Ag groups unite to promote modern agriculture

UTICA, Minn. --- Three Winona County farm groups have united to present a positive, proactive message about modern agriculture.

Ag groups unite to promote modern agriculture
A slide from the presentation prepared by the group Promoting Modern Ag in Winona County. This is from Pork and Plants.

UTICA, Minn. --- Three Winona County farm groups have united to present a positive, proactive message about modern agriculture.

The group, Promoting Modern Agriculture, will have its inaugural event March 6 at the Riverport Hotel in Winona.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with registration, a social hour, heavy hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. with an award ceremony, introduction of ag-related scholarships and a presentation of the long-term goals of Promoting Modern Agriculture. Trent Loos is the featured speaker.

Loos and his wife, Kelli, own a purebred Limousin and Angus herd in central Nebraska. His radio program, Loos Tales, airs on more than 100 stations across the nation. He is a contributing columnist to the High Plains Journal and writes a blog, Truth be Told. He is also a motivational speaker who travels the country speaking on issues related to agriculture.

Winona County's corn growers, pork producers and Farm Bureau joined to create Promoting Modern Agriculture. A five to six member core planning group has assembled the program and recruited sponsors. Each sponsor is featured on a slide that will become part of a looping Powerpoint presentation. The presentation will debut at the March 6 event and PMA members hope it will make several more appearances throughout the county in the coming year.


So far, they have almost 40 business sponsors and from 40 to 50 farm sponsors, said farmer Chris Sauer of Lewiston. Farm sponsors pay $100 each and business sponsors contribute from $200 to $1,000.

The slides vary. Some slides have pictures of farm families and others have pictures of farm buildings, grain or livestock. Some have logos. Most have text describing the farm or the farm's economic impact.

There's small farms and large farms and everything in between. There's conventional farms and organic farms.

"There's a place for each of the types," said Mena Kaehler, Winona County Commissioner and beef producer. 

Duane and Liz Wirt of Lewiston are collecting the information for the slides and shipping the information to the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce, which will prepare the Powerpoint presentation.

Sauer said the group's goal is to counter the negative press modern agriculture faces. Farmers and agribusinesses need to be proactive and united to tell the story of agriculture.

Most people don't know the economic impact of agriculture, Kaehler said.

People are removed from the farm and are used to finding whatever they want at the grocery store at one of their multiple visits each week, Sauer said. Consumers want food that's convenient and fast to prepare. He learned about consumer habits when he used to direct market meat. Some consumers didn't know what a roast was or how to prepare it.


PMA is a new way to bring people from across all agriculture sectors together in Winona County, Kaehler and Sauer said. It's part social, part business and also a way to partner to afford a well-known speaker. The organizers hope that by uniting they are able to offer more and larger scholarships than the groups were able to do on their own. Sponsor contributions go toward scholarships, speaker fees and event costs.

Farmers need to work together as a group to feed the world's growing population and present a united message, Sauer said. If they don't, entities with no idea what's going on in agriculture will dictate how food is going to be produced.

He referenced recent news stories about sow gestation crates as evidence. They also talked how farmers and environmentalists are often characterized as pitted against one another.

Farmers are environmentalists, too, Sauer said.

"I don't want my soil washing into the Whitewater," he said.

In the age of social media, a lot of information is available and its spreads rapidly. Social media multiples the impact of inaccurate information, Kaehler said.

Agriculture is way behind the general population on the use of social media, Sauer added.

Kaehler said she learned the importance of telling agriculture's story when her oldest son, Cliff, went to Georgetown University. He was the only farmer his fellow students had ever met. They had no idea what happened on a farm or how livestock was cared for. These young people were destined for careers in politics or public service, she said. They are going to be the ones writing the rules.

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