Teresa Spaeth— by Teresa Spaeth

One doesn’t have to spend long at Farmfest or the Big Iron Farm Show to quickly realize how many organizations there are in the world of agriculture. From policy to research to marketing, each group has their niche and an important role in agriculture. It is essential to the future of Minnesota’s agriculture industry that we build the capacities of these organizations so that each of us can do more and better work in our areas of expertise.

For example, in the research realm, you can find the University of Minnesota conducting basic research that is critical to create new ideas for the future of the industry; there are large businesses like General Mills and Cargill that have their own research capabilities to grow their corners of the market; AURI specializes in applied research and development for small- and medium-sized businesses; and there are many other organizations with varied roles in research. In the policy realm, you’ll find commodity groups, Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, and many, many others. There are organizations with focuses on rural development, clean energy, food safety, and much more. And we’re all part of Minnesota’s agriculture industry—together we’re the second largest employer in the state of Minnesota.

Today, agriculture is facing unprecedented opportunities and threats. New technologies and advancements, as well as a growing population, allow for vast opportunities for growth. We are also facing increased scrutiny from a public that is more discerning than ever about the products they eat and buy, and from other industries that can unfortunately find threat and problems in every advancement we try to make. To strengthen the industry as a whole, we must build the capacities of each of its parts.

Nearly a decade ago, the Gallup organization unveiled the results of a 30-year research project that studied the topic of strengths, and how individuals can know and work toward their own strengths. I believe this concept is important not only for individuals but for organizations. We each have our areas of expertise, and when we’re working to build further on these strengths, we are building the foundation for a solid industry as a whole.

There are important ways we can look to build capacity in agricultural organizations in
the future:

  • investing in our employees—from having the right higher education training programs in place to furthering professional development;
  • advocating together for the agriculture industry—from marketing to funding to public policy, we need to speak as one voice whenever possible; and
  • finding ways to coordinate and partner with each other to maximize the strengths found in each individual agriculture organization.

It may be cliché, but true, that alone it could be a tough road ahead; working together makes for a much brighter future.