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Published August 03, 2010, 09:55 AM

Remembering Agweek staffers’ names and faces

FARGO, N.D. — Over 25 years, Agweek magazine always has had a stable of dedicated editorial staffers. Some of them still are pursuing their careers locally; others have moved to other pursuits.

FARGO, N.D. — Over 25 years, Agweek magazine always has had a stable of dedicated editorial staffers. Some of them still are pursuing their careers locally; others have moved to other pursuits.

Here are some mini-biographies and updates from the editorial staffers we were able to get in touch with — both past and present. They’re arranged roughly according to the dates they started at Agweek:

Mike Burbach

- Current address: St. Paul.

- Agweek career: 1985 to 1990, news editor.

- Background: Age 51. Graduate of Pembina (N.D.) High School, 1977; Graduate of the University of North Dakota, 1982.

- Career since Agweek: Newsroom management at various Knight Ridder papers (until Knight Ridder ceased to exist in 2006) and at the Minot (N.D.) Daily News. Currently, editorial page editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

n Memorable Agweek moments: Two come immediately to mind:

1. The drought of 1988, when Agweek created a hot line to identify and attempt to answer questions about federal drought relief. We heard directly from a thousand farmers and ranchers, drew on contacts in Washington and state ASCS offices and published as many answers as we could get.

2. A dumb mistake: I don’t remember the particulars, but my mistake involved a steer with testicles. More than 20 years later, I’m still embarrassed about that.

Congratulations to Agweek on its 25th anniversary, to the readers and advertisers who have made it work through the years, and to its leaders and staff, present and past. Looking back, I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to work on the magazine. I learned a ton from my bosses, colleagues, from our news sources and from Agweek readers. Not a day goes by that I don’t draw on what I learned there. My best wishes to you all.

Randall Mikkelsen

- Current address: Plaistow, N.H. (exurban Boston).

- Agweek career: 1984 to 1987 West Fargo, N.D., bureau reporter, 1987 to 1988 Washington reporter.

- Background: Age 53. Native of Colorado. Grew up in California and Minnesota. University of Minnesota, bachelor’s degree, 1981; master’s degree, 1984.

- Career since: Thomson Reuters (formerly Reuters) 1988 to present: Posts in Stockholm, Philadelphia, Washington (White House correspondent, news editor, national security and justice beats), and now Boston, international regulatory affairs.

- Agweek memories: I am still proud of the cover stories I wrote on the impact on agriculture of the just-emerging trend of global warming and of biotechnology, when it offered the radical promise of herbicide-resistant or medicinal crops and cloned animals.

The Charles Shanley implosion comes to mind, as does the Agweek kickoff, when we all (including Jim Durkin, Mike Burbach, Juan Miguel Pedraza, Stephen Lee and I) piled into a white stretch limo in Grand Forks to celebrate the launch. I don’t remember the celebration, but I do remember the limo. I was thrilled by Agweek’s ambition to cover the Northern Plains like the stars and its philosophy of giving sophisticated markets and politics news to farmers. They were heady times.

Juan and I were sent to Whistler, British Columbia, for international grain talks. We lingered after the talks ended and made off with briefing books and handwritten notes from the session. We also took in the Vancouver World’s Fair. Agweek sent me to grain talks in San Diego, where I first met the woman who ended up hiring me at Reuters, and to the Nebraska State Fair to interview Willie Nelson, on his bus, for a cover on the first Farm Aid concert.

We took seriously the role of global trade and macroeconomic trends, and tried to look through boosterism (an article on how Kent Jones and others in the state were taken in during the North Dakota potato scandal comes to mind). I enjoyed writing book reviews on topics such as the Soviet collectivization of Ukraine and subsequent famine (Harvest of Sorrow).

Fridays were a bear — I did the specialty crop markets and called around to the elevators every Friday. Change came slowly to prices for edible beans, mustard seed, potatoes and buckwheat, but sometimes because of a natural disaster, big yields or food fads, they jumped or plunged.

