A chat with Jason Freking
Mayor of Heron Lake

Fmn q a jason freking 1
Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation? How long have you served in this position?
Jason Freking: I am mayor of Heron Lake, and have been for seven years. I am in my fourth term as mayor.

FMN: What are your organization’s primary objectives?
JF: The primary objectives of the mayor and the Heron Lake City Council are to run the city as effectively as possible at the lowest cost to our community members while still keeping our basic services operating efficiently, along with anything else they might need.

FMN: How does your organization benefit its members?
JF: Our community members benefit from the services we offer including law enforcement, city utilities, a city park, good roads and snow removal, emergency services, fire protection and any other services they might need, such as our community center, as well as providing a good atmosphere for our local businesses to operate within our town.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
JF: I grew up on a farm northwest of Heron Lake raising corn and soybeans and running a farrow-to-finish swine operation.

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
JF: I am currently raising corn and soybeans along with my dad, Ed, and brother, Ryan, at that same location.

FMN: Can you describe your operation?
JF: We primarily strip till our corn and no till our soybeans.

FMN: Family?
JF: I am married to my wife, Tracy, and we have two daughters, Brooke and Samantha.

FMN: Outside interests?
JF: When we aren’t working and chasing after our daughters, we like to take vacations.

FMN: What advice would you give young people looking at a career in agriculture?
JF: 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.


A chat with Lucas Sjostrom, Minnesota Milk Executive Director

Sjostrom headshot
Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation?  How long have you served in this position?
Lucas Sjostrom: I’ve been working for Minnesota Milk since February 2016, and as executive director since January 2017.

FMN: What is the primary objective of your organization?
LS: We aim to advance the success of Minnesota dairy farms.

FMN: How does your organization benefit its members?
LS: Minnesota Milk has some pretty visible explicit benefits, and many more unseen and hard-to-measure benefits. We work in three areas: Education, Membership and Policy. We put on educational seminars for dairy farmers in partnership with many other organizations throughout the state, fun events and tours and other sessions that will benefit dairy farmers, their employees, and the industry as a whole.
Our members have access to 12, $1,000 scholarships for their children and employees; we provide Ridgewater College’s dairy students with matches in their mentorship program; and we work to bring together our members and legislators/regulators to solve problems with common sense, outside of regulation or legislation first.
However, our bread-and-butter is policy, and everything we do with membership and education leads to a cycle of continued policy work, which in turn influences the other two areas. We have a contract lobbyist in St. Paul who helps direct our staff and dairy farmers in often playing defense at times so dairy is part of the discussion, and occasionally playing offense to get more benefits to dairy farmers. We also maintain relationships with state and federal officials, creating instant lines of communication when the need arises.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
LS: I grew up on a dairy and crop farm with my parents, Steve and Deb, and grandparents, Lowell and Adrianne, in Nicollet County, near Lafayette. My grandparents, parents, and brother, Jacob and his fiancée, Lindsay, are still operating the farm, in addition to several custom businesses.

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
LS: My job is full-time, but I occasionally help out family at Jer-Lindy Farms LLC and Redhead Creamery LLC near Brooten. My wife, Alise (Jennissen) Sjostrom had a dream to keep it going with a cheese plant, and we farm and operate the cheese plant with her parents, Jerry and Linda Jennissen.

FMN: Can you describe your business operation?
LS: My parents-in-law, Jerry and Linda, are the primary managers of our dairy farm, which has 200 cows and all youngstock, in addition to acreage to nearly fulfill our feed needs. Alise and Linda are primary managers of the creamery, which processes about 9 percent of our milk to artisan farmstead cheeses, and includes agritourism and restaurant aspects as well. We’re open year-round for tours of the farm and tastings/dinners in the cheese plant.

FMN: Family?
LS: Alise and I have two young children, Lucy and Henry.

FMN: Outside interests?
LS: I serve on the Stearns County Parks Board, we are active within the River of Life Church in Sauk Centre, and I volunteer for Junior Achievement at Sauk Centre Schools. We also love all things University of Minnesota. Go Gophers!

