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Crop group moves toward advocacy and education

FARGO, N.D. — The ClayWilkin Corn and Soybean Growers Association wanted to find a new direction, a way to stay relevant in this day and age.

Kurt Krueger, who serves on the ClayWilkin group as well as the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the American Soybean Association, said the group could have continued to just host annual plot tours and "preach to the choir." But the members decided it was important to reach out to people with no agricultural background and start a conversation about food.

So the ClayWilkin Corn and Soybean Growers Association worked with Ugly Food of the North to host Conversations on Food and Farming at Drekker Brewing Company in downtown Fargo on March 27. The event was the group's "maiden voyage" into advocacy and education, Krueger said.

Krueger explained to the more than 50 people who came to the event that people are more removed from agriculture than ever before, and it's important to foster understanding among those who haven't been in a tractor or a field.

"The folks we need to reach out to are you folks," he said.

The crowd included a mix of people with farm backgrounds and those who had little knowledge about the operations of modern agriculture. Krueger and other ClayWilkin Corn and Soybean Growers Association members tried to answer questions, which included talk of biotechnology, climate change and production chains.

Chef Chris Olson prepared free appetizers for the event. The menu included several ingredients from the region, including soybeans, beef, pork and corn.

"Our goal is just how can we highlight these foods in ways that maybe some folks hadn't seen before. There's some new ingredients that I'm hearing people are trying at least, and maybe not liking but at least they're trying things and that's important," Olson said.

He said it's important for people to talk about food and the origins of food, because everyone has a connection to food, whether they are farmers, chefs or consumers.

"Food is the great equalizer," Olson said.

The ClayWilkin Corn and Soybean Growers Association plans to hold more events that give the public a chance to ask questions and mingle with farmers. A panel discussion is being planned for this summer.