It always was fun to check in with the elevator or warehouse operators each week and keep those mostly warm relationships going.

One time, I quoted an operator as using a mild epithet — prices were “too damn high” or “going to hell” and the elevator employee swore he’d never talk to me again. But I talked him down, and learned the value of a humble apology in source maintenance.

Juan Miguel Pedraza

- Current address: Grand Forks, N.D.

- Agweek career: 1985 to 1996.

- Background: Age 61. Native of Madrid, Spain. Grand Forks Herald newsroom clerk, editor’s assistant, 1983 to 1985; Grand Forks Herald ag reporter, Farm & Home/Agweek writer, 1985 to 1992; Agweek copy editor, 1992 to 1993; Agweek editor, 1993 to 1995; Agweek senior correspondent, 1995 to 1996.

- Career since: PaineWebber, 1996 to 1997; KNOX farm director 1997 to 1999; got a degree in international studies at UND in 1999; ran an international food aid consulting business for four years before joining the University of North Dakota Office of University Relations in 2004.

- Best travel at Agweek: Agweek editor Jim Durkin sent me to cover General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade talks in Montreal and in Whistler, British Columbia; Mike Jacobs giving the OK for a trip to Europe in 1987 on a European Union journalists fellowship after Spain and Portugal joined the EU in 1986.

- Favorite stories: Exposing abusive USDA practices against a Solway, Minn.-area wild rice farmer; working as part of an Agweek team that exposed PIK-and-roll abuses; covering the building of two large warehouses in Grand Forks just to store corn from Iowa under a federal program and having our coverage read into the congressional record. Exclusive coverage of special biennial meetings of an elite group of ag economists — including former UND geography department chair Bill Dando, who watched developments in Soviet agriculture and predicting — based on those meetings — the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union. I enjoyed covering anything to do with Big Iron.

My most surprising day at Agweek was shortly after I was named editor. The first order of business was to eliminate several positions.

Stephen J. Lee

- Current address: Hatton, N.D.

- Agweek career: June 1984 to January 1989.

- Career since: I’ve worked at the Grand Forks Herald since 1989 as a reporter covering religion, crime, agriculture and general assignments.

- Background: Native of Northwood, N.D., raised on a farm near Larimore, N.D.; lived in the Twin Cities most of the 1970s. Majored in history at Crown College in the Twin Cities and in secondary education and graduate history and philosophy at UND. Mixed being a professional student with putting rubber tracks on caterpillars for Tonka Toys, wrestled drill pipe on the oil fields of North Dakota, plowed fields, waited tables and sold cigarettes and magazines. Will be a cowboy when I grow up.

- Agweek memories: Agweek’s early, growing years were exciting and wild. I began when it was still “Farm and Home,” and one of my fond memories were the long Fridays as we set up the first tables of grain elevator prices for the week, averaging each crop prices by hand, with daily copies pasted together in a huge pastiche laid across desks in the pre-computer age. I’ll never forget listening to Juan Pedraza go from speaking Portuguese to a grain trader in Brazil to French with a contintental ag expert and, without pausing, go right into eloquent Canadian with a farmer in Saskatchewan, all in one afternoon on the telephone.

Kevin Grinde

- Current address: East Grand Forks, Minn.

- Agweek career: June 19, 1985, to April 1989.

- Background: Age 54. Native of

Hibbing, Minn., Bemidji (Minn.) State University grad in mass communications with degree awarded in 1984. First job, Mesabi Daily News in Virginia, Minn. Then it was west to Grand Forks to copy edit a brand-new Agweek magazine.

- Career since: Herald managing editor since 1998. Past lives: Reporter, outdoor editor, news editor.

- Agweek memories: The day Knight Ridder showed up tell to the Agweek staff that a 13 percent profit margin wasn’t good enough to go national. I jumped ship to the Herald a month later.

Ed Maixner

- Current address: Herndon, Va.

- Agweek career: June 1985 to May 1988, staff writer, except six months as news editor. I was part of the startup team for Agweek and got to share that challenge with an excellent cadre of people, headed by Jim Durkin and Mike Burbach.

