After spending eight years apart, Karin Schaefer is returning to the Minnesota Farm Bureau to lead its staff and direct the organization towards its strategic plan in the state.

"The Farm Bureau has a great team who's been there for a number of years," said Schaefer. "Many of them I've worked with previously, and have no doubt in my mind that will be the most rewarding part of the job."

Schaefer started working with Minnesota Farm Bureau in 2006 as the public relations director and spent six years in the position.

“Karin’s vision, background and understanding of the issues facing agriculture and farm bureau will enable her to immediately step into the role of executive director,” said Kevin Paap, president of Minnesota Farm Bureau.

The Schaefer family raises beef cattle and crops at their farm near Howard Lake, on top of running a commercial fencing company. She and her husband, Matt, are longtime members of the Wright County Farm Bureau.

In 2012, Schaefer transitioned to the Minnesota Beef Council, where she spent eight years, most recently as the executive director. She said her new role with MFB will be similar to what she was doing with the Beef Council.

"In terms of managing the staff, helping the board set some strategic direction and executing a marketing plan," said Schaefer.

The Minnesota Beef Council is "the checkoff arm of the beef industry, "said Schaefer, so her job meant making sure all funds collected were spent according to the federal order. In the last month or two, her job with the beef council obviously became more dynamic in the wake of the pandemic.

"In the beef industry, that meant making sure consumers feel confident that the food will still show up in their grocery stores," said Schaefer.

She said it'll be a bittersweet exit from the Beef Council because she "couldn't imagine working with a better group of people and having a better board."

Coming home party

Schaefer said that coming back to the organization that got her started in the ag industry is something she's relishing.

"In a way, I don't feel like I left," she said. "Because we've always been farm bureau members and have been involved in our county bureau."

She said the nice thing about Farm Bureau is that it works with all commodities and sectors of the ag industry. Advocating for the right policy and making sure the state Farm Bureau stays relevant to county bureaus are two of the main focuses of the organization, said Schaefer.

She acknowledge that she's entering the position at the helm of Minnesota Farm Bureau in a time when the ag industry is on the rocks.

"Things aren't looking fantastic for agriculture right now," she said. "But what we have figured out through the COVID-19 situation is that people need food, and people have learned how critically important farmers are."

While other absences in society during the pandemic are hard on people, Schaefer said our food supply chains have taken much more of a front seat.

"We can live as a society without sports and without entertainment," she said. "But we cannot live without food and farmers."