Speaker: Come together

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where agriculture and rural development converge is where there can be success.

That’s the message John Monson, vice president of the Rural Capital Network of AgStar Financial Services, shared Tuesday at the fifth annual Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce annual Agriculture Luncheon.

Monson, who was hired by AgStar in 2006 to lead the institution’s Rural Capital Network team, explained the premise behind a recently developed Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project, which aims for collaboration amongst organizations, businesses and government agencies to create an economic development plan for the southern part of the state.

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The goal of the project is to identify the region’s most promising economic development opportunities and the steps and investments necessary to capture them.

He asked whether the farmers and businesses in the area compete against each other locally and then asked what things could instead be done when these groups collaborate.

With the average age of full-time farmers increasing and the number of full-time farms in the state decreasing every year, Monson said the number of farms depending solely on agriculture income is going down.

Monson said the Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project began after a partnership was formed, roundtable discussions were held and an impact analysis was conducted.

The analysis concluded bioscience was the area to get behind, he said.

One example of a collaboration in this area that he discussed was with farmers, the Hormel Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic. He said it has been found that stressing crops a certain way can ultimately be used as an effect against cancer.

He asked farmers how they would like to be involved in this project, which could pay $5,000 to $6,000 per gram of the product.

82 percent of all income in rural areas is non-farm income.

The number of full-time farms in Minnesota is decreasing 1.5 percent each year.

The average age of full-time farmers is increasing.

30 percent of large farm families have revenues from off-site sources.

— Information from John Monson, vice president of the Rural Capital Network of AgStar Financial Services

Monson said the project will continue to be developed over the next year, including a regionwide fund to spur new business.

“We need to recruit equity to our county,” he said.

The Rural Capital Network team aims to keep rural communities healthy and prosperous by supporting community and economic development, infrastructure needs and revitalization projects.

The team works with community and industry leaders, rural businesses and financial institutions to develop the best financial solutions for rural communities to leverage existing, locally based resources and skills.

Before Monson spoke, Pat and Rosanna Staloch of rural Hartland were named the 2010 Freeborn County Farm Family of the Year.

Pat Staloch said he was honored to be chosen for the recognition with his wife, especially considering the families who have gotten the honor in the past.

He and his wife have been farming for more than 30 years on the farm where Pat grew up.

They will represent Freeborn County on the state level during the celebration of FarmFest in August.

Previous recipients of the Farm Family of the Year award were also recognized Tuesday for their efforts over the years.

Before the recognition attendees ate lunch.

The ag luncheon is one of three major events for the chamber’s ag committee.

It also supports the 4-H livestock program in the summer and the third-grade farm tours in September.