WILLMAR—Two local entities that have worked independently to provide information and opportunities for the agriculture industry are teaming up for a one-day conference Thursday in Willmar.
Topics for the first-ever Partners in Ag Innovation Conference include new opportunities for industrial hemp, ag technology, marketing trends, government regulations and the art of cooking—and eating—locally-grown foods.
The conference runs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.
The cost is $30, which includes meals.
The event is the result of a collaboration between MinnWest, which had hosted the Ag and Animal Science Conference for eight years, and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission’s Agriculture and Renewable Energy Development Committee that has hosted conferences including last year’s Talent and Technology for the Progressive Farm Manager.
The two groups determined they had a shared mission and merged their efforts to put on a conference that would attract commodity producers as well as others in the ag industry.
Since the groups were competing for the same audience it made sense for the groups to “join forces,” said Dustin Kotrba, a member of the EDC Ag and Renewable Energy Development committee.
He said the two organizations pulled the best from each of their past conferences and “put it into one daily session.”
The collaboration was a “natural fit,” said Joanna Schrupp, general manager at MinnWest.
“We’re all partners together,” said Connie Schmoll, business development specialist with the EDC.
Schmoll said the tagline for the event, “education and conversation around today’s critical issues,” reflects the intent of the conference.
One area that required some compromise was the date of the event.
In the past, MinnWest held their conferences in September or October, when many farmers were in the fields for fall harvest.
Having it Aug. 1, when there’s a lull in most field work, makes it easier for producers to attend, Schrupp said.
The list of issues being covered are applicable to producers as well as ag-related business leaders like succession planners, insurance agents, equipment dealers and bankers, said Schmoll.
The topics on the agenda reflect areas of interest expressed in a 2017 survey of Kandiyohi County farmers, as well as current hot topics like industrial hemp.
Bethleen McCall, vice president of the Colorado Hemp Industries Association, will speak about market opportunities for that emerging commodity.
Industrial hemp is a topic the EDC committee has been exploring for the past year and is a commodity that a growing number of local farmers may consider in their future crop rotation, said Kotrba. Getting information to them now will help them make decisions about pursuing that market, he said.
Given the volatile markets for all commodities and producers search for direction, the keynote speaker is Darin Newsom, a popular speaker with 30 years of commodity market analysis experience.
Newsom’s presentation will provide a “set of market rules” to apply to the questions about what drives commodity markets.
Don Carlson, commodities manager form Bushmills Ethanol in Atwater, will also speak about factors that influence market trends.
Precision technology, and what to do with the data collected by that new technology, will be presented by four local individuals including co-ops, a private adviser and a Ridgewater College ag instructor.
Government regulations that affect agriculture will be featured in a “fireside chat” with representatives from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Rep. Collin Peterson’s office.
Chef and founder of the Model Citizen restaurant in New London, Mateo Mackbee, will tell his story of teaching youth about growing food and cooking with what you grow as he uses the farm-to-table practices in his business.
Model Citizen will also provide the lunch for the event.
Schrupp and Schmoll said the partnership between the EDC and Minnwest Technology Campus is supported by numerous local ag businesses provided funds to co-sponsor the conference.
For more information, or to register for the conference, go to www.partnersinag.com.
West Central Tribune by Carolyn Lange