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Hanna continues value added legacy

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 04/19/2013 3:12 PM

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FOREST CITY, Iowa —As president of Ag Ventures Alliance, Mark Hanna is continuing a legacy started by his father.

Richard Hanna is one of the founders of the organization.

Mark Hanna, 55, said that when his father helped found the organization in 1998, he didn't know that much about it. He was busy farming and raising his family.

When Richard was unable to serve on the board any longer in 2005 because of Parkinson's Disease, he asked his son to take his place. Richard died two years ago.

"They started Ag Ventures as a way to add value to the commodities farmers raise," Hanna said. "They knew that with $1.50 corn plus government programs, they were just treading water, they weren't getting anywhere. As things got started and Ag Ventures invested in the ethanol plant, Midwest Grain Processors, and then Golden Oval Eggs, he could see that the organization was viable and functioning as he wanted. He knew it was something he wanted to continue, and that's why he asked me to get involved."

Hanna farms with his wife, Belinda, and their sons Andrew, 29, and Philip, 23. Andrew and his wife, Alyssa, have a baby daughter, Nora.

The Hannas grow row crops, have a wean-to-finish hog operation and are Mycogen Seed dealers.

Hanna said his goal in the next decade is to help his sons get established in farming.

"My dad helped me, and his grandfather helped him," Hanna said. "It's what we do."

In 2001, their farm was recognized as a Century Farm at the Iowa State Fair. It's an event that Hanna and his sons remember fondly.

Philip attended the recent Ag Ventures Alliance annual meeting with his father and was touched by stories Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey shared about the Century and Heritage Farm awards.

Hanna said one of his goals as Ag Ventures Alliance president, a position he has held since 2012, is to get more young people involved.

"We did a survey and much of our membership base is 55 and older," Hanna said. "We need to get young people involved to keep our organization viable. We're looking at ways to spark the interest of young farmers. They may not have the money to invest in projects right now but we want to them to be a part of our future."

Since becoming an Ag Ventures board member, Hanna said he has learned a lot about the organization's value and the importance of value-added agriculture. The group is a business development organization that creates new value-added ag businesses and helps existing value-added ag businesses expand.

Ag Ventures Alliance remains busy. It continues to invest in new companies and promote firms to members who might be interested in investing.

"We have several companies come to us each month wanting to present products and ideas," Hanna said.

Some firms Ag Ventures is assisting —FloMetrix, Feedlogic, Once Innovations, Agren and Agricen's Accomplish LM — had displays at the recent annual meeting.

"When Ag Ventures started, its goal was to enhance corn and soybeans," Hanna said. "We are evolving, trying to keep up with new technologies. This is a good place to get a look at cutting-edge technologies and help them develop."

Hanna said it's an honor to continue what his father believed in so strongly.

"He worked hard, and it was tough to get started," Hanna said. "He told his story many times before people got interested. It's something he really believed in."