FMN: What advice would you give young people interested in pursuing a career in agriculture?
LS: Get a variety of experiences during your high school years in activities, job shadows and employment. Looking back, some of my best experiences were things I did not enjoy, so I could cross them off the list of future potential jobs or careers. Also, something I’ve really come to realize is how much I don’t know. No doubt, at age 18, 22, or even 30, you feel like you’re a well-informed adult who can make good decisions. Generally that is true, but I’m continuing to realize the other generation’s wisdom is so much more valuable than I could previously comprehend. The world moves so much faster and so much slower in different aspects than we understand as young adults.


A chat with Sean Maday, hog grower, crop farmer

Sean maday
Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation? How long have you served in this position?
Sean Maday: I am a contract hog grower and a corn and soybean farmer. I have also been a crop insurance agent for the Buchan & Bremer Crop Insurance Agency since January 2017.

FMN: Where did you grow up?
SM: Granada

FMN: Do you farm currently? If so where?
SM: Yes, primarily in Martin County but also into Faribault and Kossuth counties.

FMN: Can you describe your operation?
SM: We currently have a general partnership formed between my brother, dad, uncle, two cousins and myself.  We crop farm corn and soybeans and some sweet corn.

FMN: Family?
SM: I am married, and we just recently had a daughter.
 FMN: Outside interests?
SM: I am an avid Vikings fan, but enjoy sports and exploring Minnesota. A large interest is taking the time to appreciate what we have and have done by relaxing during the slower times of the year.

FMN: What advice would you give young people looking at a career in agriculture?
SM: Even though the news and the coffee shop talk is not always good as far as the outlook goes, there are so many different jobs and areas in agriculture to find a career that best suits them. It’s not just row crop farming and building hog barns. Plus, we need the next generation to start learning and even stepping into leadership roles. I look at my own farm — I am the second oldest of the next generation and my dad and uncle won’t be farming forever. So I need to learn and step up as a leader. I would challenge any young people to take on or pursue a leadership role in agriculture because in 15, 20, 30 years, it’s going to be on our generation to keep things going.

A Chat with Ryan Melkert, Ag in the Classroom Teacher

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Farm Market News: What is your professional affiliation? How long have you served in this position?
Ryan Melkert: I teach second grade at Martin County West in Sherburn, which recently received an Ag in the Classroom grant. I am in my fourth year of teaching at MCW and love every minute of it!
Farm Market News: What are your organization’s primary objectives?
RM: The primary objective I had in writing the Ag in the Classroom grant was to find hands-on ways to integrate science, engineering and math principles into my classroom. My classroom budget does not allow for very much money to be spent on costly science equipment and lab supplies, and this grant was an excellent way to get materials and to teach my students about a very important industry in Minnesota.
Farm Market News: How does your organization benefit its members?
RM: For this grant, I worked with one of the high school agricultural education instructors in our school district to integrate agricultural concepts into the science standards I need to cover. The students in my classroom will benefit greatly from this collaboration because we will have new materials and supplies to make learning about science and agriculture exciting!
Farm Market News: Where did you grow up?
RM: I grew up in a small town called Rothsay located near Fergus Falls. It is a rural community like this one that is very agricultural driven.
Farm Market News: Do you farm currently? If so where?
RM: Currently I do not live on a farm, but I used to.
Farm Market News: Can you describe your operation?
RM: When I lived on a farm, my family raised around 130 feeder pigs, 40 head of cattle and 120 chickens.
Farm Market News: Family?
RM: I have four sisters.
FMN: Outside interests?
RM: When I am not teaching, I am either spending time with my friends, family and dog; coaching sports; playing softball; playing rugby for the Mankato Marauders; or listening to music.
FMN: What advice would you give young people looking at a career in agriculture?
RM: Through teaching in a rural community, I’ve found almost every career in this area will have some relationship with agriculture. I encourage young people to learn as much as they can about agriculture to see if there is an area that interests them!