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VanDerWal excited to put love of learning, production agriculture to work

Allison VanDerWal is excited to put her love of learning and production agriculture to work as the new executive director of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Quality Assurance coordinator.
The Sanborn native was hired by the Minnesota Beef Council earlier this year. She will start her new position in early April.
In her position, VanDerWal will be responsible for the management of the BQA program and will serve as the staff lead for the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.
“I am excited to bring my knowledge of science and feedlot production to the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association,” VanDerWal said.
VanDerWal grew up on the family feedlot near Sanborn. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in May 2019 with her master’s degree in ruminant nutrition.
VanDerWal has been immersed in the Minnesota beef industry all her life, with experience working with a Minnesota feed company, completing her master’s degree and working for the Feedlot Nutrition Research Group and for the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University.
“I went to graduate school because I love learning and applying knowledge to production agriculture, and I am excited to work closely with cattlemen and women to address issues of Minnesota cattle production together,” VanDerWal said.
Mike Landuyt of Walnut Grove, president of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, said he and the entire board of directors are thrilled to have VanDerWal onboard.
“We are excited for Allison to work on existing Minnesota cattlemen initiatives and progress our association forward,” Landuyt said.

Meet Murray County’s 2019 Farm Family of the Year

When he learned about a year ago that his family would be Murray County’s Farm Family of the Year for 2019, David Herrig thought it was a surprising choice.
“I said, ‘We’re not really farmers,’” Herrig said, noting that he and his wife Jan only have about eight-and-a-half acres at their farm about four miles southwest of Slayton.
Herrig, 65, said the Murray County Extension Committee members that selected his family told him that being a Farm Family doesn’t mean having a large operation. The program honors families “for their contributions to the agriculture industry and their local communities,” according to the University of Minnesota, which recognizes Farm Families from around the state each year during Farm Fest in August.
Herrig said having his family chosen as the Farm Family of the Year was also surprising due to the fact that he is on the Murray County Extension Committee that selects the family to receive that honor. Herrig said he missed one of the committee meetings and the committee chose his family at that meeting.
He said it was an honor to have his family selected.
The family’s farming operations revolve around sheep. They raise Hampshires and Southdowns and typically have about 50 ewes, 25 ewe lambs and around five rams on hand. They use their eight-and-a-half acres of land for pasture.
The family shows their sheep around the country and their Hampshires have become nationally known for their winning record at the Ohio Showcase Sale, the National Hampshire Show and Sale in Missouri and the International Livestock Exposition in Kentucky, according to the U of M.
Generations of the Herrig family have also shown sheep at the Murray County Fair and Minnesota State Fair.
Herrig said he started showing sheep with 4-H when he was 8 years old. Later, his children showed sheep and now some of his grandchildren do.
“It’s kind of a family deal,” Herrig said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
In addition to showing sheep as a child, Herrig started sheering them at 13. He did that professionally until 1990.
Just a few years later in 1993 the family bought four ewe lambs when his son, Jake, wanted to show sheep in 4-H. The plan was to sell the sheep when Jake graduated from high school to help pay for his college. That didn’t happen and the family is still raising sheep 20 years later.
Their farm has been in the family since 1904 when Herrig’s grandfather bought it. David grew up there and he and Jan, 69, purchased it from his dad and uncle in 1988. Jan is retired and Herrig works at Slayton Discount Liquor.
He and Jan have four children — Joel, Jed, Meg and Jake — and 11 grandchildren ranging in age from 2-to-18 years. Herrig said he feels fortunate that all of their children and grandchildren live fairly close to them.
In addition to being part of the Murray County Extension Committee, Herrig is on the Murray County 4-H livestock committee, helps with the 4-H sheep project and is vice president of the Murray County Fair Board.
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Schwaller writes, speaks, lives agriculture

