Farmamerica: Grounds for learning in the GreenSeam

“Nothing compares to hands-on learning. Textbooks cannot replicate in-field learning experiences.” – Megan Roberts, Ed. D., Executive Director of Minnesota State Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence.

Certain topics lend themselves better than others to traditional classroom learning styles. Agronomy, plant and soil science are more effectively learned and experienced in a real-world, outdoor environment. We at Farmamerica couldn’t agree more, which is why we have been exploring collaborative research opportunities with non-land grant higher-education universities and colleges to help their students and researchers have access to in-field experiences.

Farmamerica is Minnesota’s 45-year-old agricultural interpretive center. Located near Waseca, Minn., Farmamerica utilizes historic buildings, modern ag exhibits, and over 200 acres of farmland to connect Minnesotans to the evolving story of agriculture. Through partnerships, field trips, guided tours, and public events, Farmamerica strives to help Minnesotans discover that the agriculture industry is part of the solution to the food, fiber, energy, and environmental challenges we face today.


Farmamerica is a Water Quality Certified Farm through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, with endorsements for wildlife and integrated pest management. A portion of its its acreage is utilized by Crystal Valley for their agronomic and seed genetic research. Over 100 of those acres recently became a Discovery Farm Minnesota site where new controlled drainage structures will help students, farmers, researchers and consumers understand the impact and benefits of managing the timing and amount of water discharged by agricultural drainage systems.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center helped secure grant funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service to install over 20 miles of drainage tile, four controlled drainage structures, and four automated monitoring stations on 114 acres of Farmamerica farmland. This new tile system connects to the recently updated Waseca County Ditch 19 tile system which drains into a holding pond downstream before traveling further in the Le Sueur River Watershed.

Discovery Farms Minnesota is a farmer-led initiative to gather real-world water quality information from different farming systems across Minnesota. Their goal, stated on their website, is to provide “practical, credible, site-specific information to enable better farm management.”  Currently, on-farm data is being collected in real time from five other Minnesota farms. But none are tracking controlled water drainage in southern Minnesota. Farmamerica will now serve as an elite demonstration and evaluation site for drainage water management (controlled drainage) in the GreenSeam. The public can monitor the quantity and quality of water leaving these farms online at


The data collected will illustrate the effectiveness of controlled drainage in southern Minnesota cropland. It will also show how proper tile drainage can slow the flow of excess water into streams and rivers and prevent surface runoff. In addition, the data provides scientific results to help farmers and landowners make more informed decisions on how to manage water movement and nutrient applications on their farms.

Farmamerica hopes everyone in the GreenSeam benefits from partnerships like this one. Through webinars and in-person field days, events, and demonstrations of controlled drainage systems, we hope to help interested parties understand the benefits and operation of water drainage management systems.

Research results will help Farmamerica and other farmers make best management decisions. It also helps agency leaders, legislators, and consumers understand the basics of tile drainage.

Last but not least, this partnership provides in-person research and learning experiences for high schoolers, higher education students, and professors in the GreenSeam — developing future talent for the region.

Jessica Rollins is Farmamerica’s executive director and serves on the GreenSeam Regional Branding and Promotion Committee. She may be reached at

There’s No Nipples on that Almond – The Way I Heard it with Mike Rowe

Dairy Farmer Dirty Jobbers Sue and Mike McCloskey school Mike and Chuck on the finer points of animal husbandry, the science of better milk, and how no-till and eutrophication is bringing them ever closer to becoming an environmentally net zero farm.

Listen Here!

Planning for Water Quality with Chuck Brandel

Listen to Chuck Brandel, an employee of ISG who is a GreenSeam investor, discuss innovative ways his team maintains water quality in agriculture, cities, and counties.

 Check out his interview! 

Food and Ag Sectors Looking to Attract Young Talent

The director of an organization promoting the food and ag industries in southern Minnesota encourages young people to consider a career in agriculture.

Sam Ziegler with GreenSeam tells Brownfield fewer people are growing up on the farm, so it’s important for students to look beyond their direct surroundings.

“So how do we get to these students who are going through school and (wondering) what they want to be when they grow up, and we can explain to them that if they’re interested in accounting (for example), have you thought about going to the college of business area but thinking about agriculture as where you want to get into?”

For that to happen, he says agriculture needs to have a larger profile at high schools, colleges, and universities.

“To talk to those students and say ‘hey, do you know there are opportunities for data analytics in agriculture? And by the way, here’s ten different websites or apps or programs from companies globally that we need people like you to be a part of.”

