June 2014 Communications

Ag Ventures Alliance Hires Full Time Executive Director

Jude Conway was approved as the new full time executive director of Ag Ventures Alliance at the February 14, 2014, board of directors meeting. He began working at AgVA on February 26, 2014. Jude replaces Terry Carpenter, who was the part time executive director of both AgVA and Rural Development Partners. Mr. Carpenter decided to dedicate himself full time to Rural Development Partners. Jude Conway has over twenty years’ experience in early stage investing in Iowa and Illinois. He also has significant knowledge and contacts in the agriculture and food industries, having invested in successful Ag related investments and served on several Ag and food related boards and task forces.
Jude has written one book and several published articles on venture capital and economic development. He has spoken at dozens of local, regional and national workshops and conferences. He received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of South Dakota. He is a native of Emmetsburg, Iowa, and has lived most of his adult life in the Des Moines area. He is married to Jane Conway and has six children, ranging from 15 to 31 years of age.

AgVA Fills the Bus for a Tour of Indoor Plant Growing Facilities

Over fifty people took the opportunity to learn about three different types of indoor growing facilities on March 19th on a bus tour sponsored by AgVA. Before boarding the bus, most enjoyed breakfast at the 2014 Mason City Chamber of Commerce Ag Breakfast at the North Iowa Events Center in Mason City. From the Events Center we went to Lake Mills, along the way we made a short stop at the I-35 rest area to pick up a few more participants.
JUNE_02Outside of Lake Mills, Iowa, we visited Perfect Circle’s organic tomato greenhouse. The facility receives all of its heat by contracting with the adjacent Waste Management landfill for energy generated by the methane from the landfill site. It was interesting to see how the facility operated. One thing that amazed many was the size of the tomato plants. Each of us left the greenhouse with a small bag of tomatoes that were delicious.
JUNE_03JUNE_04Our next stop was in St. Paul Minnesota where we visited Garden Fresh Farms, a rather unique aquaponics facility. We were treated to a nice lunch at the St. Paul stop. Garden Fresh Farms grows green leafy vegetables and herbs in an old warehouse facility converted to aquaponics. The
owner, a former accountant, has retro-fitted whatever he could to provide equipment for the facility, for instance the growing tables are old office partitions. One of Garden Fresh Farms’ tricks to growing larger plants at a faster rate is the distance of the light from the plant, which is kept at the same distance regardless of plant size. In the aquaponics facility fish are also grown and the water from the fish tanks is constantly circulated to water and fertilize the plants and then back into the fish tank. The plants are all sold in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to restaurants and grocery stores.
JUNE_05On the way back to Mason City we stopped in Faribault, Minnesota, to visit Living Greens Farm, an aeroponics facility. This was promoted as growing plants without water, which seemed a bit hard to believe. What in fact is being done is that the plants are being constantly misted and the roots are exposed to the air and are not in soil or water but the plants are getting water.
We stopped at Pizza Ranch in downtown Owatonna for dinner. I bet the local customers that came in right behind us wondered why there was such a line on Wednesday evening. Then it was back in the bus for the trip back Mason City. It was a long day (nearly fourteen hours from breakfast to arriving back at the fairgrounds) but I think everyone thought it was well worth the time.

AgVA’s Fifteenth Annual Meeting was held March 6th

JUNE_06Over 120 members and friends attended Ag Ventures Alliance Cooperative’s fifteenth annual meeting on March 6, 2014, at the Clarion Hotel in Mason City, Iowa. They enjoyed a buffet style meal and conversation. President, Mark Hanna, presided over the meeting that included a short pictorial history of farming in North Iowa, a keynote address by Kelvin Leibold, Iowa State Extension, Farm & Ag Business Management Specialist, and a financial report from David Underwood, AgVA’ s Treasurer.
JUNE_07The following members were re-elected to the board of directors for three year terms: Ron Orth, Ames, Iowa, and Bob Cole, Mason City, Iowa.
A number of businesses in which AgVA has invested displayed their products and services at the meeting and answered members’ questions about their products. As a bonus, each person in attendance received an organic pie from Happle’s Gourmet Foods of Homestead, Iowa, another of AgVA’s investments.

New AgVA Officers Elected

At the March 14, 2014, AgVA’s boards of directors meeting the following members were elected to serve as officers of the organization for the coming year:
Chuck Souder, President, Rudd, Iowa
David Nelson, Vice President, Belmond, Iowa
David Underwood, Treasurer, Clear Lake, Iowa
Mark Hanna, Past President, Joice, Iowa
Cathy Kaune, Secretary, Mason City, Iowa

Big Changes Coming for Newsletter

It’s been some time since we sent out a newsletter. A lot has changed at Ag Ventures Alliance thus far in 2014 and we have committed to keeping members much better informed from here on out. There will also be news coming about more services and educational programs for members starting this summer and fall.
Starting with this one, we plan to get a newsletter to members every two months. The format of this newsletter is similar to those you have received in the past but the August newsletter will have an entirely new look and sometime in the fall we plan to begin offering it digitally, as well as by mail, so that you can get it via e-mail and eventually via text. We will also develop regular articles along with announcements and member news.
We hope as we make changes to the newsletter and offer new programs and services you let us know how we are doing and make suggestions as to how we might improve our communications and services to you. It’s an exciting time at AgVA and we are confident that you will be excited at what’s to come in the months and years that follow.

Lunch and Learn: A New AgVA initiative

Ag Ventures Alliance is pleased to announce our first series of “Lunch and Learn” events. Come, have lunch and hear a speaker discuss a relevant topic for AgVA members and others in the rural Midwest. We plan to have events in several locations each summer and winter. The first set will be held in the Iowa communities of Mason City, Garner, Osage and Cherokee. Lunch will be provided and the program is designed to last approximately an hour.
The first Lunch and Learn event will be in Mason City on June 25th with John Sjolinder, Executive Director of Cerro Gordo County Extension Service, speaking on Women, Land and Legacy, a national organization with local chapters. It is specifically designed for women who would like assistance with making farm decisions. Landowners, spouses of farmers, farm operators and other women involved in agriculture will find the discussion particularly interesting.
The events in Garner, Osage and Cherokee will cover the research that Ag Ventures Alliance and others are doing to convert corn stover into a more valuable livestock feed, especially for ruminates. Max Keuning, from Monsanto will present and Brad Saeger, Business Development Specialist for AgVA will be on hand to answer questions about AgVA’ s research on corn stover conversion.


Jude Conway, Executive Director, jconway@agventuresalliance.com
Cathy Kaune, Administrative Assistant & Board Secretary, ckaune@agventuresalliance.com
Brad Saeger, Business Development Consultant, bsaeger@agventuresalliance.com
Rusty Schmidt, Business Development Consultant, rschmidt@agventuresalliance.com

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