Karen Schwaller looks at life through the lens of agriculture.  The profession colors her writing, speaking and everyday
living.  Schwaller lives on a grain and livestock farm near Milford, Iowa, with her husband, Dave. When not fulfilling the role of farm wife, Schwaller writes and speaks.
She said her purpose in writing and speaking is to entertain, Karen Schwaller
inspire and motivate people with a specific message in mind. Much of her writing and speaking centers on agriculture, as she seeks to tell the story of what it is to be
a member of an Iowa farm family through all of the ups and downs of farm life. She said plenty of humor and heart help her tell these stories. “I am here to bring a little hope into a world where problems
will never go away — to make light of things that happen in life or on the farm, good or bad, and talk about our reactions
and the ways in which we grow from all of our experiences,” Schwaller said. She also blends aspects of her faith into her writing and speaking. She has maintained a director’s position in her church’s religious education program for close to 15 years. She said she has deepened her own faith by leading a team of adults each year engaged in bringing children and youth closer to their faith and to God.  Schwaller will put her speaking ability on full display
at a Women, Land and Legacy event later this month in Estherville, Iowa.  Organizers with Iowa State University Extension and
Outreach say the Feb. 20 event, which is open to women involved in any aspect of agriculture, will be an opportunity for women to network and learn from each other, while enjoying a meal, conversation
and entertainment. It all begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Emmet County Farm Bureau offi ce in Estherville.  Schwaller said she will share her “Signature Required” presentation that evening, which is geared toward reminding women involved in agriculture why they are and how it changes lives.  Preregistration for the event is open now at or by
calling (712) 362-3434 or emailing Tickets will also be available at the door the evening of the event. Schwaller and her husband,
Dave, have three grown children — Emily, Doug and Dustin — all of whom are involved in agriculture.
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Jensens are Pipestone County’s 2019
4-H Family of the Year

The Jamie and Virginia Jensen family is the 2019 4-H Family of the Year for Pipestone County.
The family received the award Dec. 1 during the annual 4-H recognition night in Pipestone for their involvement, support and volunteer contributions to 4-H. Virginia said receiving the award surprised them and left them “pretty much dumbfounded,” especially as she is on the committee that selects the 4-H Family of the Year.
She said the committee was having two different conversations about who the Family of the Year should be: one that she was in on, and another she was not on that determined it would be her family.
Virginia’s 4-H involvement began when she was a child in Benton County where she grew up.
“It did me a lot of good, not so much just livestock-wise,” Virginia said. “General project-wise, community projects that we did, visiting nursing homes and stuff like that — I just wanted the kids to be involved in that kind of stuff.”
Jamie, who grew up in Colman, S.D., said he was involved in FFA as a youth. He said both programs provide valuable experiences for young people.
Their children, Jasmine, 19, and Wyatt, 17, joined 4-H in 2006 and 2009, respectively, and were part of the Trosky Peppy Pebbles. Wyatt is also involved in FFA.
Jasmine has shown goats and cattle and Wyatt goats, cattle and sheep at the Pipestone County Fair through 4-H. Both of them have also shown general projects.
“I was that mom who said,’You cannot show livestock without taking a general project because the general project area is down so much in numbers,’” Virginia said. “They had to contribute to both.”
Jasmine and Wyatt have both earned trips to the State Fair, been involved in the Interstate Exchange program and helped younger 4-H members learn how to show animals. Jasmine was on the leaders council, an ambassador and camp councilor, and earned the Key Award.
“It’s kind of like the Eagle award in Boy Scouts,” Virginia said. “You have achieved everything that 4-H has to offer. Along with that she’s also won a $1,000 scholarship.”
Virginia and Jamie have been very involved in 4-H over the years, as well. Virginia was the leader of the Trosky Peppy Pebbles when their kids joined 4-H and is now the co-leader. She and Jamie have chaperoned, hosted and helped organize for the Interstate Exchange program trips and visits, and organized community projects including painting at the Trosky City Park, ditch cleaning, nursing home visits and more.
“We just kind of pitch in wherever we need to be,” Jamie said. “You don’t ever really think about it, you just do it.”
Jamie and Virginia said they regularly encourage others to become involved in 4-H. They said the program has been very beneficial for their children.
“There are just so many skill sets that the kids learned that they probably wouldn’t have learned, whether it’s learning how to sew or learning how to bake chocolate chip cookies or Wyatt learning how to weld,” Virginia said. “It’s just stuff that they’re going to use down the road.”
Jamie said it also teaches them that effort yields results.
The Jensens live near Trosky and own 13 acres of land on which they typically have around six head of cattle and grow about one acre of alfalfa. Jamie works for Fey Industries and Virginia works for Growmark. Wyatt is a junior at Edgerton Public School and Jasmine is attending college at the University of Minnesota in Morris.
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Bosma excited to continue farming legacy, server on board

