Cindy and I were so impressed with AgNite that we just had to talk about it on this week’s ZimmCast. Let’s face it. Get over 5,000 people together and have the whole thing hosted by ag companies and organizations that don’t always see eye to eye and I’d say you’ve accomplished something!
This week’s program includes an AgNite wrap-up with Daryn McBeth, Minnesota Agri-Growth Council. He and his staff earned some time off last week after preparing for AgNite for over a year and then working around the clock to make it happen.
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John Deere was a sponsor of this week’s AgNite event in Minneapolis and there was green equipment on display. It’s a busy week for the company. Not only were they involved in a big event that was held in conjunction with the RNC but today they announced plans to build a new marketing and sales center in Olathe, KS. We had reporter Mike Rogers on hand to conduct interviews for us. He interviewed John Lagemann, Vice President of Sales and Tim Merrett, John Deere’s Vice President of Marketing together and also Barry Nelson, John Deere Manager, Public Relations.
Listen to Mike’s interview with John and Tim here:
You can download the interview using this link: Barry Nelson Interview (mp3)
John Deere and the city of Olathe, KS announced today that John Deere will build a new marketing and sales center in northwest Olathe, in the Corporate Ridge Office Park, near K 10 and Ridgeview Road. This 126,150 square-foot facility will house more than 400 marketing professionals who provide support and service to John Deere sales branches and agricultural dealerships in the U.S. and Canada.
“This state-of-the-art facility will meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Certification, Gold Level,” said John Lagemann, vice president of agricultural equipment, sales for U.S. and Canada. “It will provide an exceptional working environment for our employees who work in our industry-leading marketing organization. We’re proud of our commitment to the greater Kansas City area – a geographic, cultural center for agriculture.”
This picture includes: John Lagemann; Tim Merrett and the Mayor of Olathe.
I’m not sure how I got in touch with Daryn McBeth, Minnesota Agri-Growth Council today but I’m glad I did. I think he and his staff have earned some time off this week after putting on one incredible event Tuesday evening – AgNite.
I got some wrap-up comments from him starting with attendance. Daryn says that they counted over 5,000 people who attended the event! That exceeded all expectations. He walked around a lot and met with all types of people (agriculture stakeholders, convention delegates, elected leaders and even foreign dignitaries). He says that’s exactly what they wanted.
One of the things that impressed Cindy and me most about the event is how well it showed a unified agriculture. There were people there from all aspects of agribusiness who don’t always see eye to eye. Daryn says that he’s seen this mentioned in a number of stories that have been published about the event already. He says they purposefully showcased the diversity of agriculture and even celebrated it.
One of the things that stood out for him was, “A journalist who was at the event pointed out to me that as she walked through the room, she thought that folks from the food and ag sector who were there . . . seemed to be (have) a sense of pride.” He says, “That hits the nail right on the head.”
Daryn says they’re going to chalk it up as a success and that time will tell if they made a positive impact. He says that it has been hard for his staff to let it go now and that it’s fun monitoring the coverage by Googling around. I also found it hard to believe that they got the whole event torn down in 6 hours since their contract with the Depot required them to be out by 8am!
AgNite at the RNC was all about showcasing American food and agriculture.
One of the most interesting displays included 3 large blocks of cheese. These were donated by Associated Milk Producers Incorporated. They’re not something you’d have room in your refrigerator for since each block weighs 690 pounds!
The people working the display got a serious workout slicing off the blocks all evening long. I tried a little of each and it was delicious.
One of the very cool things about the AgNite event in Minnesota this week was the way it united all aspects of the agriculture industry. The 50 sponsors included agribusinesses, corn growers, food processors, livestock, dairy and poultry producers, and the ethanol industry. Some of these groups have been at odds with each other in recent months over the impact of ethanol production on grain and feed prices, but for one glorious night they all got together and put aside their differences to showcase our nation’s unparalleled ability to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber.
The Renewable Fuels Association was a gold level sponsor of the event, thanks to the involvement in the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council of members like Randy Doyle of Al-Corn Clean Fuel in Claremont. “We are producing fuel as well as food here in Minnesota and that’s a great story to tell,” Randy says. “We’re creating a domestic source of energy. All we’re doing is harvesting solar energy. Those corn plants out there are the best solar collectors we’ve found and our job is just to turn it into liquid fuel that we can use in our cars.”
Unfortunately, I never got a photo of Randy at AgNite, but I did get an interview, which you can listen to here:
You may be familiar with an organization called Second Harvest. Now you need to know it by the name, Feeding America. The new name was announced September 1. George Braley (front left) is their Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy. He was one of the people on hand Tuesday at their regional network member, Second Harvest Heartland, to bring attention to the needs of hungry Americans. He says the name was changed to better reflect their mission and to better relate with Americans.
