Improving Your Process, Enhancing Your Products, Increasing Your Profits


Oats on the Upswing in the Upper Midwest

MN-Pearl Oats. Photo by Dylan VanBoxtel. © Regents of the University of Minnesota.

Agweek recently published an interesting article about increased food-grade oats production in Minnesota. The article focuses on a new farmer group in southeast Minnesota that is pooling member resources to better market their crops. Last year their aggregate acres were 1,000. They are looking to double that number this year and recruit new members to the group.

The article notes the presence of several major oats processors with facilities in the Midwest, including MCIA member Grain Millers. It has a milling plant in St. Ansgar, Iowa, that buys the majority of its oats from Canada but is looking to source more of its oats locally.

Read more here: Southern Minnesota oats marketing group sprouts amid search for third crop.

Members Elect Five Directors to MCIA Board

The 2023 MCIA Annual Meeting, which was held Thursday, January 12, 2023, included an election to fill five Category A Director seats on the MCIA Board of Directors. Category A directors serve 3-year terms of office. MCIA members re-elected incumbent board members Brent Benike (District 1) and Grant Mehring (Related Industry). In addition, members elected three persons who are new to the MCIA Board: Wes Olmschenk (District 2), Ryan Anderson (District 3), and Jake Noll (Related Industry). Ryan Anderson will serve the remaining one year of a vacant position. In addition to the election of the aforementioned directors, members also ratified the nomination of incumbent Nancy Ehlke as the board’s Category B Director (who is nominated by the Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station to serve a one-year term of office).


Background information about the new board directors follows.

Wes Olmschenk (District 2) grew up on and is still actively part of a family farm in central Minnesota. Wes earned a BA in economics from St. John’s University and an MBA from Drake University. His professional experience includes work with Land O’Lakes and 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He currently serves as director of products for MNL Inc. In that role, Wes is involved with day-to-day operations manage­ment of all native seed and plant products, from production to sales.

Wes lives near St. Joseph, Minnesota, with his wife and their three children. Outside of work, he enjoys anything outdoors, from hunting and fishing to travel, hiking, and landscaping.

Ryan Anderson (District 3) grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Minnesota, where they also raised corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. For the past 21 years he has worked for Corteva/Pioneer at the Jackson, Minnesota, location. He has held roles in Seed Produc­tion Operations, Field Operations, and Agronomy.

In addition to having a bachelor’s degree in business management, he is a Certi­fied Crop Adviser and an FAA-licensed UAV Pilot. A graduate of the Dale Carn­egie course, Ryan has also completed training in the Six Sigma and Lean Practi­tioner programs, which center around workplace organization and efficiency. He and his wife have two daughters, a high school senior and a junior in college.

Jake Noll (Related Industry) grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and spent the summers helping his grand­father on the family farm and seed business in Foxhome, Minnesota . The family seed business dates back over 130 years to 1889, and Jake represents the 5th gener­ation.

After college, Jake became involved with managing and owning a home con­struction business with his brother and pursued that for several years.

In 2008, Jake had the opportunity to join the family seed business (Friederichs Seed) as an owner and managing president. Over the next several years, Jake was able to facilitate a major expansion and transition of the business from certified farmer seeds to a high-quality dedicated food grade soybean custom processing company. During this period, Friederichs Seed became a trusted co-packer to Richland IFC, amongst others.

In 2021, Jake accepted the offer to join Richland IFC as General Manager, over­seeing company operations, crop production, logistics, and general customer support.

MCIA Presents Annual Awards

On January 12, 2023, Minnesota Crop Improvement Association presented its highest honor, the Achievement in Crop Improvement Award, to Paul Kjolhaug, part-owner of the MayerSeedLine company. The award, presented annually since 1972, recognizes exemplary service to the seed industry as well as outstanding leadership in agriculture.

MCIA also recognized three Premier Seed Grower awardees, Lon Baldus of Grand Meadow, Kurt Flegel of Benson, and Dean Johnson and Kurt Aakre of Karlstad. Each year since 1928, MCIA has presented this award to recognize individuals or partners involved in quality seed production, active in MCIA, and who provide excellent service to the seed industry.

The recipients of MCIA’s Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award this year were Denise Thiede, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Plant Protection Division, Section Manager, responsible for seed, noxious weed, hemp, and biotechnology, and Dave Grafstrom, a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics. This award recognizes individuals not directly involved in seed production but who have actively supported the seed industry, MCIA, and their local community. MCIA has presented this award annually since 1930.