- Background: Age 62. Native of New England, N.D.; bachelor of arts degree, 1969, NDSU (Go Bison!). Master’s in Journalism, 1984 Ohio State University.

- Career since: 1989 to 1992, Legislative assistant, to Rep. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and then to his U.S. Senate office, 1992 to 1995. Western States Foundation, 1995 to 1998. Farm Progress Companies, July 1998 to April 2003, capitol correspondent; 2003 — Kiplinger Washington Editors, editor of Kiplinger Agriculture Letter

- Memorable moments at Agweek: A “moment” I recall well while at the Grand Forks Herald and Agweek that had nothing to do with Agweek. In the newsroom on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, about six months into the start of Agweek, the Challenger space rocket exploded, killing its seven crew members. The worst event to be seen on national television until 9/11 came along.

An experience that I found very interesting and rewarding was my first regular column, “In Your Intere$t,” which focused on farm business management topics. I learned a lot myself about farm finances, drawing on ag vocational education teachers, ag loan officers, tax accountants and others. And I got to do a lot of personal thoughts and suggestions — even dropped in my uncle’s Tom & Jerry recipe at the end of my Christmas week column. Knight Ridder picked up the column for about a year.

Brad Dokken

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: November 1985 to July 1989.

- Background: Age 49. Native of Roseau, Minn. Graduate of Bemidji State University, Mass Communications with a minor in music, May 1984. July 1984 to November 1985, Wadena (Minn.) Pioneer Journal; 1989 to present: Grand Forks Herald.

- Career since: I’ve worked various positions at the Herald, including copy editor in features and news and associate editor and staff writer for Northland Outdoors from its birth in 1993 until its sudden death in 1995. I am currently an outdoors writer, columnist and copy editor at the Herald.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: That’s a tough one. Most memorable, I guess, was just the opportunity to work with and learn from some great mentors, including Jim Durkin, Mike Burbach and Andre Stephenson. Agweek was “on the grow” in those days, and there was always a lot of energy our little part of the world across the alley. The annual summer “retreats” at Ken and Carrie Kleven’s cabin on Union Lake near Erskine, Minn., were always memorable, as well. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the job reviews with Andre Stephenson, which always occurred over a pitcher at Grigg’s Landing (after hours, of course).

Perhaps the most memorable Agweek edition I worked on was the dreaded farm bill section that coincided with the signing of the farm bill in late 1985 or early 1986. There was much planning and gnashing of teeth over that edition and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief when it went to press.

While I grew up in the country, I didn’t come from a farm background and my time at Agweek was invaluable in helping me hone my editing skills. It also helped me grasp the importance of farm policy to the outdoors. The Conservation Reserve Program is a classic example, and as a result, the past 15 years or so have been the “good, old days” for pheasant and waterfowl hunters.

Ann Bailey

- Current address: Larimore, N.D.

- Agweek career: A total of about 10 years. Stints began in 1987 and ended in 2005.

- Background: Age 51. Native of Larimore, N.D. University of Minnesota-Crookston 1979, associate degree in animal science; UND, 1983, bachelor’s degree in English. Grand Forks Herald/Agweek 1983 to 1996. Farm and Ranch Guide 1996 to 1998. Stay-at-home mom 1998 to 2000 Agweek 2000 to 2005. Grand Forks Herald 2006 to current.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: Covering the story of a thoroughbred horse named Heart that appeared at the Belmont Horse Fair during the Belmont Stakes in 1990. I got to go to the Horse Fair and to the Belmont Stakes in New York. Favorite stories involve doing features on farmers and writing information that is useful to them.

My most surprising day at Agweek was when photographer Eric Hylden and I were out in southwestern North Dakota doing a story on an elderly man who ran a bed and breakfast and he told us the jelly we had just had with our toast was made 25 years ago by his wife, now deceased.

Jonathan Knutson

- Current address: Grand Forks, N.D.

