs pile up. 

“I think the Council and the checkoff are in a great place right now,” he said. “We’re winning for our farmers.” 


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