Ziegler says GreenSeam is working to attract talent to food and ag at a time when both sectors are struggling to find adequate labor.

Brownfield Article

Talent in the GreenSeam: A Renewed Interest in Agriculture – a Fresh Perspective

If you would have asked me 11 years ago — when I graduated from Truman High School — if I would live in Mankato, my answer would have been absolutely not. Would I consider working in food/agriculture? No thanks.

Growing up, I worked on my grandparent’s farm growing corn and soybeans and raising beef cattle. During harvest in high school and college, I found it fun to return home and lend a hand to area farmers. However, it was not my goal to be in a field, barn, or tractor for the rest of my life.

The common perception of food and agriculture careers is that they are dirty, smelly, long hours, and hard work. You spend your time in a field, barn or tractor.

Two years ago, when I first met Sam Ziegler, Director of GreenSeam, he said, “there’s more to food and ag than cows, sows and plows.”

Tell me more…

Sydney Klimesh, a reliability engineer at Christensen Farms, was heavily involved with showing livestock through 4-H and FFA at an early age. However, agriculture was not in her college plans as she did not have a family farm to take over. She didn’t have visibility to agricultural opportunities outside of owning or managing a crop or livestock operation.

“I stumbled upon agricultural engineering with a focus on animal production systems on the internet one day and never looked back.” Klimesh then obtained a Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University. She said, “Anyone can be involved in agriculture even if you don’t have a family farm to work on. The opportunities within agriculture are endless, everything from daily animal care to financial analytics to construction supervision.”

Agriculture is math, business, technology, analytics, animal care, construction, and so much more!

Ben Radke, originally from Lafayette, Minn., is attending South Dakota State University to study agriculture business and is interning this summer with Wakefield Pork. Ben has always wanted a career in agriculture because of his passion for animals:  working with them and seeing the results.

When asked about what he is looking for in an internship, he said, “an internship that covers as many aspects of the industry but also goes in depth into each section … and learning more about what it all takes to raise a pig from when they are farrowed all the way to the processing plant.”

Students are not only looking for opportunities and a fulfilling career, but different experiences in the daily operations of agricultural businesses. Organizational leaders — how are you creating an inclusive and engaging environment for students to thrive and consider a career within your organization and the broader industry?

For those considering agricultural engineering or technology, Klimesh recommends, “While technical knowledge is critical to your career, allot time to immerse yourself in the daily operation of agricultural businesses. Nothing is more valuable when implementing technology or innovation than having a deep understanding and appreciation of how it might affect the day-to-day work.”

For students considering an internship, Radke suggests, “Absolutely do it. The information that they provide is invaluable. I would also tell them don’t be afraid to do an internship that you’re not so sure about, better to find out about it now than later in life.”

When asked about a fun fact about food/agriculture, Klimesh shared, “Agriculture is the largest employer in the world and is absolutely essential to life, as well as pretty enjoyable considering all the meal choices we have on a daily basis! It feels good to know this industry is never going away; but also that there’s so many opportunities for improvement in the areas of sustainability and innovation. Agriculture can offer a diverse and rewarding career for anyone!”

Earlier this year, I attended the Southwest Minnesota State University Ag Bowl Scholarship Invitational where Brian Knochenmus, president and owner of Ralco Nutrition, delivered an opening address to nearly 1,000 high school students from across the state. What was his message? “There is a place for each of you in food and agriculture … there’s a place for everyone.”

Well said, Brian. As someone who had no intention of returning to the region, more less the agriculture industry, I couldn’t agree more. There is a place for everyone in food and agriculture.

It begins with cows, sows and plows — and ends with feeding the world.


2022 Farm Family of the Year

In 1918, Sam Ziegler’s great-great-grandparents, Carl and Ida Borchardt, purchased 80 acres in Beauford Township in Blue Earth County. In 1911, Sam’s great-grandfather, Rudolf Eggert, emigrated from Germany and at 16 began working for the Borchardt family as a farm laborer. As the family story goes, Rudolf was taken with Carl and Ida’s daughter Elsa, and Rudolf asked her to marry him. Rudolf and Elsa began farming the 80-acre Borchardt farm. The farm soon expanded with the purchase of an additional 160 acres. The couple continued to milk dairy cows, raise beef cattle, pigs and chickens. Rudy and Elsa moved to Good Thunder when their only daughter, Verona, married Kenneth Ziegler in 1940.

