Monday, April 15, 2013

Lara Durben and Minnesota Turkey Growers!

Please help welomce Lara Durben of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Lara grew up on a farm and her passion for agriculture has led her to an exciting career promoting the poultry industry in her home state!

Greetings from Minnesota – home to more turkeys than any other state in the U.S.! I grew up on a crop farm in western Minnesota and knew absolutely nothing about raising turkeys (or chickens, for that matter) when I applied for a job nearly 18 years ago with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. In fact, I had never even been close to a poultry barn. But, I had a couple of things going for me – I was a farm girl, which provided an instant connection with the turkey farmers hiring me, and I loved communications. Nearly two decades later, I’m still working for Minnesota’s turkey farmers and I love to help share their stories in a variety of ways.

As the Communications Director for my organization, I wear (as the saying goes) many hats. Truthfully, it’s probably too many to count some days, but that’s why I love my job – the variety is amazing, I am always learning (seriously – every day!) and I feel like my extended family has grown over the years to include so many of the farmers I work on behalf of.

I coordinate all of the communications efforts for Minnesota Turkey as well as two other poultry organizations – the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota and the Midwest Poultry Federation. I often refer to our office as “Poultry Central” because, well, it is – at least in Minnesota.

On a daily basis, I am trying to keep with all of our social media tools, including (deep breath, here) four Facebook pages, three Twitter accounts, one Pinterest account and two YouTube channels. Plus, we have three different websites to maintain and keep updated. From a sheer time standpoint, it can be daunting (I won't lie about that!), although I can tell you I am ridiculously enthusiastic about social media and love trying to keep up with it all.

Lara in her office. 
I also coordinate a monthly printed publication, Gobbles magazine, for our Minnesota Turkey members that’s been around since 1945 and a weekly email newsletter for nearly 1,000 of our members and friends of poultry who like to receive updates about what’s going on in our organizations along with various links to poultry and general agriculture news from around the world. I am also the first point of contact with reporters who call or email, looking for stories and answers to their poultry-related questions. Because Minnesota ranks #1 for turkey production in the U.S., we do get media calls from all around the U.S. – especially in November.

Oh, and did I mention that at Thanksgiving, my job rocks?

Beyond that, I have several other career passions, including coordinating an annual trip for some of our members to Washington DC to meet with our Congressional leaders and attend the National Turkey Federation’s Summer Leadership Conference. I actually get energized every time I visit our nation’s Capitol and I find it gives me a much broader perspective when I am able to meet with our leaders to talk about the issues that are important to us, both turkey-related and agriculture in general.

My other big passion is coordinating the details for the largest regional poultry convention in the U.S., the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention, held in Saint Paul, Minnesota in March every year. Our office works with many volunteers to bring over 2,100 people together to learn from experts on a variety of poultry-related topics, network with other farmers and colleagues, and visit with companies in the exhibit hall. The details that go into making this show a success are mind-boggling and I am so fortunate to work with amazing team of four other people in my office to get the job done. We love this show – and we especially love to arrive onsite and see all of our industry friends connecting with each other. Farmers, I have learned - both from my own father and from the poultry farmers I work with on a daily basis - are constantly learning and evolving and improving what they do.

My newest adventure is the debut of my blog last fall – It’s been a personal goal of mine for a quite a while, but it wasn’t until I attended a conference with some amazing role models – the AgChat Foundation’s Agvocacy 2.0 Conference last August – that I truly realized I could make this happen. It’s always a work in progress, of course, but I like to include a mix of topics – from living life as “MNGobbleGal” (my Twitter handle, by the way) to sharing “my other more exciting life” as a wife and mom who is a bit shoe-obsessed; loves running, gardening, wine and shopping (not necessarily in that order); and also happens to Instagram way too many photos of our senior citizen pug dog named Earl. I think a blog is a great way to connect with a variety of people about poultry, agriculture and my daily life – and I love how I can show all the different sides of “me”.

The Family!
As long as we're on a personal note here, I live in Buffalo, Minnesota – about 25 miles west of the Twin Cities – with my husband (“Teacher Man” so-named in my blog) and our nine-year-old son. I am still a farm girl at heart and am glad to see my brother continuing the crop farm in my family, along with my Dad who isn’t quite ready to retire fully yet. They raise nearly 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in western Minnesota and we visit often. My mom is a former home economics teacher, gourmet cook, quilt designer and master gardener - she keeps the farm looking beautiful all year-round and I like to think my green thumb for gardening comes from her.

I can’t tell you how many times someone has jokingly asked me, “Do you want to talk turkey?” or “Are you the princess of poultry?” But the truth is, I never get tired of it. When I was in college, the professor of my very last journalism class found out I grew up on a farm, pulled me up in front of the entire class (mostly urban kids) and told the class: "Farmers are true gamblers. They gamble every year on the weather, on the bank, on their animals and on their crops. What they do is amazing." To be honest, I had never really thought about it in quite that way and I am quite sure, at that time in my life, I took my own farm upbringing for granted. But his comments struck a chord with me then and I've never forgotten what he said. I'm very glad I am able to work in agriculture today, and I am grateful, after all these years, for the opportunity to help share the stories of an amazing group of farmers.

Lara on the farm as a child. 
Thank you Lara for the great feature! You can learn more about Turkey production by visiting Minnesota Turkey Growers Association webpage and the Minnesota Turkey Facebook page. You can also follow Lara on her personal blog, twitter(MNGobbleGal) and check Pinterest account!

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