MANKATO – For more than 30 years, the soybean checkoff has helped guide farming into the future.
Following last year’s acclaimed Game of Soy-themed booth, Minnesota Soybean is switching it up at this year’s Farmfest, which runs Aug. 1-3, while continuing to showcase how soybean checkoff investments benefit farmers over generations.
Minnesota Soybean will again be stationed in booth #620 on the corner of Main and 6th Street. The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) is activating augmented reality, featuring two future farmers, to showcase how today’s checkoff investments in new uses, research and developing markets help impact farm operations and the soybean industry for generations to come. Using smartphones (iPads will also be available), visitors to Minnesota Soybean’s booth can scan, view and listen to a “future farmer” through augmented reality and learn how the checkoff is ‘planting for the future.’
“From opening new markets to finding new ways to use soybean meal, Council directors push each other to direct those checkoff funds toward projects that are bold and will have a lasting impact,” MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka said. “And Farmfest, of course, is the ideal audience to show where we’ve been and where we’re headed.”
Many checkoff activities are implemented to succeed not overnight, but over the long term. Value-added products can take years of research and development to reach commercialization, and tapping into emerging markets, such as Uzbekistan, requires relationship-building and infrastructure.
“But the payoff for those investments, as we’ve seen countless times over the years, can be substantial,” Slunecka said. “The checkoff looks toward to the future.”
Tom Frisch, the newest MSR&PC chair, is attending his first Farmfest.
“I’m looking forward to the chance to introduce myself, visit with my fellow farmers and show the ways in which the checkoff adds value to our operations,” Frisch said.
Advocacy under the tent
The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) will also have presence in its booth and is raising funds and awareness for its advocacy initiatives. At Farmfest, MSGA is selling 500, $100 raffle tickets for a custom 2023 Polaris Ranger Crew 1000 Premium side-by-side. The winner will be unveiled on Jan. 18, 2024, at MN AG EXPO. All proceeds from the raffle benefit MSGA’s nonpartisan mission to advocate for farm-friendly policies in St. Paul and Washington, D.C.
“We had such a great response to the Ice House raffle we held in 2021 that we thought this would be a perfect way for folks to support MSGA and have a chance to win a customized side-by-side,” MSGA President Bob Worth said.
Although 2023 isn’t an election year, state and national legislative leaders and 2024 candidates are expected to attend Farmfest and visit with farmer-leaders to get a ground-level read on the issues and challenges facing Minnesota agriculture. On Tuesday morning, Worth is joining a Farm Bill panel moderated by Brownfield Ag News’ Mark Dorenkamp.
“Farmfest is a chance for policy leaders and candidates to visit our booth, have a conversation with our farmers and learn more about the importance of agriculture to Minnesota’s economy,” MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek said.
Membership is a cornerstone of MSGA, and Farmfest is the perfect venue for prospective members to learn about MSGA’s policy wins in recent years and its 2024 legislative priorities. New or renewing MSGA members will receive a free t-shirt at the booth and are able to sign up to win a DeWalt ½ inch high torque impact wrench.
“Meeting with members and future members is one of my favorite parts of Farmfest,” Worth said. “It’s one of the few opportunities we get during the growing season to talk to producers and either thank them for being a member or explain to them why it’s important to join MSGA.”
Held at the Gilfillan Estate in Morgan and established over 50 years ago, Farmfest is the state’s premier outdoor farm event and covers 50 acres of land to promote products, services and technologies featuring over 500 exhibitors and vendors.
“As a farmer, everyone in Minnesota’s heard of Farmfest,” Frisch said. “I’m ready to check it out for myself.”