Minnesota Soybean Business

The columnist: Kent Thiesse steps aside from banker role, will continue ag involvement

March-April 2024

Kent Thiesse isn’t keeping banker’s hours these days and the agriculture insider is still getting used to the slower pace.

“I’m still in the adjustment phase,” Thiesse said from his home in Lake Crystal.

Give him some time, though. After four decades advising producers in farm management and agricultural lending, Thiesse recently retired from his position as senior vice president and chief ag loan officer at MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal. Thiesse spent more than 20 years at the bank and felt it was time to dial back his various pursuits.

“I’m at a place in my career where I guess it made sense,” he said.

But by no means is Thiesse completely retired – far from it, actually. He’ll still write his Ag Outlook column for Minnesota Valley Business magazine and pen his popular weekly e-newsletter, Focus on Ag, which is distributed to more than 1,000 subscribers. His childhood friend, Minnesota Rep. and House Ag Committee member Paul Anderson, said Thiesse’s columns are a must-read look into the agriculture economy.

“I really admire his ability to get that column out every week,” said Rep. Anderson, a former newspaper columnist who rode the same Starbuck school bus as Thiesse. “Sometimes, it gets hard to find a topic to write about, but Kent is really amazing at how he can put it out on a weekly basis, even during a holiday.”

Thiesse also has plenty of other irons in the fire. He’s involved with the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial School Board, the Lake Crystal Chamber of Commerce and 4-H and FFA groups. He’s also a longtime radio voice of the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament and remains passionate about University Extension programs.

“Kent is a very well-respected voice in Minnesota agriculture,” Rep. Anderson said.

His retirement from the banking industry not only frees up time for Thiesse to continue his side ventures, but he’ll also have a chance to spend more time with his five grandchildren.

“You know, I’ve got no big plans,” Thiesse said. “But if the right opportunity comes along, I’d certainly look at it.”

Giving through involvement

It’s a small world, and the agriculture word is even more compressed. A native of Martin County, Thiesse spent part of his childhood on a farm in Pope County, where his dad raised grains, including soybeans. The Thiesses lived just a half-mile from Paul Anderson. And about a half-mile down the road lived Paul Freeman, who later became president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) and now serves on the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. Freeman is a few years younger than Thiesse but remembers Thiesse on the 4-H judging team alongside Freeman’s older sister.

MSR&PC Director Paul Freeman (right) and Kent Thiesse are childhood friends who continue to stay connected through agriculture.

“That was his first big success,” Freeman said. “Kent’s sure given a lot.”

Thiesse is also a longtime member of MSGA and has appeared as a speaker and moderator at events including organized county events, MN Ag Expo and Farmfest, further raising his public profile. To close out the 2024 MN Ag Expo, Thiesse moderated a biofuels panel.

“I’ve always had a high degree of respect for Minnesota Soybean,” he said. “I’ve always been impressed with the people they’ve had working for producers and what the organization’s been able to accomplish.”

Thiesse also developed friendships with numerous farmer leaders, including MSGA Director Earl Ziegler, President Bob Worth and the late Gary Joachim.

“It’s kind of a second-to-none organization with what they’ve been able to do over the years,” he said. “I’ve always tried to be involved. It’s just a great relationship. And it’s great that it’s not just statewide, but (Minnesota Soybean) has really tried to be involved at the local level because not everybody gets involved at the higher level.”

Thiesse worked as a farm mediator in Rock County during the peak of the 1980s farm crisis — an era he has no desire to relive.

“Boy, those were some tough times,” Thiesse said.

Over the past 40 years, Thiesse said technology advancements have made the tough times a little bit easier to navigate.

“Technology has totally changed everything — for farmers and folks like myself who work with farmers and most of it is good because it’s instantaneous,” he said. “You can respond to folks instantaneously and get them the information they need and just some of the tools that are available through technology are amazing, really.”

Though challenges always pop up in agriculture, Thiesse remains optimistic about market conditions.

“We come into this year in a pretty good position because we’re coming off a couple of really good years, profit wise,” he said. “There’s a lot of positives out there with soybeans and some of the newer processing plants that are coming online. That certainly adds to a lot of optimism out there.”

Farmfest isn’t until August, but Thiesse, who helps coordinate the forums inside the Wick Building, is already working with organizers to plan this year’s speaking agenda.

“Of course, this year will be an election year, so we’ll probably have a couple of candidate forums in there,” he said. “I’m definitely looking forward to that.

To subscribe to Thiesse’s Focus on Ag column, email kentthiesse@gmail.com.


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