MCIA Presents Annual Awards

On January 24, 2024, Minnesota Crop Improvement Association presented its highest honor, the Achievement in Crop Improvement Award, to Roger Wippler, who recently retired as manager of MCIA’s Foundation Seed Services. The award, which MCIA has presented annually since 1972, recognizes exemplary service to the seed industry as well as outstanding leadership in agriculture.

MCIA also recognized four Premier Seed Grower awardees, Scott Lee of Benson, Larry Riopelle of Argyle, and Merle Schwenzfeier and Roger Schwenzfeier of Hallock. 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 MCIA Field Services Manager Kris Folland and Dr. Eric Watkins, Vice Provost for Distributed Learning at the University of Minnesota and Professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the UMN’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences. 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 121st Annual Meeting. The event was held at the Holiday Inn & Suites in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

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

MCIA Board Chairman Brad Barth with Roger Wippler, recipient of the Achievement in Crop Improvement Award.

Roger Wippler, of Roseville, after a 34-year career with the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, recently retired from his position as Foundation Seed Services manager. Roger grew up on a hobby farm near Randall, Minnesota. His love for agriculture began when he was old enough to help area farmers by picking rocks, stacking hay bales, and milking cows. He went on to study landscape technology and agriculture education in college. After stints as an energy auditor, landscaper, and educator, in 1989 he joined MCIA. Roger has been involved in the Association’s longstanding efforts to diversify its services, leading the development of the Variety Licensing Program. He has also been something of an ambassador for the Association, helping to maintain and strengthen its relationships with partner organizations such as AOSCA, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota, and commodity groups. He has also done public outreach for MCIA by staffing the Certified Seed exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. Outside of MCIA, he has served as a UMN Extension Master Gardener for 24 years. Roger accepted the Achievement in Crop Improvement Award with gratitude, saying, “I greatly appreciate this honor. It has truly been a privilege to work with members of MCIA and be a part of this great organization.”

Premier Seed Grower Award

Scott and Catie Lee.

Scott Lee, of Benson, raises certified wheat and oats to be conditioned and sold to local farmers. He also grows soybean seed and corn. Lee’s Seed Farm has been an active seed producer and MCIA member since it was established by Scott’s father, Wallace, in 1969. The operation includes a seed cleaning plant. Scott serves on the board of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council and has been involved in many local, regional, and national agriculture organizations. Lee’s Seed Farm has been the location and host of the University of Minnesota small grains research plots for many years.

Josh Kostrzewski of Riopelle Seed Co. accepts the Premier Seed Grower Award on behalf of Larry Riopelle from Brad Barth, Chairman, MCIA Board of Directors.

Larry Riopelle, of Argyle, grew up working on the Riopelle Seed Farm, which was started by his father and uncle. He continued helping out on the farm while studying farm management in college. Within nine years of graduating, he and a cousin would be running the business. The farm has produced certified seed for decades. During Larry’s tenure, the farm added bulk seed handling and seed treating. Today, Larry’s son, Josh, operates the business along with his business partner, Adam. They continue to grow all classes of certified wheat seed, including foundation seed for MCIA. Larry has served on many boards in his community and is a member of the Minnesota Wheat and Soybean associations.

Roger Schwenzfeier, accompanied by his wife, Phyllis Schwenzfeier, receives the Premier Seed Grower Award from Brad Barth, Chairman, MCIA Board of Directors.

Brothers Merle Schwenzfeier and Roger Schwenzfeier, of Hallock, grew up near Orleans Minnesota, raising livestock and producing crops. After college, they began farming together, a partnership that endured until Roger’s retirement. The next generation is now involved with Merle in running the farm. The Schwenzfeiers grow wheat, soybeans, and sugar beets, and every year they grow certified wheat seed. They have been active seed producing members of MCIA for over 40 years. Both Merle and Roger have served on local boards, including the school, church, and elevators.

Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award

Kris Folland, accompanied by his wife, Bethany Folland, receives the Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award from Brad Barth, Chairman, MCIA Board of Directors.

Kris Folland, of Halma, began his career with the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association in 2006 as a field supervisor, managing seed certification and seed production for northern Minnesota. Since 2019, he has been the able manager of MCIA’s Field Services department. Kris has worked with all facets of MCIA’s processes and procedures, program reviews and development, and standards. His successful efforts to develop new business relationships have been a key to MCIA’s growth. Kris and his wife, Bethany, farm together and are both involved in the Kittson Country 4-H. Kris also serves, or has served, on many local, regional, and state boards and committees.

Dr. Eric Watkins, Professor and Vice Provost for Distributed Learning at the University of Minnesot, receives the Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award from Brad Barth, Chairman, MCIA Board of Directors.

Dr. Eric Watkins has taught at the University of Minnesota since 2004. In addition to being a professor in the CFANS Department of Horticulture Science, in 2022 he took on the position of Vice Provost for Distributed Learning. Dr. Watkins’ research has been important to the success of northern Minnesota’s turfgrass production. His research focuses on the development of low‐input turfgrass cultivars for use in cold climates. Research activities involve germplasm improvement of several cool‐season turfgrass species including fine fescues and perennial ryegrass. He is also involved with turfgrass cultivar evaluation and other turfgrass science research. Dr. Watkins has taught several university courses related to turfgrass management and plant breeding.


