Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
A dining table seating fifty at the crest of a hilly meadow was the perfect setting to discuss food on a mid-August evening in Mazeppa.
The event was a “Field-To-Fork” dinner, hosted by CommonGround Minnesota and farmers Katie and Ted Brenny, who raise beef cattle. Both Katie and Ted are fifth generation farmers.
Field-to-Fork dinners are organized each year by CommonGround, which is a group of women in agriculture who volunteer their time to share information about food and farming. The group invites people who have a passion for food, whether they work directly in the food industry or write about it, for a conversation about modern farming.
At the dinner, three women farmers shared their passion for what they do and fielded questions from the guests. Brenny was joined by Angela Guentzel, a corn and soybeans farmer near Mankato, and Bekah Gustafson, a corn, soybean and beef cattle producer near Osceola, Wisc.
For the CommonGround volunteers, their goal is for more people to know what farming is like today, and for the broader public to gain knowledge and appreciation for how food is produced.
One guest observed that it was very encouraging to see these three women pursuing their dreams in agriculture. She wondered how they can encourage more young women to pursue careers on the farm.
“From my personal experience, I would say there is nothing better than getting out there, and doing the work, and then seeing your hard work pay off,” said Bekah Gustafson, who mentioned organizations like FFA and 4-H as a great way for youth to get those experiences.
Guentzel, who farms with her father and brother, said that being a farmer can be both frustrating and exhilarating these days. But, she emphasizes that being a farmer is only one of many careers in food and agriculture—kids need to be aware of all the different possibilities.
“We need agronomists, nutritionists, plant specialists, bee keepers, soil scientists, veterinarians, you name it,” said Guentzel. “Pursue those college degrees!”
Another guest asked for the one takeaway message each farmer would like to send out to the world. Brenny took the opportunity to emphasize that farmers are consumers who want the best for their families, just like everyone else.
“I’m just like you. I go to church, I shop at the grocery store, I go to Target. We are no different from all of you, it’s just that we didn’t choose to be the doctor or the school teacher. We chose to farm.”