August 2015 Newsletter

Meet Your Board of Directors

Ron Orth has served on the board of directors of Ag Ventures Alliance for five years. He currently serves on AgVA’s Business Development Committee and the Grants Committee. He is especially interested in investments relating to the dairy industry.

Ron and his wife Darlys live on their acreage near Story City, Iowa during the warm weather months and move back to their home in Ames, Iowa during the winter. Ron and Darlys have two adult children and four grandchildren. Their son David is married to Bonnie and their daughter Julianne is married to Kevin Primmer.

Ron grew up and worked on a family farm near Waverly and graduated from Iowa State University. He worked for county extension offices in Iowa and Minnesota before becoming an Extension Dairy Specialist at Iowa State University. Ron has also been employed as a dairy specialist for the Iowa Institute of Cooperatives.

Ron and Darlys are avid antique collectors/ dealers and travel the Midwest looking for the right antique at the right price. Ron also has a booth at Antiques Iowa in Story City and works there one day a week. Ron is especially interested in collecting antique toy farm equipment. The Orths also have a large garden on their acreage where they grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Ron’s is a member of the Methodist Church, is one of the top fundraisers in the state for CROPWALK for Hunger and is active with Farm House Fraternity at Iowa State University.

New Members

Larry & Donna Bonnstetter, West Bend, IA – Retired Farmers
James, Sawtelle, Superior, CO – Agri-Business

Big Changes Made in AgVA Grant Program

For many years Ag Ventures Alliance has administered the Education and Research Program that provided grants to non-profit organizations working in the food and agriculture space. The Education and Research (E&R) Committee evaluated proposals and made grant awards on proposals that it felt were related to either education or research. Other grants or donations were approved by AgVA’s Executive Committee and still others by the full board. This led to confusion as to where a specific request should be referred and at times led to “passing the buck.”

Earlier this year, the E&R Committee decided it was time to change the way funds were distributed to non-profits. The old program had worked well for years, but like many things, it needed to be revamped to keep up with the evolution of the organization. The eligible activities needed to be clarified, applicants needed to understand what criteria were most important to the committee, in order to be funded and the grant process needed to be refined. One thing that was getting in the way, was the name of the program. Many requests and even grant awards no longer had a great deal to do with either education or research. It was decided that the new name would simply be the Ag Ventures Alliance Grant Program and the committee, the Grants Committee.

After several months of meetings, numerous guideline drafts, e-mails, and phone calls the committee decided on program improvements that it is confident will benefit grant applicants, committee members and most of all AgVA members and their communities well into the future. In July, 2015, the first round of quarterly grants applications were received, reviewed, scored and awarded. As with everything, the committee found a couple of things that needed tweaking after the first funding cycle, but overall AgVA board and staff feel great about the program improvements.

The committee decided that they would focus grants on six areas:

  • Programs that meet nutritional, educational or leadership needs or rural youth;
  • Activities that support the goals outlined in Ag Ventures Alliance’s strategic plan;
  • Mentoring, training and other programs for young and beginning farmers;
  • Continuing education and training for existing farmers;
  • Local events in rural communities that promote agriculture or local foods; and,
  • Agricultural entrepreneurship education and training.

A grant ceiling of $10,000 a year per applicant was re-affirmed with the ability to receive up to three years funding commitment as long as annual milestones were met. A new application form was developed and an application process put in place. A 100 point scoring system is now being used by the committee and staff. Each committee member will score each application on eleven criteria. The scoring criteria emphasize, project effectiveness, impact on AgVA members and rural communities, ability to complete the project in a timely manner, evidence that the funded program can be self-sustaining over time and a desire to spread the money around the region as opposed to concentrating it in a county or two.

As in the past, applications will be considered on a quarterly basis. More detailed information on the program can be found at

Grants Awarded for Quarter 2 of 2015

Ag Decision Maker $4,000
Southern Minnesota Initiative – FEAST $5,000
Healthy Harvest $3,920
Woman, Food and Ag Network $6,000
ISU Community Vitality Center $3,000

AgVA’s Summer Intern

This summer Ag Ventures Alliance hired Adam Buehler from Clear Lake, IA to be our summer intern. Growing up, most people didn’t refer to Adam as “Adam” but as “Beef”, a nickname he has had since grade school. Adam currently attends Waldorf College in Forest City, IA, where he is majoring in finance and banking with an expected graduation date of May 2016. After graduation, Adam wants to pursue a career in banking, insurance or elsewhere within the finance industry. Aside to majoring in finance and banking, Adam plays offensive tackle for the Waldorf Football Team.

