Minnesota Farmfest was held in rural Redwood County, Minnesota, this past week. Farmfest allowed a long-awaited return to meeting in-person with farmers, talking with exhibitors, seeing longtime ag friends from Minnesota, listening to ag leaders and elected officials on panels and eating a pork chop on a stick. Farmfest reminded me farm shows feel like a homecoming.

Agweek's Kevin Bauer and Alec Winmill at the Agweek booth in rural Redwood County, Minn. for Minnesota Farmfest, August 3-5, 2021. (Katie Pinke/ Agweek)
Agweek's Kevin Bauer and Alec Winmill at the Agweek booth in rural Redwood County, Minn. for Minnesota Farmfest, August 3-5, 2021. (Katie Pinke/ Agweek)
During COVID-19 shutdowns of 2020, I wondered if we would return to “normal” farm shows. Some businesses still have travel freezes for cost-saving or health measures. Canadians couldn’t cross the border to exhibit. It might not work out on a balance sheet for all exhibitors. Farm shows are expensive, time-consuming, taking both people power and the expense of travel and moving in equipment, setting up tents, and more. But as American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a panel I attended, there’s a “threat to the way we do business” through policy right now.

Farmers, agriculture stakeholders and anyone willing to support agriculture need to show up to connect in-person and build connection around causes threatening the livelihoods of agriculture.

“Our actual way of life is hanging in the balance. Start working together to continue. Not just to survive but to thrive with our ag families,” said Rep. Tom Emmer, who represents Minnesota’s sixth congressional district.

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Bill Gordon, a fourth-generation farmer from Worthington, Minnesota, who also runs a tax business and is the current chairman of the American Soybean Association, encouraged those in attendance at the policy panel to “combat the crazy” because all of agriculture needs help.

Farmers, agriculture stakeholders and anyone willing to support agriculture need to show up to connect in-person and build connection around causes threatening the livelihoods of agriculture says Katie Pinke. August 3-5, 2021 Minnesota Farmfest was held in person in rural Redwood County, Minn. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
Farmers, agriculture stakeholders and anyone willing to support agriculture need to show up to connect in-person and build connection around causes threatening the livelihoods of agriculture says Katie Pinke. August 3-5, 2021 Minnesota Farmfest was held in person in rural Redwood County, Minn. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
“Don’t be alarmed. Be involved. Be concerned,” he said.

Gordon added that wherever you’re active in your community, including church, “talk about sustainability, biofuels and animal agriculture.”

Duvall stressed the importance of farmers and ag stakeholders engaging with elected officials. Send them an email. Pick up the phone to call them. When Congress is on summer recess, invite them to your farm. Attend every town hall.

Bruce Berg is a Staples ,Minn. farmer and works with Central Lakes College on research plots stopped by the Agweek booth and paid his subscription. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
Bruce Berg is a Staples ,Minn. farmer and works with Central Lakes College on research plots stopped by the Agweek booth and paid his subscription. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)
While I work agriculture news and business, and am surrounded by a farm family and friends, I too needed the rally and encouragement of attending Farmfest. We all do. We’re all guilty of getting wrapped up into feeling like what is happening in Washington, D.C., or even in our state capitols cannot be influenced by our voice, by our real-world experiences and knowledge.

In agriculture, we’re a tiny slice of less than 2% of the total population influencing and feeding our communities, states, country and world. Division among agriculture holds us back from moving ahead to be a larger influencer in the future of ag policy.

At Minnesota Farmfest, Agweek's Katie Pinke connected with Cottonwood, Minnesota, farmer Carolyn Olson and Agweek's Alec Winmill. 
Katie Pinke / Agweek
At Minnesota Farmfest, Agweek's Katie Pinke connected with Cottonwood, Minnesota, farmer Carolyn Olson and Agweek's Alec Winmill. Katie Pinke / Agweek
By attending Farmfest this week, I reconnected with farmers I hadn’t seen in two years or more and met farmer friends. I listened firsthand to what they are experiencing on their farms this year, saw exhibitors and ag businesses I know from Agweek, laughed and enjoyed the important dialogue with leaders. Most important, the show was a reminder that all voices in farm and ranch country hold a vital role to engage and share. Do not wait.

To read more of Katie Pinke's The Pinke Post columns, click here.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.