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Published July 27 2012

Soybeans and social progress

Colfax, N.D. - Vanessa Kummer’s roots might be in southeastern North Dakota, but her latest leadership role has made her a business advocate for rural soybean farmers in places across the globe.

Kummer and her husband, Paul, operate a soybean, corn and sugarbeet farm near their home in Colfax, about 30 miles south of Fargo. Kummer is a native of Litchville, about 20 miles southeast of Valley City.

Nearly 20 years ago, Kummer started on a path that led her to becoming the first woman and the first North Dakotan elected to lead the United Soybean Board.

“Paul and I believe farmers have a responsibility to help promote our products and to have a voice in the industry,” Kummer said. “I never set out to pursue leadership roles, but I believe that it’s important for all of us farmers to step up when we’re in a position to contribute, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

From 1994 to 2001, Kummer represented area soybean farmers in the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, including two years when she served as president.

In 2003, Kummer was appointed to serve on the United Soybean Board, a national farmer-led group that promotes investments in soybean research and market development. By law, the board isn’t involved in policy issues.

Kummer was elected chairwoman of the USB in December.

More than halfway through her term now, Kummer said she hopes her tenure as chairwoman “highlights the opportunities for women to serve in leadership roles in agriculture.”

Her work this year has focused on maximizing profit opportunities for soybean farmers, a task that has taken Kummer on trips around the globe.

Earlier this summer, Kummer spent some time in Europe and, just last week, she was in Virginia for USB’s summer board meeting.

“We’re a part of a global marketplace now, with many industry partners,” Kummer said. “It’s vital that U.S. soybean industry representatives such as USB directors spend time cultivating these relationships to build ties with our customers everywhere.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541