Understanding the future of farming after COVID is theme of Partners in Ag Innovation conference July 29 in Willmar

Consultants and boots-on-the-ground farmers will take the floor July 29 during the annual Partners in Ag Innovation Conference about concerns and opportunities in agriculture after the financial and emotional turmoil the COVID-19 pandemic tossed at the industry. People can participate in the free conference in-person at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar or through a remote, online option.

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Photo Courtesy of Partners in Ag Innovation
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WILLMAR — Understanding the ag market after COVID-19 will be a topic for discussion during the third annual Partners in Ag Innovation seminar July 29 in Willmar.

The theme for the event, which is scheduled from 7:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Thursday July 29, is “From Survive to Thrive.”

The half-day seminar will be offered in a hybrid format that includes in-person attendance at the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar or an online option.

The free event is sponsored by MinnWest and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission in an attempt to bring area leaders in agriculture and animal science together to exchange information and ideas and form potential partnerships.

Organizers are hoping that more people involved with boots-on-the-ground farming will participate in the conference this year.


Dustin Kotrba, a member of the EDC committee that helped organize the event, said the ag community has “persevered” despite market disruptions — including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic — and are “holding their breath to find out what’s next.”

Last year was a “challenging year financially and emotionally for everyone,” said Kotrba. With the help of federal COVID relief, grain and livestock went from “record lows to record highs,” he said. But now everyone’s wondering what happens next.

The seminar may provide some insights and “some understanding of what the landscape is” both nationally and locally, Kotrba said.

With concerns about inflation, labor shortages and tax laws, as well as excitement about current commodity prices and new market options, the keynote speaker for the event, Mike Pearson, is expected to touch on many of those issues in his presentation called “What’s driving agriculture in the year ahead.”

Pearson hosts “This Week in Agribusiness” on RFD TV each weekend.

A variety of business, tax and legislative professionals will be part of a panel discussion that will address topics like farmland values, taxes and legislative updates.

Along with the nuts and bolts of the ag economy, the conference features interesting insights into new and traditional farming ventures as told by people who are in the middle of these ventures.

Warren and Simon Johnson, from Building Block Holsteins LLC of rural Kerkhoven, will talk about a major dairy expansion at the family farm that will be a key element of the dairy’s transition to the next generation.


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Becky Bruns (Courtesy of Partners in Ag Innovation)

Becky Bruns, who transitioned her poultry business into a farm-raised shrimp operation in rural Danube, will talk about her business, The Shrimp Shop.

Jim Sieben, vice president and general manager of Nova-Tech Engineering, will discuss the company’s expansion into creating processing equipment for Minnesota’s growing farm-raised seafood industry.

Jim Sieben.jpg
Photo courtesy of Partners in Ag Innovation

Dennis Pap, a farm production-based entrepreneur from Willmar, will talk about the business model of his farm consulting business, Nexyst 360.

John Cosgrove, a professional emcee from Minneapolis, will be the “trivia host” during the event, which includes prizes for participants.


For more information go to .

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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