During a visit to Washington, D.C. as part of the American Soybean Association’s Leadership At Its Best program, Darin Johnson was told he’d have about 15 minutes to meet with Rep. Jim Hagedorn (MN-01).
Instead, Johnson visited with his district representative for 90 minutes in Hagedorn’s DC office in mid-February.
“It was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity and it was a really good experience,” says Johnson who farms in Wells and is a Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) director.
Johnson and the freshman congressman talked agriculture policy, tariffs and health care during their chat. After visiting with Hagedorn, Johnson was given a tour by the congressman’s legislative assistant.
“We had a really good discussion about issues concerning farmers, and of course, health care on a federal level is a huge issue,” Johnson said.
The Leadership At Its Best program, sponsored by Syngenta, is designed to provide state soybean leaders with advanced leadership training and the necessary communication skills to make a difference in American agriculture while advancing into leadership positions on a national level.
The program is a two-part training program that includes advanced leadership, agricultural issues, communications and media training, culminating in Washington, D.C. with Capitol Hill visits.
“The first day we had some strength training, where we had figure out what our strengths are and how to use them most efficiently,” said Johnson, who was the only Minnesota farmer selected out of 48 participants. “That was really good, because I learned a lot about how other people used their strengths to the fullest ability.”
Johnson said his biggest takeaway during the training session was learning about the different routes farmers took to agriculture.
“Listening to the different perspective from organizations was really eye-opening,” he said. “Our end goal is the same, we just had a different path to getting there. The interaction I had with other future leaders was great.”
Johnson says he hopes his Leadership At Its Best experience leads to further ag leadership positions.
“Hopefully this will be a stepping stone to other leadership opportunities,” he said. “If anyone has the opportunity to participate in this program, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. I look a lot away from it.”
Less than a week after his visit with Rep. Hagedorn, Johnson was putting his leadership training to work during MSGA’s Hill Visits in St. Paul.
“I always want to better myself as a farmer leader,” he said.