Minnesotans share state's ag message with the world
About 35 representatives of foreign governments spent a week touring farms, research sites and agribusinesses across Minnesota. Visits ranged from Hormel and soybean farms in the southeast to sugarbeet farms and processing in the Red River Valley.
PERHAM, Minn. — Minnesota got a chance to show off its agricultural prowess to the world.
A group of about 35 representatives of foreign governments spent a week touring farms, research sites and agribusinesses across the state. Visits ranged from Hormel and soybean farms in the southeast to sugarbeet farms and processing in the Red River Valley.
The stops included a visit to Otter Berry Farm south of Perham, where participants on the tour learned about kidney beans and the Northarvest edible bean commodity group, and the agritourism perspective of the farm, which in includes berry picking, selling pumpkins and gourds and a corn maze.
“I just love having people come out to see how we do things here,” said Cordell Huebsch, who operates Otter Berry with his wife Kris and their two daughters. “Not everybody knows about dark red kidney beans; it’s kind of an obscure crop.”
The couple, along with other representatives of Northarvest fielded questions on Thursday, Sept. 22. Questions ranged from irrigation to liability insurance for visitors to the farm.
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Ben Rau, who grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, is with the Foreign Ag Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and helped organize the tour along with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Because of COVID-19, it is the first such tour since 2019.
“One of the things that has really struck me and I think has struck a lot of the participants, … is just sort of the innovation that is going on both on the farm level, in terms of reducing impact on the environment, working on cover crops, coming up with new techniques to create both economic and environmental sustainability, then also the innovation that is happening in the Twin Cities and around the state in the agribusiness sector as well,” Rau said.
One of the attaches on the tour was Matthew Worrell, who started working in Washington, D.C., this year as a representative of the Australian government.
It was his first visit to Minnesota, and he said he found it interesting that there was good competition among agribusinesses but also collaboration.
“I’ve been really amazed at the really strong sort of ag ecosystem that you’ve got here,” Worrell said.
He said he hears from the leaders of commodity groups on issues such as the need for competition in the meatpacking industry, but appreciated hearing about the issue from the operator of Revier Cattle Company in Olivia, Minnesota.
“It was good to hear his perspective as a farmer,” Worrell said.
Participants on the tour also got a chance to wander through the Otter Berry corn maze that is open on weekends up until Halloween.
Cordell and Kris Huebsch diversified into becoming a tourist destination about six years ago.
“We knew there was a need for strawberries in this area and it’s evolved into more of an agritourism thing,” Cordell Huebsch said.
Part of the reason to add strawberries and pumpkins was to involve their two daughters, who are now ages 12 and 10. They help provide some of the hand labor needed for strawberries and pumpkins and also work directly with visitors.
“It’s great to have the kids meet the public,” Cordell Huebsch said.
The more conventional part of the farm is kidney beans rotated with corn, which requires irrigation on the sandy soils in the lakes area of Otter Tail County.
Huebsch said the kidney beans should make an average crop this year, despite the late planting after a cool, wet spring.
“We got the heat units we needed to make some beans; nothing to complain about on that front,” Huebsch said.