“When you feed the world, you are as important as any ambassador or government diplomat,” explained 50-year-old Gene (Pucky) Sandager, a corn, soybean, and cattle producer from Hills, Minnesota.
But Gene does a lot more than just feed the world; he is teaching the world how to feed itself.
Gene’s family has been very involved in the Minnesota Agricultural Student Trainee Program, a service that trains farm exchange students from across the globe and shows producers from developing countries the techniques and skills that U.S. farmers have been honing for generations.
“My father and uncle got involved in the exchange program in the ’40s, and I got involved shortly after graduating college in ’73,” Gene said. “In fact, my sister ended up marrying a farm exchange student from South Africa.”
“My wife, Shirley, and our three kids also love the chance to meet new people and learn about other cultures,” he continued.
In addition to teaching others how to grow food for the world, Gene also preaches agriculture’s role in the world of energy. And he practices what he preaches. Gene has investments in a local corn ethanol plant, a wind generation business, and a bio-digester facility.
“Farmers from Alabama to Asia and Africa will fuel more than people’s bodies in the near future,” he tells the exchange students. “We’re going to fuel cars, trucks, and electric grids.”
But Gene knows that before these dreams of powering the world can come to fruition, we have some business to take care of right here at home.
“The farm bill before Congress contains essential investments in energy and the production of food crops,” he noted. “But that bill is stuck in the mud. The top priority of our government right now needs to be breaking this logjam and passing a bill before Spring.”
“All the news these days is about economic stimulus,” Gene continued. “Well, I can’t think of anything more important to our economy than ensuring we can feed and clothe ourselves. And as an added bonus this farm bill will help us lessen our dependence on costly foreign oil.”
Gene holds a leadership position with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and has been very active in pressuring his elected leaders to act.
“The world is watching,” he said. “We can either lead by example or fall behind. Hopefully, Washington will give us the resources we need to stay out in front.”