2018 Ag Summit: Agriculture Renewed

2018 Agriculture Summit “Agriculture Renewed”

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Holiday Inn Conference Center, Austin, MN

Welcome to the Riverland Community College 2018 Ag Summit “Agriculture Renewed”. This summit is a celebration and coming together of the energy, people, and ideas that are propelling the Center for Agricultural and Food Science Technology forward. Forward in ways that are building a base for even more good things to come.

Similar to the way our college and programs are innovating we will learn from a Riverland graduate about innovation and how it moves into places to help people with their needs. Riverland is improving our community and our world by innovating and providing “Best in Class” programming and instruction.

We will hear from a Riverland Alumnus who has spent time in North Korea and many other global destinations about his thoughts regarding education, agriculture, food policy, government, and leadership. You will also meet and hear from a recently retired National FFA Officer about her year in office and the importance of youth leadership development.

One of Riverland’s Farm Business Management instructors plans to share his experience working with producers on niche markets, local foods, and distance learning to improve their profitability. A summary presentation on the recent “Growing Acres” conference at Riverland will give insight into work being done to strengthen our area’s economy and livability.

The Summit Panel Break-Out Sessions will allow you the opportunity to meet in small groups with leaders and innovators that are making progress in such areas as building soil health, cover crop research, leadership development, niche markets and local foods. You will find many opportunities for learning and networking. We hope you will decide to invest in yourself, our college and our communities by participating in the 2018 Ag Summit.

Register now by clicking here to register for this informative and complimentary Ag Summit. Registration deadline is February 21.



Nathan Smit
Innovation Manager, Corporate Innovation

As Innovation Manager for Hormel Foods, Nathan Smit is responsible for the development of consumer centric innovation for several of the company’s key brands including SKIPPY® peanut butter, Justin’s ® almond butter, and the Muscle Milk® family of products.

Nathan joined Hormel Foods in 2001 as chemistry lab technician. In 2009, he advanced to an associate scientist in R&D working on Always Tender® products and fresh pork and in 2011, to scientist working on brands such as Lloyds® barbeque and foodservice bacon. In 2012, Nathan took a position in the grocery products division as an associate brand manager of innovation. While in the Grocery Products division, Nathan aided in the successful development of several new product platforms including the launch of SKIPPY® P.B. bites. Prior to joining Hormel Foods, Nathan spent 3 years as a laboratory technician at Tyson Foods.

Nathan is a 2000 graduate of Riverland Community College. He also holds an undergraduate degree from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in food science and industry. He is also certified in Design Thinking from Stanford University.

Nathan holds two U.S. patents, has authored two books and recently received the National NUTN Distinguished Learner Award for his use of distance education to advance his career. He lives on a hobby farm in Austin, Minn., with his wife, Becky.

Michael Sparby
Senior Project Strategist


Michael Sparby is the Senior Project Strategist of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), responsible for developing projects, securing grant funds, assists in the program delivery, oversees the annual AURI stakeholder analysis process and is responsible for AURI’s Cooperative Development Center through USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant program.

Over the course of his more than 22 years at AURI, he has identified opportunities to develop and commercialize value?added agricultural products throughout Minnesota. He has implemented and managed the development and coordination of AURI’s Renewable Energy Roundtable, presented more than 24 public presentations annually and aided in defining the direction of the organization.
Before joining AURI, Sparby held a variety of leadership positions, including Medicaid fraud investigator and consumer mediator for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. Prior to his tenure with the attorney general’s office, he worked as a communications coordinator at the Minnesota Trade Center and as assistant director of Concordia Language Village’s Norwegian Village.

Sparby is a graduate of Moorhead State University and received his Bachelor of Science degree in public relations and mass communications. He also holds an Economic Development Finance Professional certification from the National Development Council, which provides a foundation for financial and business credit analysis as well as deal structuring.

Jerry Nelson

Jerry Nelson, from near Lyle, Minnesota, joined the University of Missouri faculty in 1967 after receiving his A.A. degree from Austin Jr. College (Riverland), his B.S. in Animal Nutrition and M.S. in Agronomy from the University of Minnesota, and his Ph.D. in Agronomy/Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin. At Missouri, he conducted research on the regulation of leaf growth, tillering and photosynthesis that affect yield and quality of tall fescue. He also researched legume persistence, mainly on seeding rates, cutting management and autotoxicity problems of alfalfa. He received numerous research awards.

Dr. Nelson taught Orientation to Plant Science for freshmen and an upper division course in Crop Physiology for which he received teaching awards. He mentored over 20 M.S. and Ph.D. students and hosted about 25 visiting scientists from several countries for extended research projects. He and his colleagues published more than 225 research journal publications, 9 books and 30 chapters in books. He was elected President of the Crop Science Society of America (1988, 6000 members) and the American Society of Agronomy (1996, 13,000 members). He led a formation of the International Crop Science Society (2500 members) and served as its first President (2000-2004). After retirement in 2003, he continues to be involved with international programs, mainly in South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, and in Ghana, Africa.

Valerie Earley

Valerie Earley grew up outside Wykoff, Minnesota on her family’s crop, cow-calf, and dairy steer farm. She became involved in 4-H and FFA, growing from a shy member to an enthusiastic leader in FFA. Valerie served as the Minnesota FFA State Secretary and National FFA Central Region Vice President, traveling to over 30 states speaking and facilitating. After graduating from the University of Minnesota last December, Valerie began working for ALDI as a Manager Trainee and will begin managing a store next year. Valerie loves helping on the farm, kayaking, skiing and meeting people, like you, who love agriculture.

Ag Summit Vision, Mission, and Core Values

Vision Statement:

“Provide a gathering of current and future Agriculture and Food Science thought leaders who inform, share and help propel our students, the college, and region towards its preferred future”.

Mission Statement:

“Deliver a meaningful annual Agriculture Summit that brings value to our communities and world”.

Core Values:

  1. Collaborative
  2. Informative
  3. Forward-thinking
  4. Interactive
  5. Inclusive
  6. Student-focused

Contact Information

Dan Hoffman

Interim Director of Agricultural and Food Science Technology.