The awards were presented at the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association’s 120th Annual Meeting. The event was held at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, January 12, 2023.

Following are brief profiles of each awardee. More detailed coverage will be provided in the spring issue of the Minnesota Seed Grower.

Achievement in Crop Improvement Award

Paul Kjolhaug

Paul Kjolhaug, of Willmar, has spent most of his life involved in agriculture. As a youth in Springfield, Minnesota, he worked on area crop and livestock farms. After earning a degree in agronomy from the University of Minnesota, he joined the staff of Northern Farm and Garden (the predecessor of Norfarm Seeds). He later worked for Interstate Payco, where he managed seed production of hybrid corn, sunflowers, and soybean seed. At this time, Paul became more familiar with MCIA, requesting field inspection and seed testing for OECD exports. For the last 21 years, Paul has been part owner of the MayerSeedLine, a seed production and brokerage company in Willmar. Over the years, Paul has been involved in many seed trade organizations—nationally, regionally, and locally. He served six years on the MCIA Board of Directors, including a term as board chair. Paul has also been active in his local church and the local chapter of the American Red Cross. Commenting on receiving the award Paul said, “I have enjoyed my years in the seed industry and being able to work with many great people,” adding, “I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award.”

Premier Seed Grower Award

2023 Premier Seed Grower Award recipients: Lon Baldus, Kurt Flegel, Dean Johnson, and Kurt Aakre

Lon Baldus, of Grand Meadow, grew up on a livestock and crop farm. He started farming on his own shortly out of high school. Lon also did some off-farm work in construction, building grain elevators and seed conditioning plants. Lon was an early grower of non-GMO soybeans and was one of the first to clean industrial hemp seed. His business ventures grew to include seed conditioning and the export of food-grade soybeans. As a member of MCIA, Lon has participated in the seed certification, identity preserved, and the approved facility programs, and his conditioning plant was certified organic by MCIA.

Kurt Flegel, of Benson, has been in the seed business for 40 years. Currently, he is the plant manager at Syngenta in Danvers. He grew up on a livestock and small grain farm near Kulm, North Dakota. After earning a degree in ag economics from North Dakota State University, Kurt took a position at Stauffer Seeds, where he was very involved with the sunflower program. He developed many strong and enduring relationships with growers, helping facilitate the regional transition to soybean production. Kurt worked closely with MCIA though his work on OECD certification of seed for export. He has been active in MCIA as a committee member and as a board director, serving as board chair for three terms. During his tenure, Kurt led MCIA’s management through a continuity and succession planning process.

Dean Johnson and Kurt Aakre, of Karlstad, have been farming together since 1989. The Lloyd Johnson farm has been in the family since 1887. They have been producing high-quality seed for many years. All their acres of wheat and soybeans are for seed production. Well respected as producers of high-quality seed, they have worked with several regional seed conditioners, including the late Ron Peterson, Lake Bronson Elevator, CHS Greenbush, Weinlaeder’s and Capistran’s. Dean and Kurt have been very active in their local community and seed industry. Both have served on their church and local county crop improvement boards.

Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award

2023 Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award recipients: Dave Grafstrom and Denise Thiede

Dave Grafstrom, of Roseau, is a key member of the University of Minnesota team addressing crop production issues at the Magnussson Research Farm. Much of Dave’s work involves grass seed production research. Dave created a weekly e-newsletter that addresses the particular interests and concerns of grass seed growers. He also shares information during summer plot tours, the annual Grass Seed Institute, and the UMN Turf Seed website. He currently serves as secretary of the Turf Seed Council.

Denise Thiede has worked with seed and plants her entire career. She is currently part of the Plant Protection Division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, serving as section manager, responsible for seed, noxious weed, hemp, and biotechnology. Previously, during her time at BioDiagnostics, she collaborated with MCIA’s staff to provide seed testing services to MCIA’s members. Her association with MCIA has spanned nearly twenty years, with multiple terms on its board of directors. She has worked closely with MCIA on a variety of issues, including PVP enforcement.