Over the years, the family farm continued to grow with more land purchases in Sterling, Lyra and Beauford Townships. In 1974, Verona and Kenneth’s son, Earl, was united in marriage to Lynette and they raised three children on their farm: Eric, Sam and Veronica.

Today, Sam and his wife, Angie, operate Ziegler Farms growing corn, soybeans and finishing pigs. Lynette and Earl continue to help on the farm while also trying to enjoy retirement.

The Zieglers continue to follow conservation practices that will leave the farm better than when they received it. They have about 20 acres of buffer strips on all rivers and drainage ditches. They’ve installed about 20 terraces, two grass waterways, enrolled over 30 acres in CRP and plant about 360 acres with cover crops. Sam and Angie’s sons, Noah and Alec, raise pheasants to release and help increase the farm’s wildlife population.

Sam and Angie are the farm’s owner/operators. Earl and Lynette continue to enjoy retirement but help where they can. Veronica and her husband, Jerry Bruckhoff, help on the farm when needed. Noah and Alec take care of anything their dad says.

Sam currently works as the director of GreenSeam. He also serves on the Mankato Area Public Schools Ag Advisory Board and the board of the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture Excellence. Lynette is a member of the board of directors of Farmamerica. Earl serves on the board of Blue Earth County Corn and Soybeans Growers as well as the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association board. The Zieglers are members of the Minnesota Soybean and Corn Growers Associations, Minnesota Pork Producers, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farmers Union, Sons of American Legion, Mankato FFA Alumni and Greater Mankato Growth.

University of Minnesota Article

New Agricultural Program Takes Root at MSU

Minnesota State University, Mankato’s College of Business recently expanded its offerings by elevating its Agribusiness and Food Innovation minor to a major. The program’s minor was approved in 2020. Since then, MSU has decided to elevate the program, making it available as both a major and minor.

Mankato’s prime location in farm country prompted the program’s launch. The major was approved during the middle of last year, but the department was unable to put it in the catalog, making 2022 the first official year students can select the agribusiness major.

Director of Agribusiness and Food Innovation and Associate Professor of Management Shane Bowyer said since the program has been added to the catalog, a wide influx of incoming students has shown interest in attending MSU.

“We’ve started recruiting high school students,” Bowyer said. “We’re getting transfer students now and people even within the campus that are switching majors now that they’ve heard about it.”

Some of the food companies that have reached out to partner with the program include Land o’ Lakes, Hormel and CHS. These companies are looking for those graduates with agricultural backgrounds, not necessarily in the science skills but to have an idea to represent their companies in marketing. 

Assistant Professor of Management DQ Spencer teaches classes that focus more on the human resources side of agriculture, which involves understanding the full components and functions of agribusiness, management and leadership. Spencer said the program’s goal is to create awareness of agribusiness and provide an abundance of opportunity.

“We’re in a great location geographically to [have this program],” said Spencer. “We can not only contribute regionally, we can go globally because we contribute all sorts of these skill sets, communications, and the agribusiness to know how to kind of help.” 

One of the opportunities the program offers is the Ag in Action program. The main hands-on activity is having students do research that involves agriculture and agribusiness with topics ranging from apple juice to rubber. Students dive into finding out more information about the topic they are interested in, then present their information to high school and middle school students in the area.

Assistant Professor of Marketing and International Business Maria Kalyvaki teaches classes regarding marketing and communication. Kalyvaki said employers in agribusiness are looking to hire people with communication and public relations skills. The courses she teaches are applicable to that. 

“The marketing aspect is like an umbrella, [regarding] advertisement and how to better communicate for the company to the public about what they are doing,” Kalyvaki said. “You don’t have to be in a field to know about agriculture, but you have to have some exposure though. That’s what we are trying to give people here, so when they start talking, they understand what agriculture is and how to become ambassadors of agriculture.

The reaction from people coming in, be it students or faculty, has been positive. Kalyvaki noticed that students who have come from two-year colleges have enjoyed the new program. They say it not only allows students to get the skills and qualifications necessary for the field, but lets students who live in the surrounding area stay closer to home now that MSU offers classes that are tailored to fit their needs. 

“This is a better place to be because we’re in a location where not only you’re going to get a degree, but you’re going to get those connections with those businesses that want to get you for an internship or a job in the future,” Kalyvaki said. “We’ve lost many students that are going to other colleges in other states around here since [those colleges have] more agribusiness qualities. I think by having this new school here and having these new programs, we’re attracting those students that otherwise we would lose through the years.” 

