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Minnesota Soybean Business

The recruiter: Bob Nelsen puts pen to paper for MSGA

September-October 2021

Sitting at the kitchen table, Robert “Bob” Nelsen can spot the two top recruiter titles he earned for his masterful recruiting skills for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) and American Soybean Association.

When recruiting, he takes his own approach with hand-written letters to farmers in his area. He estimates that he writes around 500 letters a year for recruitment of MSGA and Minnesota Corn Growers Association and plans to continue. His efforts don’t go unappreciated by his fellow directors.

“Bob Nelsen is one of the most dedicated MSGA members that we have,” former MSGA President Jamie Beyer said.  “He does a really great job of conveying the worth of your membership and since he’s been a member for so long, he fully understands why MSGA was created and how it has benefited soybean farmers in Minnesota. He is very motivated that those in his community recognize that value.”

With just a notepad and a pen, Nelsen keeps the membership letters simple, but personal asking how their family is doing or how planting is going and emphasizing how important their membership is to MSGA.

“I can’t say enough about Bob,” said MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek. “He is a great guy, and an amazing advocate for Minnesota’s agricultural communities. His help recruiting members and volunteering on the MSGA Board have helped generations of soybean farmers through building a strong organization that advocates for our members in St. Paul and D.C.”

A ’passion’ for MSGA

His time writing letters pays off in more ways than one.

From his recruiting, he brings in over 100 memberships to MSGA each year. On top of recruiting members, he also receives thank you letters from them, thanking him for taking the time to reach out in a personable way.

“Bob is one of the nicest and easiest to work with, he is always thinking and talking membership,” MSGA Membership Manager Jodie Arndt said. “His passion for MSGA is undeniable, he makes my job so much easier.”

The personal touch: MSGA Director Bob Nelsen hand writes recruiting letters to potential members.

Nelsen has been an MSGA board member for 20 years. He stresses the importance of membership for advocating at the local, state and national level on behalf of farmers. MSGA thrives on memberships to lobby and advocate on behalf of farmers.

“People don’t realize what’s going on in the state or federal level and being a member of MSGA, you get this information, they tell you what’s going on,” Nelsen said.  “I mean, you’re focused on farming or whatever and don’t realize what’s going on in the world or the state or federal level.”

Precious memories

Nelsen isn’t just known for his membership recruiting prowess. When he’s not writing letters, attending meetings, or doing chores on the farm, the Murray County farmer can be found in his antique toy collection room. Nelsen’s collection started with items given to him from his neighbors that throughout the years people have sought out to buy from him.

Not for sale: Bob and Sally Nelsen pose alongside Bob’s antique toy collection.

He had the opportunity to sell some of his collection on the American Pickers show when hosts Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe were in the area, but he wasn’t interested and instead hopes to put the collection in a museum in his area one day.

The toy collection is more than antiques to Nelsen; they remind him of his childhood. Some of the items in his collection are rare. He has a model tractor toys with farmers mounted on the seat, a red mobo horse from England, John Deer A and John Deer B models, among other toys on display.

His coveted collection is stored in an addition on his garage that is temperature-regulated and quarantined off from animals and guests.

He has more toys in his sheds on the farm, but they are in less pristine condition than the ones in the display room. He’s not fussy on what he gets for his collection that is only continuing to grow. A cousin of Nelsen is bringing him  half a semi-load of toys soon, and he is already planning on what to do with them for display and storage.

The regulated room is filled with over 50 pedal bikes, cars and airplanes, along with hundreds of miniature tractors, trucks, airplanes as well as memorabilia from his life.

And, no, don’t even think about making him an offer…

“(The collection) brought back a lot of memories,” Nelsen said. “So much of this was given to me. … I just don’t want to sell.”

A photo of his grandfather hangs on the wall showing him delivering the mail in his car in the early 1900s, a newspaper article about Nelsen’s family farm sits on a shelf and a newspaper clipping his mother kept of his swearing into the army leans against a toy on a shelf among many other memories. Nelsen served in the Army for three years before returning to the family farm.

His daughter Elizabeth is the third-generation to operate the family farm, with her kids helping care and farm the more than 400 acres of land. The family also raises beef Highland Cattle, chickens and turkeys to care for. Nelsen is still active on the farm caring for the animals.

He hopes that his recruiting success will encourage his colleagues to continue attracting bringing members of their communities to MSGA.

“I tell them everyone either has neighbors, friends or relatives, I mean that’s three people you can go see and maybe get a membership from,” Nelsen said. “I want them (farmers) to care.”

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