MAST International Intern Gains Ag Experience with MCIA

Adriel Junior

For the last six months of 2022, intern Adriel Junior worked for the MCIA Foundation Seed Services department. During that time, Adriel helped rogue soybeans, harvest barley and soybeans, and condition soybean seed. He also took in Minnesota Farmfest, the Minnesota State Fair, and attended classes while on the UMN campus.

The experience was made possible by MAST International in coordination with the UMN’s College of Food Agriculture and Natural Sciences. The MAST International program provides young people from around the world with hands-on experiences in U.S agriculture.

An excellent worker, Adriel has now returned to his home country of Brazil to take a job with the Bunge Corporation, a global agribusiness and food company.

For more information about MCIA’s Foundation Seed Services, click here.

Claire Biel Joins Seed Laboratory Staff

Claire Biel, Lab Technician

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association welcomes Claire Biel to our staff! Claire has assumed the position of Lab Technician in the Seed Laboratory.

She began her career at MCIA in October. Claire is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she earned a B.S. in plant science with an emphasis in agroecology. As a student research assistant, she worked on a USDA-NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Project titled Pennycress Research Enabling Farm and Energy Resilience. Her work focused on pennycress genetics and breeding. She performed DNA extraction and seed germination, screening for performance in different conditions, took phenotypic field data, managed a greenhouse, and was also involved in harvest.

To learn more about MCIA’s Seed Laboratory, click here.

Organic Corner

By Michelle Menken, Organic Services Manager

Photo by Yuri B from Pixabay

We have personnel changes to announce: Maddie Barkholtz left us in October to concentrate on finishing her graduate school program. I am very happy to announce that Lauren Martin started working for us full time earlier this month. Many of you already know Lauren as an MCIA contract inspector.

At the end of the year we had so much left to do! We are a bit behind on issuing certificates. If you need a certificate or Letter of Good Standing, please let us know. New 2023 planners have been mailed to clients, along with revised copies of the regulations. There have been very important changes to the “Origin of Livestock” section. We have included additional information with the planner and regs.

The winter conference season is underway, starting with the Minnesota Organic Conference in St. Cloud. The Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society (NPSAS) conference will be in Fargo, North Dakota, and the Marbleseed (formerly MOSES) Organic Farming Conference will be in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We will staff booths at all three. Please visit us! See the events calendar for dates and other event information.

Field Notes

By Kris Folland, Field Services Manager
with Field Services Staff

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

At year’s end, when reporting to longtime General Manager Cindy Wippler, we used to say, “It sure was an interesting year.” Her standard response was, “The field staff says that every year!” Well, for MCIA members and producers, the 2022 growing season was one to remember. Working in a state with such diverse geography and large size—it is 546 miles from Humboldt to Spring Grove—it is likely that Minnesota growers did have a little bit of everything to report. Following are notes from our field staff.


SOUTHWEST: Wet and cold conditions in April and the first half of May led to late planting of all crops. Thunderstorms to the west caused devasting wind damage to grain storage bins and sheds. Compaction issues early in the growing season led to varying maturities and lower yields come harvest time. The summer months brought near drought conditions to many areas. Areas north of Redwood Falls up to Willmar received good rains in August to help fill out soybeans. The areas to the south and west continued to be dry to near drought conditions. Fall was very dry with no breaks during harvest. Small grain yields were average with good quality. Soybean yields were average, in the low 50s across the area, while corn yielded very well despite the drought. The dry conditions were tough on tillage equipment—digger points and sheer pins were changed out often. Many farmers are concerned about a lack of sub-soil moisture going into next spring. Overall, many producers were pleasantly surprised with their yields. Crop prices remain high, contributing to another successful year.

SOUTHEAST: The area was warm and generally dry with variable yields, depending on timeliness of the limited moisture that was received. Planting was later than normal. Harvest was mostly uninterrupted due to the dry fall. Fall fertilizer application and tillage were done in a timely manner with dry ground conditions. Most producers were very satisfied with the year, but dry was definitely the theme.

CENTRAL: The entire area was highly variable but seemed to average out to be a respectable year. The areas that tend to be dry were dry and the heavy soil areas had adequate moisture throughout. Yields and quality of small grains were good overall. Soybeans and corn were average to excellent across the region. The long fall was excellent to finish the crop prior to any frost. There was less interest in noxious weed–seed free forage and mulch, due to the completion of a major pipeline project last year. Growers who produce certified seed maximized their small grain acres through certification. High corn prices definitely took away some traditional small grains acres. Soybean seed growers also were very committed to producing as many acres as their contracts would allow. Corn seed producers reported a very stable year, which tends to be the norm in their more controlled field environments. Wheat growers have been reporting good yields with MN-Torgy and MN-Rothsay.

