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Jam the Stands promotes ethanol at racetracks

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 08/15/2013 12:43 PM

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FERGUS FALLS —Fergus Falls farmer Travis Rocholl spent a recent Friday night at the I-94 Speedway promoting corn — make that corn-based ethanol and bio-diesel.

Rocholl, a member of the Otter Tail-Grant Corn and Soybean Growers, joined other producers at the Fergus Falls racetrack to greet racing fans for a "Jam the Stands" night sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

The event was one of nine "Jam the Stands" events the corn growers and racetracks planned this year to promote "farm to fuel."

A race car emblazoned with ethanol decals was a popular stop. Children sat in the car as parents took pictures. A blender pump was displayed at the 45-foot educational trailer.

Bill Bevill, a promoter for the Alexandria Speedway, has been instrumental in developing Jam the Stands. In the past, corn growers and racetracks conducted four of the promotional events annually. This year they are reaching more people.

It's a win-win-win for the racing fans, farmers and racetracks, said Willmar farmer Chad Willis.

"We've been doing the Governor's Ethanol Tour for several years and have funded classes of cars," said Willis, who also serves on the Minnesota Corn Growers Research and Promotion Council and is chair of the National Corn Growers Ethanol Committee. "This way, the race fans get into the race night free, the racetracks have more people attending and we have an opportunity to get our message out."

Corn grower volunteers assist at the events, handing out tickets for a chance to win a $50 cash card, sell T-shirts and talk to the public.

The event was another way for Bill Shores of Ashby to talk to the public about farming and corn production. Shores, a district representative for Wensman Seed, grew up on a dairy farm near Evansville and began working for Wensman in 2007.

"I like doing this to promote farming and corn production and ethanol," he said. "In this area, it's not hard to talk about ethanol since Fergus Falls has the Green Plains Ethanol Plant. People in the area know about ethanol. Most of the conversations I have with people focus on E-85."

At the national level, the National Corn Growers and other renewable fuel organizations are meeting with the U.S. Council for Automotive Research to educate them about ethanol.

Willis has traveled often to Washington to talk about renewable fuels and ethanol with lawmakers. Many have misconceptions about corn and renewable fuel production, he said. Besides talking about the importance of domestic ethanol production, Willis also discusses the employment opportunities and rural development ethanol production has created.