George says AgNite provided a great opportunity to bring attention to the name change and also to Hunger Action Month. He says this month is being celebrated by food banks and other anti-hunger organizations.
Besides the food packing event held in conjunction with the RNC, he says they also conducted one in Denver at the DNC. He says hunger is an issue from which you can draw support from both parties.
According to George, Feeding America distributes over 2 billion pounds of food a year with a goal of 3 billion. Much of it comes from private donations but a lot comes from state and national government programs too. He says they have a team on the ground in Louisiana to see how to best provide food aid to needy people. If you’re interested in helping their efforts, here’s where you can learn more.
She’s still pretty overwhelmed by her selection as the 55th Princess Kay. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, knowing that one day I was just a dairy farmer’s daughter and then going through all the processes for dairy princesses and knowing that not only do I represent my family but I also represent the 4,700 other dairy farmers across the state of Minnesota. I am blessed to have that opportunity.”
Kristy says AgNite is a great opportunity since there are so many people attending who are willing to hear what people in agriculture have to say.
AgNite was really an incredible event on several levels. The participation on the part of the agricultural community was impressive with over 50 companies and organizations involved. The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council staff was awesome. From 3pm to 3am it was non-stop activity, with people like Cindy and me needing assistance. The staff smiled throughout it all. There’s too many people to thank but I would like to thank Leslie Shuler in particular since she has been our primary contact for the project. It was an event we’ll always remember.
This is a shot of the crowd in one area of The Depot, where the event was held. It’s just prior to the Styx concert. Styx was awesome btw and the crowd loved them. How old are those guys? We weren’t allowed to take pictures of them or you can count on the fact that you’d see one here. (I didn’t, really . . . ).
Special thanks go to AgStar Financial for making ZimmComm’s participation and our AgWired coverage possible. We’ve still got some more content to post, but for now, it’s time to head on home to headquarters.
Joe Swedberg is Vice President of Legislative Affairs of Hormel Foods Corporation and currently chairman of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, the coordinators of the gala AgNite event held in the Twin Cities on the second night of the Republican National Convention.
Joe was also on hand earlier Tuesday during a potato-packing event held at Second Harvest Heartland to highlight the work that agribusiness does to aid the hungry in Minnesota, the nation and the world. “As a company we support Second Harvest and are the primary protein sponsors for Second Harvest,” Joe said. He says that Hormel was one of the primary sponsors for AgNite because “Minnesota plays such an important role in agriculture and we’re one of the larger agriculture-oriented businesses in the state.”
The primary purpose of AgNite was to showcase and educate attendees about agriculture.
What better way than to have your state FFA officers on hand? One of them was Sydney Place who is Minnesota FFA State Reporter. Sydney had an exciting day because she not only attended AgNite but it was also her first day of college. She says,
“It is such an exciting time to be a part of agriculture right now. There are some challenges and some things that need to be worked on in agriculture right now but the exciting part about being an agriculturalist is you have the opportunity to find solutions to those problems.”
CHS is a Minnesota-based, farmer-owned, diversified agribusiness that was a proud sponsor of the AgNite event held on the second night of the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities.
CHS Governmental Affairs Director Jim Bareksten is a board member of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, which coordinated the gala event celebrating food, agriculture and bioenergy – all of which are important to this company. “We’re a Fortune 200 company, we’re owned by farmers, and it is good to be involved,” Jim told me. “When you have a group of 17 farmer-directors that lead our company and you bring up an ag event of this magnitude to them, some of them being from different parties, they all jump on board and say let’s promote agriculture.”
One of the thousands who attended the non-partisan AgNite event held in the Twin Cities on the second night of the Republican National Convention was former agriculture secretary John Block, who is currently serving as co-chairman of John McCain’s Farm and Ranch committee.
Block was impressed and proud at the turnout at the event. “To me that suggests that agriculture really is important, although I think that people sometimes take us for granted,” Block said. “It’s exciting to see agriculture in the spotlight today, not just here at the convention, but in terms of whether farmers can produce enough food to feed the world and the fact is we’ve exported a record amount of food this year. We’re doing a terrific job in agriculture.”
The AgNite event was sponsored by the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council and featured the support of agribusiness organizations and industries nationwide.
Prior to the AgNite event Cindy and I attended a food aid packing competition at Second Harvest Heartland. The idea was to see how many bags of potatoes the teams could make in 5 minutes. Some of our expected dignitaries wound up with schedule conflicts but we still held the 5 minute bag packing drill.
There is no question that AgNite is THE “go-to” event in the Twin Cities this second evening of the Republican National Convention. Organizers were expecting 3-4,000 and that expectation has been surpassed. As someone said, “What if you threw a party and everyone showed up?” It sure seems like that has happened here.
