Farm Horizons, May 2011
Local farm couple leads today’s generation of farmers
By Jen Kotila
Dan and Seena Glessing are the fourth generation to run the family farm. They farm it with Dan’s parents, Allen and Sharon, while raising the next generation of family farmers, sons Wyatt, 5, Mason, 4 ,and Tanner, 2.
The family’s dairy farm, with 75 head of Holsteins, 120 dairy steers, and about 700 acres owned and rented, is located southwest of Waverly.
Dan operates the farm full time, with Seena’s help. Seena is also an agricultural teacher, teaching the next generation of farmers and agricultural specialists at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School .
Not only are the Glessings raising and teaching the next farming generation, they are also busy leading their generation, serving on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmer and Rancher’s Committee, the first Minnesotans to serve on the committee in more than 10 years, Dan said.
Dan has been involved in the Farm Bureau since he was about 21 years old, and Seena became involved when they started dating. “I married into a strong Farm Bureau family,” Seena said.
After being involved in leadership conferences for a number of years, they were selected to serve as representatives for their state district in 2007, Dan said.
During his third year as a representative, Dan served as a state chair and was a full voting member on the Minnesota state board. He attended the national annual meeting of the Farm Bureau, and the Young Farmers and Ranchers National Leadership Conference.
The couple was approached by some of the state staff of the Farm Bureau regarding appointments to the American Farm Bureau National Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.
After thinking it over, the Glessings knew it was an opportunity they did not want to pass up, Seena said. The committee is comprised of 16 young farmers and ranchers throughout the United States, eight serving their first year on the committee, and eight in their second year.
This year will be the Glessings’ second year on the committee, and they are now eligible to chair a subcommittee of the National Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Their time is spent planning and conducting national Farm Bureau events, Seena said.
“This has helped to develop my leadership skills. I am comfortable talking to the consumers and folks who don’t know what’s going on in agriculture,” Dan said.
“One percent of the population provides food for all of us,” Seena added. “We have to be pro-active in educating consumers about what’s happening on farms because consumers are so far removed from agriculture.”
The committee has also allowed the Glessings to network with young farmers from all over the US. By the time they are done serving on the committee, they will have served with young farmers from 23 different states.
“We are learning about their agriculture. It’s different in different states,” Dan said.
“We know dairy, alfalfa, and corn, but we don’t know anything about rice or almonds,” Seena added. “Even in our industry, we don’t understand everything that happens.”
Dan noted the importance of farmers talking to their legislators. There are a lot of tax implications that affect farmers. “So many aspects of farming are controlled by the government. We need to make sure we don’t get over-run with regulations,” Dan said.
“To be quite honest, I’m a good example of what Farm Bureau can do. I was not very good at public speaking, and didn’t want to talk to my legislators. Now, it’s no problem,” he said.
Just this past February, the Glessings gave a presentation at a conference in Michigan. That is something Dan never would have done 10 years ago, noted Seena; he was much more comfortable sitting on the sidelines.
“But you find out quickly that if we don’t do it, someone else will, and they may be giving the wrong message,” Seena said. She noted that she and Dan make a good team, since Dan knows a lot about agricultural issues, and Seena is a teacher who is used to giving presentations every day.
Admittedly, the Glessings would not be able to be as involved as they are without the help and support of family and friends, who help with their boys and the farm, Dan said. Seena calculated how much time they were away the first year of the committee, and it came to nearly a month.
Being on the committee has given them opportunities they wouldn’t have normally had. “We’re treated like VIP, which is rare for me,” Seena said.
In St. Louis, the Glessings toured a Monsanto research facility. Because NASCAR is a nationwide sponsor of the Farm Bureau, they were able to see a race.
“We get to go to Hawaii next winter,” Seena said.
Every spring and summer, the Glessings participate in a conference call with the other farmers on the committee. There are meetings in the fall, and in January and February. The meetings take place at different locations throughout the US.
Farm Bureau encourages the young farmers on the committee to use social media, such as Facebook and blogs, to spread the agricultural message and importance of the industry.
“The important thing is that individuals in agriculture take an active role in the industry. If not Farm Bureau, then in any of the other programs for farmers to become involved in,” Seena said.
“This has been a life-changing experience for us,” Dan said.
To follow the Glessings’ blog, visit www.fb.org and click on the the Young Farmers and Ranchers tab under the Programs tab.