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Brenden recalls 40 years of crop and forage show

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 03/05/2013 9:19 AM

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. —Selvin Brenden smiled as he surveyed the crowd last week at the West Otter Tail Crop and Forage Show in Fergus Falls.

He watched crowds milling around the commercial exhibits. Others looked intently at the corn, soybean, small grain and forage exhibits entered by farmers and area FFAers. Some were heading to educational sessions held throughout the day-long event.

Attendance has grown since it started 40 years ago, said Brenden. The intent was to promote new and locally grown seeds. Brenden and around 20 other farmers, all Minnesota Crop Improvement Association members, wanted the event to highlight local crops and promote area seed production.

They got the idea for a crop show during a farm meeting. Other counties held similar events, he said.

MCIA manager Roger Whippler agreed. During a talk at one of the show's program events, Whippler described MCIA's history.

The Otter Tail County group did their homework before the first event. Several of them attended a farm show in Wahpeton, N.D., to get ideas, Brenden said.

He was like the other members who wanted to bring in seed samples to be judged at the show. Seed production was one part of Brenden's Rothsay farming operation. He milked dairy cows on the farm he purchased in 1964 and raised oats, barley, wheat and corn.

His son, Bruce, now operates the farm. The dairy herd was sold several years ago and replaced by beef cattle.

Bruce continues to follow in his father's footsteps. Besides farming, Bruce is also active in the crop show association.

Fergus Falls' Armory was the show's site for two years before it moved to the Holiday Inn. Commercial exhibits were placed throughout the pool area where, one year, someone fell into the pool, Brenden said. After that, the pool was visible to those walking through the area, but roped off.

The show's site remained the same as the hotel was purchased by the Best Western company and remodeled to include the event center. Now there was more room for exhibitors and the show's program.

Committee members wanted to include the FFA. They added several contests for the local chapters including job interview, wildlife, ag sales and several grain, forage and crop identification events.

The event's original focus on local and new seed offerings has shifted as the seed industry itself has gone through changes, Brenden said. It continues to highlight crop and forage production through its exhibits and offers discussions on farm topics and honoring ag award recipients during its day-long program.

Current farm show committee members noted the show's 40th year milestone. Often, when introducing guest speakers or award highlights, show moderator Mickey Rohde and others talked about the anniversary.

It has been a celebration not only of the show's longevity, but also of farming. The advancement in seed production is evident in the quality of exhibits. The future of agriculture is bright thanks to the FFA members and their work on projects and contests.

All of it brings a smile to Brenden and other committee members who founded the show 40 years ago.