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Pinke Post: Farmers at the heart of ‘Minnesota nice’

Aside from writing, I enjoy speaking to various types of groups on topics rooted in farm family values, small business and motherhood. I’ve traveled the country for speaking engagements, but this winter, I’m speaking to several groups within driving distance from home. This past week, after getting the kids off to school, walking (or more like running) the dogs, drinking a couple cups of coffee and prepping a meatloaf for dinner, I drove to Brandon, Minn., to speak to Douglas county corn and soybean growers.

I arrived in Brandon with more than an hour to spare, so I searched for a place to work on my computer before heading to the nearby lodge for the event. I filled up with gas, but paying at the pump wasn’t an option, so I walked inside to pay. A man at the counter said, “You must be Katie.” I smiled and said “yes.”

He introduced himself as Kerby, an area farmer and one of the board members who hired me to speak. Then he turned to the man behind the counter and said, “Katie is our speaker tonight out at the lodge.”

The man behind the counter was Bob. He joined our conversation and mentioned he’s owned the gas station for 47 years.

Bob gave me a hard time about paying with my credit card, which is typical for many small business owners. It’s a cost of doing business, but credit cards charge the company every transaction (something I know because of our family-owned lumberyard). Bob and I chatted about E-85 and bureaucracy issues.

Before long, I was sitting down to work at a table inside the gas station. Bob pulled out The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead to show me an article about nuclear waste in North Dakota. He left the newspaper with me to read, and as people came into the gas station, he pointed toward me and said, “That’s the corn speaker out at the lodge tonight.”

Bob said farewell while I was still typing on my computer; he was headed out for a belated Valentine’s Day supper with his wife. Shortly after, I packed up to head to the lodge. Kerby’s initial introduction and Bob’s pleasant hospitality made for a delightful welcome to Minnesota on a winter evening.

Visiting with and speaking to farmers is easy for me. Farmers are my people. I know them, love their stories and enjoy hearing about their farms. While speaking to the corn and soybean farmers, I shared about meeting Kerby and Bob in the gas station. “Minnesota Nice” is a common slogan in the state, but it has various levels of meaning. Some might experience “Minnesota Nice” in its purest form; others say it’s not what it used to be.

Learning about the Minnesota farms, water management, conservation practices, commitment to sustainability and a host of other ag topics, reminded me “Minnesota Nice” endures even as farmers and the agriculture industry progresses.

Farmers have cutting-edge technology at their fingertips. Today, one farmer feeds 155 people; in 1960, that number was 26. Farmers don’t look so similar anymore. For example, I sat next to a 24-year-old female who sells seed and farms with her parents. No matter how farmers change and progress, their kindness and “Minnesota Nice” traits stay true.

I’ve shared before about the importance of small towns rolling out the welcome mat. I’ll be sure to pull off I-94 at Brandon, Minn., for a tank of gas for many trips to come because of the “Minnesota Nice” welcome I received. No matter where my speaking takes me, I’m always grateful for farm family values.

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