When the term agriculture comes to mind, it’s often viewed as walking through mud in a field, checking crops. Spencer and Kalyvaki said agribusiness involves life sciences, but doesn’t necessarily mean careers that involve farmwork. 

“Agribusiness is a very fluid dynamic. It’s very broad which allows more students to get those opportunities, get that chance to understand what they want and don’t want to do,” Spencer said.

“[Agribusiness] is technology, data analytics, even having a drone. We have all these companies around here that want to collaborate with us and want to find graduates to recruit, so we have the opportunities to grow them,” Kalyvaki said.

Several other colleges in surrounding states like Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota have schools specifically tuned into the production side of agriculture. MSU’s program stands apart from the others due to the prime location for gaining knowledge about agriculture while allowing students to focus on the business and entrepreneurial side of agriculture. 

“We [as a program] can leverage our strengths [on the business side] and from being in the right region. In the last few years, we’ve had over 160 different agriculture-related companies recruit on campus, and we’re going to continue to use those past histories of our successes in developing this new program,” Bowyer said.

For students who are considering following the agribusiness path, Spencer wants students to know of all the career options available should they consider Agribusiness and Food Innovation as a major or minor.

“Students are very taken aback and amazed about how many careers are included in agribusiness. When they understand more and more about technology, information and analytics, they develop that desire to want to get into agribusiness,” Spencer said.

As the world’s population grows, the need to ensure everyone has access to food becomes more prevalent. The agribusiness program is determined to keep raising awareness on agriculture and how everyone reaps the benefits, from either working in the fields or communicating with food companies.

“There’s a lot of times some negative connotations around farming and production [from] big company farms, but we want to be that voice to say we all need agriculture in our lives,” Bowyer said.


Global Workforce Opportunities | International Students & Graduates

On October 6th, 30 attendees from across the region gathered to learn how to navigate the legal process, how to attract, hire, and support international students and graduates.
Kim Phillips, Senior HR Manager at AGCO Corp in Jackson (GreenSeam Investor) shared information about her experience, recommendations to others, and the overwhelming return on investment they have found by hiring international student and graduate professionals. 

Video Recap

Summer Sales of Unleaded 88 are Strong

Reported monthly sales of Unleaded 88 in Minnesota reached new heights this summer and early fall, state data show.

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, reported sales of Unleaded 88 were over 9.2 million gallons in July. Reported sales were over 9.5 million gallons in August and over 9.3 million gallons in September.

Before July, reported Unleaded 88 sales in Minnesota had never reached 9 million gallons. In May, reported sales were over 8.7 million gallons, and in June, they were over 8.9 million gallons. Those were the first months in which Minnesota passed the 8 million gallon threshold.

In total, reported Unleaded 88 sales in Minnesota for the first nine months of 2022 were 76.3 million gallons. For comparison, Minnesota’s total reported Unleaded 88 sales in 2021 were 87.1 million gallons. That was a state record for annual Unleaded 88 sales.

About Unleaded 88

Unleaded 88, also known as E15, is a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the fuel for use in all model year 2001 and newer vehicles.

Compared to regular unleaded gasoline, Unleaded 88 reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It also costs less than regular unleaded; it’s typically 5 cents to 40 cents per gallon less, on average.

Through farmers’ investment in the Minnesota corn check-off, Minnesota Corn has helped dozens of fueling stations upgrade to equipment compatible with Unleaded 88 and higher biofuel blends. In 2021, for example, Minnesota Corn pledged $1 million to a state biofuel infrastructure grant program. The state legislature allocated $6 million to the program during the 2021 legislative session.

On Oct. 1, 2022, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that 44 fueling stations are receiving funding through the program.

In addition, Minnesota Corn has continued promoting Unleaded 88 to consumers across the state through the Better Fuel Initiative. For the past two years, the campaign has featured KFAN “Power Trip” morning show co-host and producer Chris Hawkey.

Hawkey has appeared on Better Fuel billboards and in TV and radio ads that have played statewide.

Unleaded 88 is available at over 400 Minnesota fueling stations. To find a station with Unleaded 88 near you, visit

Full Article

Minnesota Industry Profiles

The MDA provides market information and economic data to Minnesota’s agricultural producers, processors, and exporters, as well as policy-makers and the general public. Key areas include: domestic and international market research, economic and statistical analysis, and economic impact studies at the state, regional, and county levels. Learn More