Sarah dornink

A Chat with Sarah Dornink MAELC Executive Director

Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation? How long have you served in this position?
Sarah Dornink: I am the executive director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council. I have served as the director since 2013; however, I started with MAELC in the assistant role in 2006.

FMN: What are your organization’s primary objectives?
SD: MAELC is a 17-member legislative council that provides leadership to promote and expand agricultural education in Minnesota. The state Legislature, agricultural educators and agriculture industry leaders are all represented on the council. Our work is based around key goals and strategies to enhance agriculture, food and natural resource education, which can be categorized into four broad themes, including quality of instruction, increasing the numbers and types of those involved in AFNR education, improving the understanding of AFNR systems and supporting AFNR programs locally and statewide.

FMN: How does your organization benefit its members?
SD: Although we do not have specific “members,” we work with the agricultural instructors and programs across the state at multiple levels including agricultural literacy, school-based AFNR education, postsecondary AFNR education, teacher preparation in agricultural education and farm business management. We support their work providing quality AFNR instruction to as many individuals as possible. This is done through advocacy to improve the understanding and needs of AFNR programming, engaging stakeholders to advance our statewide goals and strategies and financially supporting AFNR programs and individuals who want to become agriculture teachers through legislative dollars.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
SD: I grew up on a small swine and sheep farm near Harmony.

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
SD: No, we do not currently farm as we live in the metro area; however, my husband and I do own a few head of cattle that are housed with my in-laws’ beef herd near Preston.

FMN: Family?
SD: My husband, Dallas, is employed at the University of Minnesota Meat Laboratory, and we are raising two children, Evelyn and Bryson.

FMN: Outside interests?
SD: With chasing two small children and working, there isn’t much time for outside interests, but I do like traveling, reading, golfing and spending time with family and friends.

FMN: What advice would you give young people looking at a career in agriculture?
SD: Do your research — job shadow, intern, visit college campuses — start building your network, find multiple mentors, get involved in agriculture organizations and be open to careers you’ve never considered.

A chat with David Hussong Jackson County Soil & Water Conservation Director

David hussong for fmn
Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation? How long have you served in this position?
David Hussong: I have been on the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation Board of Directors for more than 12 years. I am presently the treasurer. Our board members rotate positions in two year terms.

FMN: What are your organization’s primary objectives?
DH: Our primary objectives are all related to conservation. We work closely with the NRCS and FSA offices. Land Management is now in the same building and it has become a one stop shop. The county also bought the building next to our building for recycling of hazardous waste, too.

FMN: How does your organization benefit its members?
DH: We help rural residents with septic systems, soil bank erosion issues, wetland restoration, grass waterways and have designers in our office who help design terraces and surveying. In the spring we offer tree and shrubs for sale as well as a planting service for trees and we have a seven to ten foot drill we rent out along with a scraper for clearing off water ways.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
DH: I grew up on my family’s farm in Okabena.

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
DH: We currently farm north of Okabena on my family’s original farm ground.

FMN Can you describe your operation?
DH: My son, Jon and I have a cow/calf operation on our place south of Okabena and also grow corn and soybeans.

FMN: Family?
DH: Our son, Jon is our only child. When my wife, Bev and I found out this place was coming up for sale we purchased it. That was 29 years ago.

FMN: Outside interests?
DH: My only outside interest is I like to do a little deer hunting otherwise I am mostly here at home.

FMN: What advice would you give young people looking at a career in agriculture?
DH: Farming is a long and tough job. Starting in late spring, all of the summer and into early fall it is a lot of hard work but the benefits come back to you. I would suggest getting into it slowly. And I would encourage younger people not to be afraid to get involved with other organizations.

 

A chat with Kim Guenther Minnestota Farmers' Market Association Communications Director

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Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation?  How long have you served in this position?
Kim Guenther: I work full-time at Southwest Minnesota State University as the director of concurrent enrollment, and part-time as the communications director for the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association (MFMA) and coordinator of the Marshall Minnesota Farmers’ Market (MMFM). I have worked in higher education for 20 years at several Colleges and Universities across the Midwest in a number of capacities including communications and public relations. I’m quite new to the field of Agriculture. I’ve been with the MMFM for just over a year, and just started with MFMA in the past couple months.

FMN: What is the primary objective of your organization?
KG: The MFMA mission is to provide services, programs and leadership that support and promote farmers’ markets across Minnesota. MFMA envisions a community of vibrant profitable and professionally managed Minnesota Farmers’ Markets that:
•Cultivate, nourish and inspire vibrant local foods communities;
•Provide accessibility to local farm fresh foods; and
•Allow opportunities for local food producers to thrive and grow.