- Agweek career: Staff writer, 1989 to 1991; April 2010 to present

- Background: Grew on a diversified family farm in central North Dakota. Have worked at newspapers in North Dakota. Worked at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, covering mainly business and agriculture from 2001 to March 2010, before returning to Agweek.

- Most memorable moment at Agweek: Coming back after 19 years. Covering agriculture full time again is a lot of fun.

Becky (Bothun) Funston

- Current Address: Boise, Idaho

- Agweek career: August 1989 to May 1991, copy editor.

- Background: East Grand Forks, Minn., native. University of North Dakota, news/editorial, 1988. East Grand Forks Exponent 1982 to 1988; Arabian Horse Times, Waseca, Minn., 1989.

- Career since: Left Agweek to marry and moved to Washington state. My experience obtained from Agweek opened the door to great opportunities in public relations. While in Washington, I worked for an advertising, public relations and association management firm that focused on sports marketing in the summers and agricultural marketing in the winters.

February 1998 my husband’s career moved us to Boise and I continued a career in public relations and special events. Retired from full-time employment in 2000 and currently work part time for a special events firm in Boise when needed.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: As a copy editor, I didn’t get out of the office much. One opportunity I relished each and every year was the Winter Shows in Crookston, Minn. Listening and talking to farmers who visited the Agweek booth provided a great avenue to gauge how the magazine was doing and what features and market information our readers relied on each week. Congratulations Agweek on 25 years — you’ve aged well!

Rona K. Johnson

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: 1991 to 1999.

- Background: Native of Edinburg, N.D. University of North Dakota, political science, 1991. 1999 to 2006 Grand Forks Herald. 2006 to present, BBI International.

- Career since: BBI International where I’ve held a few positions including features editor for Ethanol Producer Magazine, Biodiesel Magazine and Distillers Grains Quarterly to my current position as editor of Biomass Magazine. As the editor of Biomass Magazine I also assist with conference planning and executing. BBI currently has four biomass conferences: International Biomass Conference & Expo; Pacific West Biomass Conference & Expo; Northeast Biomass Conference & Expo and Southeast Biomass Conference & Expo.

Memorable moments at Agweek: Nothing tops the flood stories of 1997, driving to Aberdeen, S.D., every week to produce the magazine and eventually working out of a construction trailer behind the Manvel Public School.

Kristine Schneider

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: February 1992 to October 2008, copy editor.

- Background: Native of Rochester, Minn. Bemidji State University business finance, 1990.

- Career since: Stay-at-home mom to 4-year-olds Lexi and Nicholas.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: Delivering Agweek copies to readers during the 1997 flood, visiting with readers while manning the Agweek booth at farm shows, riding in a beet truck with former Agweek ad sales representative LoAnn Stadstad while she worked the annual sugar beet harvest.

Julie Copeland

- Current address: Santa Cruz, Calif.

- Agweek career: 1993 to 1996.

- Background: Age 45. Native of Cando, N.D. University of North Dakota, journalism, 1987; Walsh County Record, editor, 1987 to 1993; North Dakota State University, director of special publications in the Office of the President/University Relations, 1993; Grand Forks Herald, 1993 to 1999; The Californian, city editor, Salinas, Calif., 1999 to 2000; Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel, city editor, 2000 to current.

- Career since: Continued in journalism at daily newspapers since leaving Agweek. Most memorable event since leaving Agweek was being on a panel discussion at the Monterey Peninsula College with Carl Bernstein.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: Having grown up on a farm outside Cando, N.D., Agweek was a great fit for me. My most memorable moments were attending farm shows and hearing from readers who called Agweek their “bible.” I always say Agweek was the best job I’ve ever had. I learned so much more about agriculture and finance from my colleagues and readers and was able to continue in agriculture, although not on a tractor or a combine as I’d done growing up. Agweek was my first internship while attending UND. It was during Agweek’s heyday and was an amazing experience. I loved calling elevators for grain prices and enjoyed the conversation with farmers. When I had the opportunity to return to Agweek as editor, it was a great experience that will remain with me for a lifetime. I learned much of what I know and appreciate about how newspaper presses work from my time at Agweek, given our zoned publications and color capabilities with advertisers. And I’ll never forget Knight Ridder’s push to make Agweek its first business-to-business online publication. It was a tremendous learning experience and one that readers enjoy today. I miss farming, North Dakota and the people that make it the great state it is.

