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Survey of Kandiyohi County farmers completed

A survey conducted this winter of Kandiyohi County farmers is currently being tabulated. The answers could help the county respond to needs of area farmers and increase ag's role in the economy. (Carolyn Lange / Tribune)

WILLMAR — The results of a survey taken this winter by Kandiyohi County farmers are being tabulated and analyzed.

The answers from the 51 farmers who responded to the voluntary Agriculture Producers Business Retention and Expansion survey could provide a glimpse into how local farmers currently operate and their concerns for staying in business in the future.

The insight of the farmers is also expected to help shape action by the Agriculture and Renewable Energy Development Committee, which is part of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

A similar survey conducted in 2005 identified specific issues — including concerns about transitioning ownership of farms — that were taken on as projects by the committee.

The 2017 survey included 45 questions that asked farmers to respond to a wide range of topics, such as if they purchased their farm supplies or services in Kandiyohi County, another county or even another state, and what local suppliers could do so that more purchases were made locally.

They were asked to rank factors that affected their business, including availability of financing, health care and labor, and they were asked to rate which groups — city residents, local officials and agri-businesses — cared about their survival during difficult economic times.

A number of questions in the survey pertained to the environment, including what each farmer was doing to protect groundwater, surface water and the land.

Farmers were also asked to describe what they are doing to ensure their success in the future, what they think the Kandiyohi County community could do to help them stay in agriculture and to enhance agriculture's role in the county.

The survey also asked farmers to rate their level of optimism or pessimism, on a scale of 1 to 5, regarding the economic outlook for farm business in Kandiyohi County, asked how long they plan to continue farming and how likely they are to encourage the next generation to return to their farm.

Farmers who were selected to participate in the survey received copies of the questions in advance of a one-on-one interview with members of the Ag and Renewable Energy Development Committee.

During a meeting Thursday morning, members of the committee said the process of sitting down with farmers in their homes was a positive experience and that they looked forward to seeing the results tabulated and analyzed.

There were no immediate red flags cited by the farmers but committee members said there seemed to be a consistent consensus that no matter how big or small the farm was in terms of acres of land, the farmers all felt that bigger operations were a threat to their survival.

Connie Schmoll, business development specialist with the EDC who helped lead the survey, said she is not aware of any other county economic development commission in the state conducting a business survey like this just for production agriculture.

A presentation on the survey results and what it could mean for agriculture in Kandiyohi County will be held next month in Willmar.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750