AgVA Goes to the Fair

This summer Ag Ventures Alliance set out to attend different county fairs in Iowa and Minnesota as an opportunity to share our name with the community. During the course of the summer, we attended Worth County Fair, North Iowa Fair, Franklin County Fair, Floyd County Fair, Mitchell County Fair, and Freeborn County Fair. While at the county fairs, AgVA had a booth set up to provide information to current, old and non-members. AgVA staff enjoyed the opportunity to meet with different visitors who stopped by our booth, this gave staff the opportunity to get a better insight into the local community and find out what some of our members are thinking.

To make staffing the fairs possible AgVA hired Adam Buehler, as our summer intern, he helped us in staffing and visiting with those who stopped by our booth, read more about Adam in his bio located within this newsletter.

AgVA offered fair visitors the opportunity to enter a raffle for a gift certificate to a local restaurant. At the North Iowa Fair we awarded Shirley and Don Peterson a gift certificate to the North Iowa Steakhouse and not only did they walk away with our gift certificate they walked away with blue and red ribbons from the sewing department. Congratulations Don and Shirley Peterson on your success at the North Iowa Fair.

Ag Ventures Alliance would like to congratulate the following winners of our raffle drawings at the different county fairs. The winners include; Pam Lande from the Worth County fair who won a gift certificate to Signatures, Don Peterson from the North Iowa Fair won a gift certificate to Northwestern Steak House, Joan Pralle from the Franklin County Fair won a gift certificate to The Wharf, Chuck Staudt from the Floyd County Fair won a gift certificate to The Three C Bistro, Kim Clayton from the Mitchell County Fair won a gift certificate to TeluWut, and Tamra Hansen from the Freeborn County Fair won a gift certificate to Green Mill. Congratulations once again to our winners and thank you for stopping by our booth at the fair!

While at the Floyd County Fair, AgVA staff enjoyed watching the bear show. These bears where the inspiration behind the two bears from Disney’s animated movie Brother Bear. At the Freeborn County Fair, AgVA staff enjoyed the opportunity to watch the different animal showings that took place over the course of the fair. Throughout all of the fairs, it was a highlight getting to meet different people from all across the Midwest and sharing more about what Ag Ventures Alliance is and what we do.

Thank you again to all the members who stopped by and talked with us at the fairs this summer, we appreciated meeting with you and getting to hear what you had to say.

AgVA Investment Portfolio

On ONCE Innovation’s website it describes the company as providing, “the Science of Light to the World of Agriculture”. Light is one of the essential elements necessary to sustain life along with nutrients, water and air, but as the company explains, it is often overlooked as a key input in livestock production. ONCE Innovation provides species specific lighting to the livestock industry as a proven input that increases production. The company’s goal is “to demonstrate to you that the right Agricultural lighting ‘system’ will make your animals happier, healthier and more productive”. The company currently has systems for broilers, layers, turkeys, Swine and aquaculture.

In 2013, Ag Ventures Alliance invested in ONCE Innovations, a Plymouth, Minnesota company. ONCE Innovations markets its LED lighting systems for livestock barns throughout the U.S. Retrofitting a barn with these LED lights can provide up to an 80% energy savings in swine barns, but energy savings is just part of the benefit to livestock producers, as animals see differently than humans and differently than other animals.

The colors that are most sensitive to a species are the colors that the species sees the best. Humans see green and yellow better than blue and red. Poultry can also see green, the best, but instead of seeing yellow well, poultry sees red and blue well. For example, a butterfly that looks light yellow to a human would look blue to a chicken. Swine are different from poultry and humans by seeing green and blue best.

Understanding these differences and providing animal specific spectrum of light, irradiance, and modulation can reduce livestock mortality, improve feed conversion and reduce stress. The ability to dim the lights is used to mimic the sunrise and sunset which can calm poultry and help to add pounds to the bird’s weight. This is the “science of light” that ONCE Innovations provides livestock producers in order to help lower costs and increases productivity.

ONCE Innovation is always looking for new ways to use light to solve problems in the livestock industry. One of its more recent products is the use of ultraviolet light to kill viruses in swine.

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