One of the people responsible for making this event possible is Paul DeBriyn, President and CEO of AgStar Financial Services, one of AgNite’s major sponsors. Paul was chairman of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council when the idea for AgNite was born. “The last convention we had here was 1892,” Paul said. “So this is a very unique event for us and it was a very quick decision for AgStar to make the decision to help sponsor this celebration of Minnesota’s food, fiber and biofuels industry.”
The event is being held in the historic downtown Minneapolis Depot, which is packed with people. “My biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be anybody here,” Paul said. “That didn’t happen.”
He is shown here being interviewed by Don Wick of Red River Farm Network. You can listen to my interview with Paul here:
Be sure to check out the AgNite Photo Album to get a real idea of just how many people are here at this event. It’s amazing!
Preparations are nearing completion here at AgNite at The Depot.
This is going to be a fabulous celebration here tonight as agriculture is put on display for thousands of people attending the RNC. Cindy and I are getting ready to do some interviews with AgNite sponsors which we hope to post later this evening.
We’ve got a photo album started which contains pictures from the Second Harvest Heartland food aid event earlier in the day. We’ll be adding to it throughout the evening. This event doesn’t conclude until 2am btw!
The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council is the organization hosting AgNite in Minneapolis. Their President is Daryn McBeth, seen here being interviewed by Cindy. This was at the Feeding America food packing event held at their local network affiliate, Second Harvest Heartland.
Second Harvest Heartland is also a member of the Council and Daryn says the unique partnerships between the food bank and other council members, such as Hormel Foods, helps them to be very active in hunger relief efforts throughout the state.
With Hurricane Gustav impacting the start of the Republican National Convention here in the Twin Cities, the focus of AgNite has taken a turn towards relief efforts along the Gulf Coast as well, according to Daryn. “The food and agriculture industries always step up to help after natural disasters,” he said. “We will have the ability for individuals and corporations to make donations to help out with relief efforts.”
Daryn says there has been a great deal of interest among those in town for the convention in attending AgNite and they are expecting to have upwards of 4,000 attend the event.
You can listen to Cindy’s interview with Daryn here:
Second Harvest Heartland of Minnesota pulled in volunteers from the Republican National Convention Tuesday to help pack close to a million pounds of potatoes at their headquarters warehouse in St. Paul.
Executive Director Rob Zeaske says the potatoes are supplied by a generous donor from St. Cloud who prefers to remain anonymous. “Last year they gave us 750,000 pounds of potatoes and are trying to get to a million this year and based on our summer and the economic state, we sure need it,” he said.
Second Harvest Heartland is one of the largest members of America’s Second Harvest national food bank network. They are also a member of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, which is sponsoring tonight’s RNC AgNite event – the reason we are here in the Twin Cities this week.
Besides finding coverage of AgNite, “A Celebration of America’s Food and Agriculture Industry,” here on AgWired you’ll also find lots of content being posted onto the AgNite Blog.
This is why Cindy decided to come with me. We’re expecting an intensive evening of activity and we’re going to be cross-posting on multiple blog sites.
We’re going to be looking for interviews with organizers, sponsors and attendees. The whole idea is to help educate people about agriculture in our country and the RNC has provided a perfect opportunity for the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council and all the supporting organizations to accomplish that. We’re going to work hard to do our best to help.
We’ll be working out of a media room in The Depot, the event location, and if things go well, you may see us crank up AgWired Live TV too. So please check in with us often this evening. The event officially starts at 8pm, but I know we’ll have content started before then.
Hello from Minneapolis, MN, the site of this evening’s, AgNite celebration. That event kicks off at 8pm but Cindy and I will be busy before then.
This morning we’ll be attending a food box packing event at Second Harvest Heartland. This is the regional organization that’s part of the Feeding America network. Feeding America is the new name for what we’ve known as Second Harvest. This promises to be a very visual event so you will see pictures and probably some video as well as interviews. We think there will be some special guests but in this fluid political convention climate, who knows.
Second Harvest Heartland is the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization with a recently updated mission to end hunger through community partnerships. Second Harvest Heartland forms the cornerstone of organizations working together to alleviate hunger in our 59 county service area. This year, SHH will deliver more than 34 million pounds of food to our 1,000+ non-profit member agencies and programs, including food shelves, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior community centers and children’s after school programs.
One of the main priorities of the day is to solicit support for relief efforts for Hurricane Gustav victims. The hurricane may not have been as damaging as Katrina but a lot of people are displaced and I’m sure they will be needing help. I’ll be posting more about how to get involved later after I learn more.
I’d like to thank AgStar Financial Services for their support of our interactive media coverage of AgNite.