If the supporters of Greenseam are able to harness the enthusiasm exhibited at the June 20 launch event, the effort to identify southern Minnesota and northern Iowa as the place to be for those involved in any aspect of agriculture or food production is sure to be successful.
More than 500 people attended the midday event to reveal the new name and logo, held at Riverfront Park alongside the Minnesota River.
Project Ag Business Epicenter began in 2013, the first step in identifying the region’s unique assets in an attempt to market the area to agribusinesses throughout the state, nation and world. There are more than 800 agribusinesses in the region, which is generally not identified with set geographic borders, rather a broad stroke of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
In order to get data to illustrate the depth and breadth of agriculture, Greater Mankato Growth selected 28 counties from the region and gathered agricultural data relying on information from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, said John Considine, director of regional business intelligence for Greater Mankato Growth.
In those counties, there are 9.5 million acres of crop production, 19,400 crop operations and 9,500 livestock operations, as of 2012, the most recent year data is available. The livestock farms generated $4.7 billion in sales and the crop farms, $7.1 billion, for a total of $11.8 billion. Using an economic multiplier, those farms create $14.8 billion in sales in related industries, from implement dealers and food processors to communication companies and engineering firms.
“Here our skills and knowledge run both deep and wide, not simply specializing in one facet of business, our expertise spans from those it is certainly most apparent such as our dominance in production or value-added processing food companies, but then there are those businesses involved in innovation and technology, whether plants and animal research, animal pharmaceuticals or value-added use in polymers or fuel innovations that had there early starts here as well as technology innovations that enhance production along with the talent development, the research and the application that flows from our educational partners and let’s not overlook the maybe less obvious businesses connected to agriculture,” said Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth.
For at least the last nine months, the 15 members of the Project Ag Business Epicenter steering committee worked with intentional purpose to find a name that not only describes the region, but also is a way to attract talent, said Sheryl Meschke, co-CEO of Associated Milk Producers, Inc., based in New Ulm, Minn.
“To become the Silicon Valley of Agriculture, we must share our long-kept secret,” Meschke said. “This region, this place, where we are standing right now is ground breaking.”
Selecting the right name to describe the region wasn’t easy, she said.
“It’s critical because the way we position ourselves and market this region is our collective responsibility. The future was always in mind and the unification of people and the businesses rooted in agriculture was always a checkpoint for our discussion. The weight of the responsibility and excitement of the possibilities really evoked passion, especially from the folks that are surrounding us,” she said, gesturing to the other steering committee members.
Green was chosen because the region has been described as lush, because the color green is associated with economic prosperity and because on geographic maps this region is often greener than others. Seam was chosen because it represents the strong partnerships that make the region strong, Zierdt said.
Likewise, selecting the logo was intentional, Zierdt said. Some will see crop rows or conservation terraces, others electronic circuits or the letter G for global or Greenseam, to name but a few possibilities.
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Emily Combs, a research scientist at DuPont Pioneer in Mankato, exemplifies the talent Meschke referenced. A Los Angeles, California, native, Combs moved to Mankato three years ago for a job with DuPont Pioneer. She and eight other research scientists from all over the world work in a world-class seed corn research facility that recently underwent a $2.5 million renovation. There’s an amazing amount of science in every bag of seed, she said.
Combs visits schoolchildren to share with them the opportunities available in agriculture, opportunities they may have never imagined.
The region has a plethora of engineering, financial and legal firms that work alongside traditional agricultural businesses, said Scott Bergs, co-founder and CEO of Neutral Path Communications.
Many students who attend South Central College don’t have the opportunity to farm, but there are many ways they can be involved in agriculture, said Brad Schloesser, dean of the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture, based at the Mankato college campus. There are opportunities in research, education, communications, marketing, ag service, crop advising . . . the list is as diverse as the supporters of Greenseam.
“It provides awesome opportunities to elevate agriculture that was always present here,” Schloesser said.
The next step is marketing the region, which people are already working on, Meschke said.
“I really feel it’s the responsibility of everyone here to market the label,” she said.
The goal is for people to recognize Greenseam, much like they recognize the term Silicon Valley and much like people in the tech business want to be in southern California, people in food and agriculture may want to move north – or if they grew up in the region they may want to stay.
“If you are in the business of food and fiber, you want to be here,” Meschke said.
Zierdt encourages businesses in the region to start marketing Greenseam by simply putting the logo on their business cards. It will signify the regional aggregation of talent, he said.
“This, by the way, I would describe as an epic day,” he said.