Jayson Menke

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: Fall 1994 to spring 2000, intern, staff writer,ad sales.

- Background: Age 38. Native of Neche, N.D. University of North Dakota, public relations and sociology, 1989 to 1995.

- Career since: Spring 2000 to current, real estate broker, Botsford & Qualey Land Co.; ag stock specialist, Alerus Securities; farm manager, Alerus Financial.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: My first and only barley tour. Unfortunately, the tour mellowed out by the mid-’90s, but appreciated all of the free samples they sent home with me. Favorite stories were an Agweek cover story about the cattle cycle and story about neighbors near Warsaw, N.D., helping the Nice family with harvest (my first front-page Herald story).

Lori Weber Menke

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: November 1996 to November 1999.

- Background: Native of Calio, N.D. Went to elementary and high school in Munich, N.D. Attended the University of North Dakota, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. Have been employed as an imaging technician at the Grand Forks Herald since November 1999. Married Jayson Menke in 1999, and together we have two boys, Riley (8) and Parker (6).

- Memorable moments at Agweek: I suppose the correct answer should be meeting my husband. But on top of the list probably would be the flood of 1997 and driving with Rona Johnson and Kim Deats every week to Aberdeen after the flood to produce Agweek.

Kim Deats

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: November 1996 to current — currently editor.

- Background: Native of Chico, Calif. Graduate of Grand Forks Central High School. University of North Dakota, criminal justice major.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: Memory I’ll never forget — trying to publish Agweek during the flood. This was three- to four-day trips to Aberdeen with Rona Johnson (Lori Weber joined us after the first one or two trips) and trying to learn someone else’s computer system/wire service as I hopped around the Aberdeen American-News’ newsroom desks as a reporter or editor would come and go. It was frustrating, but ultimately rewarding to see that first post-flood issue of Agweek. It was only maybe six pages, but we worked just as hard on it as we had on any before — or since. Other favorite memory is working on a series of first-person, “day in the life”-type stories. Mine task was to pull spring calves at a Sharon, N.D.-area ranch. I ended up going twice because Mother Nature decides when calves are coming, not the editor. I never did pull a calf, but I rounded up the herd, bottle-fed twin calves, gave inoculations, tagged some ears, rode a horse to move round up some strays — probably the most fun I’ve had on the job to date. Other big things: Move to pagination was one of the reasons I was sent to Agweek after years of copy editing for the Herald, and we’d just been doing it for a few months when the flood hit. It’s also been interesting to see the growth of online and social media elements and to figure out their best uses for Agweek and its readers.

Kevin Bonham

- Current address: Grand Forks.

- Agweek career: Aug. 28, 1998, to Dec. 30, 2001, staff writer, then editor.

- Background: Age 58. Native of Mandan, N.D. Dickinson State University, history, 1973. 1973 to1974, Wahpeton (N.D.) Daily News; 1974 to 1984, Chambersburg (Pa.) Public Opinion; 1984 to 2000, Grand Forks Herald and Agweek; 2001 to 2004, Northern Plains Potato Grower Magazine; 2004 to 2006, freelance writing; Grand Forks Herald, 2006 to present.

- Favorite stories: In 1999, Agweek and the Grand Forks Herald teamed up with several Knight Ridder newspapers throughout the Great Plains to research and produce a special project, Harvest of Risk, a four-month series of articles on the 1990s farm crisis, its causes and prospects, and how the small farm and rural economy might hang in the balance.

Mikkel Pates

- Current address: Fargo, N.D.

- Agweek career: January 2000 to current, staff writer.