FMN: How does your organization benefit its members?
KG: MFMA offers a variety of services to our members. One main offering is a group insurance policy exclusively for MFMA member markets and vendors. We have many markets and vendors utilizing this service. We also equip vendors and market staff with tools and education necessary to run successful markets, collaborate with a variety of organizations including MDH (Minnesota Department of Health) and MDA (Minnesota Department of Agriculture) to help members navigate the complex world of food regulations, and provide a network of support for members to share ideas and best practices.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
KG: I’m originally from Marshalltown, Iowa. I graduated from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa with a degree in Corporate Communications. I then moved to Minnesota for graduate school at Minnesota State University, Mankato. After school, I moved to Missouri for nine years, and then back to Minnesota where we have been for the past nine years.

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
KG: No, I have never farmed. My parents both grew up on farms in central Iowa, so I spent time a lot of time there as a child, but I do not have a background in agriculture. I have a passion for farmers’ markets, however, and for supporting local agriculture, and access to farm-fresh foods. I love raising my kids to be adventurous and nutritious eaters, and I love living and raising my kids in the Midwest.

FMN: Can you describe your business operation?
KG: The MFMA has a three-person staff located in different territories across the state. The Executive Director, Kathy Zeman, is a lifelong farmer and owner of Simple Harvest Farm Organics in Nerstrand in southcentral Minnesota. The Director of Member Services, Jesse Davis, farms the family business, Trout Lake Garlic, with his husband near Grand Rapids in northern Minnesota. They both have many agricultural connections in Minnesota and have done a great job building and growing MFMA. As the newest addition to the staff, I run the communications and public relations components of the association and I’m located in Marshall, in southwestern Minnesota. We also have a very active Advisory Board of farmers and market managers from across the state. I’m proud to work with all of them. Having staff in three distinct locations in the state will give MFMA the ability to offer better service and support to markets across the state, but especially in southwest Minnesota where there has not previously been an MFMA staff person. We hope markets like Pipestone, Luverne, Redwood Falls, Marshall and others will benefit.

FMN: Family?
KG:  My husband, Christian, and I have three very active sons, McCoy (11), Coby (9), Cade (5). They keep us on our toes!

FMN: Outside interests?
KG:  We are involved in a variety of sports with our boys including hockey, soccer and football. But my favorite thing to do is travel, which I hope to do a lot more of it in the upcoming years.

FMN: What advise would you give young people interested in pursuing a career in agriculture?
KG:  I’m new to work in agriculture as most of my career has been in higher education. But as for general career advice, I’d give a few tips:
1. Always look five years down the road. Ask yourself what you want to be doing at that time, then figure out your steps to make that happen. Have a career road map.
2. Be the hardest working person in the room. In my family, we regularly say, “the legs feed the wolf.” Be ready to work longer and harder than others. But also find ways to balance work and family as well.
3. Regardless of your career path, figure out who your customer is and what you can do to create genuine value for them.
4. Figure out how to think strategically as well as operationally. (Work ON your business as well as in it).
5. Develop yourself as a leader. Continue to seek out opportunities to increase your knowledge in the field. Ask lots of questions and then truly listen.
 

A Chat with Tracey Schley, Director of the Jackson Food Shelf

A chat with Tracey Schley, Director of the Jackson Food Shelf

Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation? How long have you served in this position?
Tracey Schley: Director of the Jackson Food Shelf, Inc. I started as a volunteer for the food shelf in 2013 and became the co-coordinator in 2014. In 2018, I became the Director.

FMN: What are your organization’s primary objectives?
TS: The Food Shelf has several objectives, as we serve many different clients. Mainly, we want to provide a safe environment for anyone in need of food. We always strive to make it a happy healthy place with healthy food choices.

FMN: How does your organization benefit its members?
TS: Healthy and Nutritional Food is a benefit we provide. When you are faced with tough choices and wondering how you are going to feed your family, it is a huge benefit to have a place that will help with healthy food so you will be able to pay your heating bill or get the medicine you need for your child.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
TS: I grew up a farmer’s daughter, by Ceylon, Minn., the youngest of seven children.

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
TS: Yes, I did not travel far from my home. All my life I have been a part of agriculture.

FMN: Can you describe your operation?
TS: We currently farm with our nephew, Kyle Schley, and his family. We grow both corn and soybeans. Between the combined acres of the two families and some custom work, we work roughly 1,800 acres of ground.

FMN: Family?
TS: My husband is Dan Schley. I have two daughters, Stephanie Moore and Mackenzie Schley; stepson Ryan Schley; stepdaughter Kelly Schley and seven grandchildren.

FMN: Outside interests?
TS: I enjoy gardening, crocheting and reading.

FMN: What advice would you give young people looking at a career in agriculture?
TS:  The future looks bright for young people looking to get involved in agriculture as there is less than 2 percent involved in production agriculture, whether it be in a business side of ag or farming. My advice to young people would be to work hard, do your best and don’t be afraid to think outside the box or try something new.