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Northarvest growers host visitors from around the world as part of USDA tour

About 35 representatives of foreign governments spent a week touring farms, research sites and agribusinesses across Minnesota, in the Otter Berry Farm, which grows dry edible beans.

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Kris and Cordell Huebsch of Otter Berry Farm near Perham, Minnesota, talk about their farm and answer questions for a tour group of representatives from several foreign countries on Sept. 22, 2022. The tour group spent a week in Minnesota learning about agriculture.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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PERHAM, Minn. — Northarvest Bean Growers got a chance to tell the world about its edible bean production.

Otter Berry Farm, operated by Cordell and Kris Huebsch near Perham, Minnesota, hosted a group of 30 representatives of foreign governments on Sept. 22, 2022.

The attaches 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.

At Otter Berry, participants on the tour learned about kidney beans and the Northarvest edible bean commodity group, and the agritourism perspective of the farm, which includes berry picking, selling pumpkins and gourds and a corn maze.

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Cordell Huebsch and his wife, Kris, answer questions for a group representing multiple foreign countries during a tour of Otter Berry Farm south of Perham, Minnesota, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

“I just love having people come out to see how we do things here,” said Cordell Huebsch, a Northarvest director. “Not everybody knows about dark red kidney beans. It’s kind of an obscure crop.”

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Eric Samuelson, president of Northarvest, was among the other officials from the group.

“Different cultures require different types of dry beans,” Samuelson said. “They’ll take away that they’ll be able to buy with confidence beans from this area.”

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Other Northarvest representatives at the Otter Berry Farm tour near Perham, Minnesota, on Sept. 22, 2022, were, from left, Mark Dombeck, chairman of the Minnesota Dry Bean Research and Promotion Council, Northarvest President Eric Samuelson and Mark Krause, treasurer of the Minnesota Dry Bean Research and Promotion Council. They helped answer questions from foreign attaches on a weeklong tour of Minnesota agriculture.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Questions from the group ranged from irrigation to liability insurance for visitors to the farm.

The Foreign Agriculture Service organized the tour along with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“The goal is to really get them to know what’s going on in the state, what’s important agriculture-wise to the state and that’s where we can make possible future trade connections with them,” said Jeff Phillips of the Minnesota Department of Ag, who was on the weeklong tour.

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Jeff Phillips, front left, with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, helped facilitate an agricultural tour of Minnesota. Representatives of about 35 countries spent a week in Minnesota, including a stop at Otter Berry Farm near Perham, Minnesota, on Sept. 22, 2022.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

He said policy issues are sometimes discussed, and they also emphasized sustainability efforts in Minnesota.

Ben Rau is with the Foreign Ag Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and helped organize the tour to give participants “a sense of what agriculture looks like on the ground.” Because of COVID-19, it is the first such tour since 2019. In addition to farms and agribusinesses, the tour also provided information on how state government and the University of Minnesota work to support ag.

“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.

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Rau said every country has different rules and regulations for importing ag products, and the tour gave participants opportunities to ask questions about U.S. practices.

One of the attaches on the tour was Matthew Warrell, 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,” Warrel said.

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The corn maze is part of Otter Berry Farm's agritourism efforts.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Participants on the tour also got a chance to wander through the Otter Berry corn maze that is open on weekends in September and October.

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.

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Pumpkins and gourds are available to purchase at Otter Berry Farm south of Perham, Minnesota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

“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.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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