- Background: Age 53. Native of Brookings, S.D. South Dakota State University, ag journalism, 1979. Worthington (Minn.) Daily Globe, 1979 to 1983, Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 1983 to 1999.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: I remember being stopped by the Border Patrol at Sweetwater, Mont., when I went there to take a photo of an elevator that had been built after the grain importation protests in the mid-1980s. Bad luck to tell them I was working for Agweek, but I only had ID listing the Grand Forks Herald.

- Favorite stories involve exposing situations farmers and ranchers must struggle with the elements, government policies or markets. The most elaborate travel assignments have been to Cuba, China, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and France. On a day-to-day basis, I enjoy letting sun shine in on the inner workings or failings of farm programs. I’ve enjoyed my CropStop visits across the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Canada’s prairie provinces.

- My most surprising day at Agweek was early on my time there, when Knight Ridder fell into a management cutback situation. They let go the editor who hired me — Kevin Bonham, to whom I’ll always be grateful for believing that I could be a good fit at Agweek.

Jerry W. Kram

- Current address: Beulah, N.D.

- Agweek career: October 2001 to January 2003.

- Background: Age 50. Native of Edmore, N.D. B.A. Biology, Jamestown College, Prior newspaper experience, Devils Lake (N.D.) Journal, Minot (N.D.) Daily News, Bismarck Tribune.

- Career since: After leaving Agweek, I worked for the North Dakota Public Employees Association and then got back into writing working for ethanol and biodiesel trade journals published by BBI International. Just over a year ago, I became editor of the Beulah Beacon in western North Dakota.

-Memorable moments at Agweek: Going out with Jackie Lorentz to do a “day in the life of a farmer” story where I worked as a beekeeper. I was surprised at how hot the beekeeping suits became in the summer sun. I managed to get through the day unscathed, although Jackie was stung twice.

My favorite stories had to do with the science of agriculture, talking with researchers about the genetics of crops and the amazing techniques that had been developed to manipulate them, the biology and ecology of plant and animal diseases and pest and how they used that knowledge to control them, and also getting out to the regional extension meetings where the researchers and farmers met face-to-face to exchange ideas and observations I think my most memorable writing was when I was allowed to go to the West River region of North Dakota to report on drought damage in summer 2002. That series ran in the Herald, but I also used some of the articles in Agweek.

My most surprising day at Agweek was my last day there, when I was told that Agweek had met the financial targets set by Knight Ridder but the Herald had not, and therefore, I was being let go to “protect the core product.”

Kelly Stone

- Current Address: Fargo, N.D.

- Agweek career: January 2006 to March 2007

- Background: Native of Nora Springs Iowa, B.S. Mass Communications Bemidji State University, WDAY-AM radio 1997 to 1998, WDAY/WDAZ-TV 1998 to 2005, (then Agweek), KMJO-FM and KFGO-AM 2007-2009. Currently fund raising/media relations coordinator, Family HealthCare Center, Fargo.

- Memorable Agweek moments: Combining record attempt in Winkler Manitoba, series on 4-H livestock competitions at county fairs, visiting a hemp field north of Winnipeg, in-depth conversation/interview with Minnesota Ag Commissioner Gene Hugoson. And of course, my weeklong tour of German farms, a vintner and the Klaas equipment plant.

Amanda Hillier

- Current address: Fargo.

- Agweek career: June 2008 to August 2008, summer internship.

- Background: Age 21. Native of Hensel, N.D. North Dakota State University Journalism, Public Relations, & Natural Resources Management (Environmental Communication). I should graduate in December 2011. Was editor of my high school paper, The Tornado Breezes, in Cavalier, N.D. Worked as a reporter for NDSU’s The Spectrum newspaper from 2007 to 2009.

- Career since: I have worked for the The Walsh County Press in Park River, N.D., writing freelance articles since November 2008 and had a summer internship with them in 2009. I currently work as the NDSU Memorial Union Art Gallery public relations coordinator and at Petco in Fargo.

- Memorable moments at Agweek: One of my most memorable moments at Agweek was when my emu oil story was used as the front page story of Agweek and then later was published in the Grand Forks Herald. It was a big step for me and I am really proud of that story, my first major front-page article.