Call for Award Nominees

MCIA

We encourage members to submit nominations for MCIA’s annual Honorary Premier Seed Grower, Premier Seed Grower, and Achievement in Crop Improvement awards, which will be presented at the MCIA Annual Meeting, January 24, 2024.

If you know a producer, seed conditioner, or supporter of MCIA deserving of recognition for their service to the seed industry, involvement in MCIA, and contributions to their community, or if you have questions about nomination requirements, please contact Roger Wippler at 1-800-510-6242 or by e-mail at wippl002@umn.edu.


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.


Call for Award Nominations

MCIA

We encourage members to submit nominations for MCIA’s annual Honorary Premier Seed Grower, Premier Seed Grower, and Achievement in Crop Improvement awards, which will be presented at the MCIA Annual Meeting, January 12, 2023.

If you know a producer, seed conditioner, or supporter of MCIA deserving of recognition for their service to the seed industry, involvement in MCIA, and contributions to their community, or if you have questions about nomination requirements, please contact Roger Wippler at 1-800-510-6242 or by e-mail at wippl002@umn.edu.


MCIA Presents Annual Awards

On January 12, 2022, Minnesota Crop Improvement Association presented its highest honor, the Achievement in Crop Improvement Award, to seed producer Wayne Capistran. The award, presented annually since 1972, recognizes exemplary service to the seed industry as well as outstanding leadership in agriculture.

MCIA also recognized five Premier Seed Grower awardees, Duane and John Pazdernik, Larry Rivard, Richard (Dick) Stangler, and Harmen Tande. 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. Journalist Andrea Johnson and University of Minnesota Professor Kevin P Smith were the recipients of MCIA’s Honorary Premier Seedsman Award, which 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 119th Annual Meeting. The virtual event was hosted at MCIA’s office in St. Paul, Minnesota, January 12, 2022.

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

Wayne Capistran

Wayne Capistran, of Crookston, has a passion for producing high quality certified seed. His dedication to quality has made Capistran Seed a very successful business.

Capistran’s participates in MCIA’s Seed Certification, Organic Certification, and Approved Facility programs. The Capistrans represent several seed companies and conduct their own variety test plots. Wayne’s straightforward, honest approach has earned him the respect of seed companies and customers alike.

Wayne is a member of the Polk County Crop Improvement and the wheat, soybean, and sugar beet grower organizations. Wayne and his wife Nancy have three children and their son Kevin is a key part of the family business.

Premier Seed Grower Award

2022 Premier Seed Grower Award recipients: Duane Pazdernik, John Pazdernik, Larry Rivard, Richard (Dick) Stangler, and Harmen Tande

Duane and John Pazdernik, of Waubun, have been growing and conditioning certified seed for over 30 years. Together, the brothers have a combined 100 years of farming experience. The Pazderniks often attend the Prairie Grains Conference, Small Grain Updates, and local county crop meetings. Their customers are neighbors and friends, and they truly value those relationships.

Larry Rivard, of Grand Forks, has been in the seed industry for over 50 years. His father, Bert, was a founder of Rivard’s Quality Seeds in Argyle. There, Larry learned to condition certified seed. Today, his business, Rivard’s Turf and Forage, is part of the MnDOT Approved Vendor Program. Larry has been active in various organizations.

Richard (Dick) Stangler, of Kilkenny, in Le Sueur County, has spent his entire life working with seed. He is the third generation in the business and works with his son Nick and daughter Becky. He participates in MCIA’s Seed Certification, Approved Facility, and the Noxious Weed Seed–free Forage and Mulch programs. He grows and conditions soybeans, oats, wheat, and cover crops seed.

Harmen Tande, of Moorhead, has been a certified seed grower for over 40 years. Ernie Krabbenhoft of Sabin encourage him to start growing seed. His primary seed crop is spring wheat, and he takes great pride in producing high quality seed. He has been active locally in the Clay County Crop Improvement and the county soybean growers group.

Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award

2022 Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award recipients: Andrea Johnson and Dr. Kevin Smith

Andrea Johnson, of Appleton, has been writing about agriculture for over 30 years. She grew up on a farm near Canby and cultivated her interest in writing. Andrea joined the Farm & Ranch Guide in 1998 and helped launch the Minnesota Farm Guide. A great supporter of MCIA, Andrea authors a significant article each year for the Minnesota Certified Seed Guide. Her work highlights MCIA and the Minnesota seed industry.

Dr. Kevin Smith has been the barley breeder at the University of Minnesota since 1998. His breeding work now includes winter, two-row, and hulless barley. In addition to barley, he re-booted the oat breeding program, which produced MN-Pearl, and is breeding silflower, a perennial oilseed. The Smith research team works closely with MCIA, including planting and care of the MCIA small grain grow-outs. Kevin also teaches classes and advises several graduate students.