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Retired FFA Advisor receives honorary life membership to Minnesota State Agricultural Society

Kelsey attended his first Minnesota State Fair at age 7 in 1947. It was the same year the current Agriculture Horticulture Building debuted on the fairgrounds.

Ron Kelsey honored
Ron Kelsey and his wife, Jeanne, hold the plaque he received Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023 as a new Honorary Life Member of the Minnesota State Agricultural Society.
Photo courtesy of Ron Kelsey
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota State Fair elected Ron Kelsey, Lamberton, to Honorary Life membership in the Minnesota State Agricultural Society during its gathering Jan. 15. Kelsey has served as superintendent of farm crops at the Minnesota State Fair for the past 22 years, and in 2006 received his 50-year award for fair participation.

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The State Agricultural Society is made up of delegates from each of the state’s 87 county fairs, plus representatives of 44 statewide associations involved in agriculture, horticulture and education. The society is charged exclusively with the production of the Minnesota State Fair and management of the historic 322-acre state fairgrounds.

Kelsey, who grew up on a farm near Lewisville with his nine siblings, attended his first Minnesota State Fair at age 7 in 1947. It was the same year the current Agriculture Horticulture Building debuted on the fairgrounds, and Kelsey hasn’t missed a state fair in the 75 years since.

Along with his parents and siblings, the family was dedicated to agriculture and exhibiting their award-winning crops — especially corn. They won more than 40 corn championships at the state fair.

Kelsey is so fond of corn that he now bears a tattoo of an ear of corn on his forearm — gifted to him by his family for his 75th birthday.

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Kelsey's seed sacks
Ron Kelsey stands with a portion of his collection of seed sacks on display at the Minnesota State Fair in this undated Globe file photo.
Julie Buntjer / The Globe

A graduate of Madelia High School and the University of Minnesota, Kelsey taught agriculture and served as the FFA advisor at what is now Red Rock Central for 35 years. After he retired from teaching, one of his former students, Steve Pooch, deputy state fair manager, recommended he serve as superintendent of farm crops at the state fair.

As superintendent, Kelsey oversees all farm crops, scarecrows, the 1,300 vintage seed sack collection he owns and displays each year, and the one-of-a-kind crop art competition that draws many visitors each year.

Only Minnesota crop seeds may be used in the crop art exhibit, and no weed seeds are allowed. Kelsey makes sure of that as a superintendent.

Kelsey and his wife, Jeanne, work at the state fair every year, and their four children have also worked in the farm crops area at the state fair.

In addition to his involvement with the state fair, Kelsey is the former mayor and city council member of Lamberton, served on the Red Rock Central High School Board of Education, and has been a member of the local Lions Club for more than 50 years. He is active in the United Methodist Church, and has a long history of leadership and volunteerism with the local FFA chapter, serving as the soils coach for 54 years. He still helps students and adults prepare and exhibit their grain samples at the fair.

Kelsey has also written a weekly column for the Lamberton News for the past 57 years.

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