Rodney Bosma and his family operate a diversified farming operation located in Nobles and Jackson counties in Minnesota and Osceola County in Iowa.
The operation currently consists of corn, soybeans and hay production. The family also raises cattle and hogs.
Bosma said he is excited and blessed to be working alongside the family farm’s fifth generation.
“I am excited to see the next generation of farmers come into agriculture,” he said.
Bosma was recently elected to the Compeer Financial Board of Directors. He previously served on Compeer Financial’s nominating committee and the organization’s client advisory council.
“I see a diverse ag economy that includes farms of all shapes and sizes, each having its own risk and profit margins,” Bosma said. “Compeer must be prepared to service each of these types of farms based on their specific needs.”
Compeer Financial is a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative serving agriculture and rural communities. Bosma has been a Farm Credit member for 33 years.
He said the primary issues facing agriculture and Compeer Financial today include finding qualified people to be able to handle tasks at hand.
“Today, every business in the United States has trouble keeping quality people on the payroll,” he said. “Agriculture is no different.”
Another issue is what Bosma called the “proper promotion of agriculture issues.” That includes “making sure the public has the correct information,” he said, and keeping U.S. agriculture No. 1 in the world.
Bosma said he is excited to be a part of the Compeer Financial Board of Directors.
“In our 33-year history, our family has been truly blessed by every employee we have had dealings with in the Compeer organization,” he said. “This has prompted me to want to learn more about the inner workings of the Compeer management group. Because I had a front-row seat to the 1980s farm crisis, I feel I bring enough older thinking to the board.”
Bosma said his goals as a board member are twofold — to bring a balance of his experience and today’s “newer agricultural thoughts” to the board, and to bring board representation “back to the far western edge of Compeer Financial’s territory.”
Bosma is a graduate of Worthington Community College with a degree in agriculture production management. He’s also a graduate of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s Farm Business Management Program.
He is a member of the Rushmore Fire and Rescue Department and has served as a Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District board member.
Bosma has been married to his wife, Bonnie, for 31 years. The couple has three daughters and one son, two sons-in-law and one granddaughter.

For Gordon, diversification is name of the game

Diversification is the name of the game for Nobles County farmer Bill Gordon.
He’s diversified his land use, setting aside 400 acres of ground for buffer strips and wetlands while continuing to farm 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans.
He’s diversified his business interests as the owner of Worthington Tax and Business Service, in addition to his full-time job as farmer.
And he’s diversified his involvement in agricultural leadership, serving on the Nobles County Corn and Soybean Growers Board, serving as an officer for the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and — just recently — being elected president of the American Soybean Association.
“This is very rewarding,” Gordon said of being named ASA president at the association’s December board meeting. “It’s been a long journey since 2004 and I’m excited for this opportunity; 2020 is going to be an exciting year.”
Gordon, a Worthington native, is the sixth Minnesota farmer to serve as ASA president and the 82nd in the advocacy organization’s history. He previously served as ASA vice president.
Gordon started his agricultural leadership career in 2004 as an ASA Young Leader, later becoming vice president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. During his seven years on the ASA board, Gordon has delved into public affairs, biodiesel and transportation issues, environmental stewardship and international marketing. In 2019 alone, he represented the ASA and Minnesota farmers on international trade missions to Southeast Asia and South America.
Gordon, his wife and his parents live on the fourth-generation family farm that celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. ASA is also celebrating its centennial in 2020. In 2019, the Gordons were named Nobles County’s 2019 “Farm Family of the Year” by the University of Minnesota.
While he said his involvement with Worthington Tax and Business Service serves as a form of enjoyment, he and his wife, Dr. Dawn Gordon, are also avid scuba divers and raise four children — Luke, Lance, Anna and Liam.
“‘Unwinding’ for me is doing taxes and meeting with people and solving those problems,” Gordon said. “I like to hang out with my family too. What I like about all the activities I do is they’re all different.”
During his term as ASA president, Gordon hopes to recruit a more diverse demographics to ASA; he’s aiming to help bring more women and African-American farmers into the “soy family.”
“We have a really tight-knit team from top to bottom at ASA,” he said, “and I think everyone appreciates that by having different voices, that’s good for the board as a whole.”
Gordon said he will advocate for a swift resolution to the trade war in China, along with the removal of tariffs, as a primary goal during his year-long presidential term. Working out more robust trade deals with more international markets, extending the Biodiesel Tax Credit and pushing for infrastructure upgrades and more value-added soybeans are also high priorities for Gordon and ASA in 2020.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and the (2020) election is going to influence the next four years, at least,” Gordon said. “Hopefully we can get some legislation passed. If I can, at the end of my term, tell farmers, ‘We got these things done to improve your profitability,’ then I think I’ll be very happy.”
Gordon will be traveling domestically and internationally often in his capacity as ASA president — up to six months out of the year, he estimates — and plans to find the next crop of soybean leaders along the way.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to represent soybean farmers across the country,” he said.