The candidates for governor dressed down and boned up on their farm-speak at Farmfest. The debate near Redwood Falls was a rare opportunity to see Democrats, Republicans and Independents all on one stage together. As the only candidate to grow up on a farm, DFL-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher mentioned her rural connections about a dozen times. First she said “I come from production agriculture” then “my mother still owns the family farm” and as “a former state 4-H president” got a big crowd response. Kelliher noted “My family roots are deep but they’re still growing” adding her daughter may take over the family farm. The former dairy princess concluded “I never will forget where I came from.”
About halfway into the debate, after about half a dozen of Kelliher’s agricultural connections, Republican-endorsed Tom Emmer got into the ag fight. He launched with “I live in Delano. I don’t know the last time any of these guys baled hay. I did it last fall. My daughter is in 4-H.” Emmer noted that one out of every five jobs in the state is related to agriculture. He grabbed attention by being the first candidate to stand up and address the crowd in his closing remarks. He took on DFLer Mark Dayton saying “you’ve never seen a tax you didn’t like.” Emmer said every state agency that deals with agriculture should be put under the Department in Agriculture, perhaps under his government redesign. The current state representative ended with we “have to start working with farmers instead of against them.”
Dayton began his remarks by saying that his grandfather raised crops. He also noted his “retail family” and reminded the audience of his history serving in the U.S. Senate where he was a “strong supporter of E-85 in Washington.” Dayton said the state needs a dairy and turkey research facility in greater Minnesota. DFLer Matt Entenza said his family came to Minnesota 150 years ago. The self-titled “son of Worthington” said his ancestors came to Minnesota to farm and went on to invest in their community. Independence Party candidates Tom Horner didn’t say much about their rural connections, but certainly they kept up on the issues in front of a packed audience.