NORTH: “Unreal,” “unbelievable,” “once in a lifetime,” and “very fortunate” are words growers have used to describe the year. With record late planting and very high crop prices, growers forged ahead with planting well into June. The calendar stayed in sync with producers and most finished planting around June 15. When small grains harvest rolled around, a month later than usual, growers reported a crop that was anywhere from average to excellent. Soybean and corn yields were rated good to excellent. It is a year to feel thankful when planting is delayed from four to six and yet a cool season grass, warm season grass, and legumes produce good yields. The perennial grass crops overwintered well and were harvested in a timely manner. Good to excellent yields were reported and quality is right in line with most years. For some growers, there were delays in harvest due to maturity and late rains, but, overall, it was a good year. Noxious weed seed–free forage and mulch acres were lower. The supply appears adequate, although there is certainly not an overabundance of bales. Native seed producers and other minor crops all reported a good year and harvest for all went well. Quality and supply of all appears to be good for the year.

Chairman’s View

By Brad Barth, MCIA Board Chair

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It is Sunday night as I write this, and the house is eerily quiet. My wife is in bed and the kids and grandchildren have all gone home. We celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, enjoying way too much food, and felt thankful for the family time spent together.

Harvest is mostly over in Minnesota and seed cleaning is underway. I was happy to see a nice harvest window for most of our members. Wet spring weather here turned to dry weather throughout the summer and with good yields and better pricing this should be a fair year for all.

Remember, the MCIA seed lab staff is ready to process your samples and will be happy to help you in any way they can.

MCIA has made great strides in the advancement of the new database system for our members and employees alike. I have been involved with a few computer database projects in the past and believe me there are plenty of, “Oh wow, I thought we were almost done,” moments in the development stage that always equated to more and more hours spent on the project. Even though we have made great progress, there is still a way to go to get to the finish line. When it is finished, I am sure all involved will appreciate it and say that it was worth the wait.

I was able to meet the newest staff members at MCIA and would like to say that they are a couple of great additions to our staff. A big welcome to Shauna Ilse in the organic department and Claire Biel in the seed lab!

Lab Report

By Chase Mowry, Seed Laboratory Services Manager

Image by Andreas Göllner from Pixabay.

We are happy to announce the recent hiring of Claire Biel to fill a vacant seed lab technician position. Claire’s main responsibilities in the laboratory this year will focus on checking in samples, dividing out working samples for purity testing, and planting samples for germination tests. We will also continue training on some of the additional testing services the laboratory offers as well as the requirements of seed certification. Welcome Claire!

Samples submitted to the Seed Laboratory for testing so far this season are slightly behind in comparison to this point in time last year. However, of those received, the overall seed health of samples has continued to look pretty good, and viability results on average are high. We have seen a small amount of Fusarium (scab) infection in germination tests for wheat and rye samples thus far, and Sclerotinia has been present in a handful of soybean samples. Test results for barley loose smut have also shown low infection.

As a reminder, there may be delays in your test results for samples submitted around the holidays as we will plant around the holiday schedule. To prevent any further delays, please be sure to provide all necessary paperwork along with your samples.

If there are any seed testing topics that you would like addressed in future Lab Report columns, please send your ideas to MCIA Seed Laboratory Manager Chase Mowry at

2023 Minnesota Certifed Seed Guide Published

This year’s Minnesota Certified Seed Guide is now available! Minnesota Farm Guide published the 2023 edition earlier this winter. This annual publication is a collaborative effort of MCIA and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES). It lists seed producers, includes MAES crop trial results, and features news and information relevant to the seed industry.

Take the opportunity to learn about the University of Minnesota’s new, high-yielding wheat release, MN-Rothsay. Also, Andrea Johnson contributes an article about the past and hopeful future of the barley industry in the Upper Midwest as the University of Minnesota’s breeding program, under the leadership of Kevin Smith, Ph.D., develops new varieties intended for food and beverage applications as well as animal feed.

A digital version of the Minnesota Certified Seed Guide can be found here. If you’d like a printed copy, please request one from your MCIA field supervisor or from the MCIA office.