Belgrade farmer, Golden Kernel award winner, reflects about serving on MCGA board

John Mages

MCGA president Bruce Peterson, left, presents retiring board member and Belgrade farmer John Mages with the Golden Kernel award at MN Ag EXPO 2015.

It’s hard for John Mages to pinpoint a single accomplishment he’s most proud of during his nine years serving on the MCGA board of directors. But if he had to pick one thing, he’d go with finally getting a new farm bill passed in early 2014.

“It took a long time to finish that farm bill,” Mages said. “But we needed it and we finally got it done.”

Mages retired from the MCGA board in January after serving three terms covering nine years, the maximum time a farmer-leader can serve on the board.  The Belgrade farmer served in just about every leadership position possible during his time on the board, including president, vice president, treasurer and secretary.

He also chaired the Government Relations committee, served on four National Corn Growers Association action teams and was a member of the Asian advisory team on the U.S. Grains Council.

Mages never considered running for the MCGA board until he participated in the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) Program through Southwest Minnesota State University. Mages’ MARL experience piqued his interest in exploring new leadership opportunities, and the MCGA board looked like a good fit.

“When I first started, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Mages said. “I didn’t realize all the things that MCGA works on and how involved everyone is. I really learned a lot right away and it’s been a very rewarding experience.”

The scope of MCGA’s work is wide. The organization works on everything from government relations and consumer outreach, to ethanol, research and finding new uses for corn. MCGA is able to tackle such a wide variety of issues because of the grassroots efforts of farmer-leaders like Mages.

Mages was recognized for his service and dedication at MN Ag EXPO 2015 with the Golden Kernel award, given annually to an individual who works to improve corn farming and agriculture overall.

“John really stepped up over the years and helped us accomplish a lot at both the state and local level,” said MCGA President Bruce Peterson. “When people talk about what makes a good farmer-leader, all they need to do is point to John as an example.”

Replacing Mages on the MCGA board is Dan Root, a farmer and ag lender who lives in Hayfield.

Even though Mages will no longer be serving on the MCGA board, you can expect to see him remain active advocating for Minnesota’s corn farmers and agriculture. On Wednesday of this week, he was at MCGA’s annual legislative reception to connect with elected and agency officials on several issues important to farmers.

Standing up and speaking out for corn farmers. It’s something Mages has never hesitated doing. Serving on the MCGA board helped him focus that energy on improving corn farming in Minnesota, both overall and on his own farm.

“It was always time well spent,” Mages said. “It’s a learning process, but as you go, you become more familiar with all the issues. You also learn from farmers around the country, what they’re doing and how maybe you can become a better farmer yourself.”

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