What does it mean to be a part of the GreenSeam? 

To be a part of the GreenSeam means to be a part of the region, part of the community, part of thoughtfully creating the future of food and agriculture. Seam is both a noun and a verb with the Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to bind, sew.” Being part of the GreenSeam means to be part of the thousands of interconnected organizations, communities, farms, and of course individuals who make up the ag and food quilt work of our region. 

How is the GreenSeam region becoming a world-class food and agribusiness epicenter? 

Some would say that Minnesota, and especially Southern Minnesota, is already a leading national and world contributor when it comes to food production, value-added processing, outputs, and services. Blue Earth is a top five Minnesota county when it comes to value-added from agriculture and forestry industries.* Southern Minnesota is already rich with many of the natural and economic assets central to food production and leadership in agribusiness. I don’t think anyone refutes that fact. However, for the region to ensure its place in the future as a world-class food and agribusiness epicenter will require 21st century thinking, collaborations, talents and solutions. This is where the work of GreenSeam becomes integral and impactful. 

What brings you and your organization to the GreenSeam table? 

I grew up on a century farm in South Dakota where my parents established a registered Angus cattle ranch from a handful of cows. I have 30+ years of work in the education sector as a teacher, researcher, administrator, and collaborator. I personally come to the GreenSeam table with dual passions for advancing human potential and for the future of food and agriculture. 

Minnesota State University, Mankato has a 153-year history with its roots as a normal school and the education of teachers for the region. I find it inspiring to think about this history and the role of Minnesota State Mankato for the educational, social, economic, civic, and cultural development of the region and state. As a public university of more than 14,000 students—with a steady increase in the diversity of students, faculty, and staff both domestically and internationally—we continue to embrace our role in educating the talent of our present and future. That future includes food and agriculture programs that attract and prepare the talent needed to start, sustain, and grow the organizations and communities of our region and state. 

What specific food and agriculture programs does Minnesota State University, Mankato have today? 

The University’s food and agriculture bachelor programs include Agribusiness and Food Innovation, Agricultural Sciences, Earth Science, Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Food and Nutrition, Food Science Technology, Geography, and Plant Science (Biology).** Most of these programs have been at the University for years, but the Agribusiness and Food Innovation and Agricultural Sciences programs are new and GreenSeam was at the table encouraging their development. The University’s partnerships with regional high schools and 2-year colleges extends the educational pathways and opportunities. 

What might surprise people about Minnesota State Mankato’s developments in food and agriculture? 

People might be surprised that as the second largest public university in Minnesota, Minnesota State Mankato’s full-time faculty have doctoral degrees and professional experiences that compare to the credentials of faculty found at land grant and research-oriented universities. Minnesota State Mankato’s faculty and staff are cutting-edge researchers and scientists in areas that are applied and action oriented. For example, the University’s Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) Affinity Group is a 30+ interdisciplinary faculty and staff team who specifically seek to work with industry and communities on grants, research, and real-world projects that often include student researchers. There is an exciting new partnership model in development by GreenSeam, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and South Central College that will supercharge ag and food research and innovation collaborations for the region. 

How does GreenSeam, the organization, shape the future of agriculture, businesses, and communities in the region? 

I think GreenSeam will help shape the region’s future by being a thought leader and magnet for resources around agriculture and food. Being a thought leader means that GreenSeam will push the envelope and be at the forefront of thinking differently about, for example, the health of people and the planet.

* Source: 2020 Economic Contribution Study of Minnesota Agriculture and Forestry, report found on GreenSeam website

** Visit ag.mnsu.edu for a full list of programs

Dr. Brenda Flannery is a dean and professor of management at the College of Business at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has been at the University since 1996, serving in many roles and leadership positions. Dr. Flannery is passionate about experience-based education and has designed, initiated, and implemented award-winning courses and programs in leadership, entrepreneurship, experiential and interdisciplinary learning, service learning, and international education. Dr. Flannery has served on many boards of directors across Southern Minnesota, including GreenSeam, where she also participates in the Talent Development, Retention, and Attraction Committee.

Brenda Flannery

Brenda Flannery

Dean, College of Business

Minnesota State University, Mankato