A John Deere Publication
Women in a group

Natasha Mortenson shows Sleepy Eye, Minn., FFA students the milking parlor at Riverview’s Louriston Dairy.

Agriculture, Rural Living   February 01, 2022

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Teaching others to love agriculture through tours and scholarships

“We really like it, so our goal is to bring as many young people as possible onto the farm and show them the career opportunities in agriculture,” says Natasha Mortenson about farming. She oversees community relations and education at Riverview, LLP, a large beef and dairy farm partnership based in Morris, Minn.

She came to Riverview six years ago after teaching high school agriculture for 14 years. “One of the Riverview farms was the only farm in our area I could bring my students where they would let us in the barns and do laboratory experiments.”

Mortenson was hired to give that same experience to all the students who tour the farms and has since developed curriculum for each age group, so the students learn something new each visit. For example, some groups learn about colostrum management by testing proteins; others do nutrition labs and work with the TMR (total mixed ration); and others focus on anatomy and physiology of the animals.

Riverview makes tours—with student and adult groups alike—a priority so Mortenson gives tours regularly, but she says, “Any farm can do something like this on a smaller scale by simply asking their FFA advisor how they can help give the students hands-on opportunities and increase their excitement about working in agriculture, especially production.”

Another part of Riverview’s community education efforts is to sponsor the Agriculture Advocacy Leadership Program in which students from nearby schools can earn $2,000 college scholarships after spending their senior year teaching others about agriculture.

“It’s very important to share about agriculture and our personal stories with others even in our rural communities so they know where their food comes from,” says Taryn Picht, a 2021-2022 advocate scholar. “I wanted to participate in the program to learn how to share information better and make it matter to people so they want to learn more.”

Eager to be prepared for her career as an ag teacher, Grace Mortenson is participating this year in order to tell her farming story as much as possible in the community and practice being in front of a classroom.

Emmanuel Chavira, a 2019-2020 advocate scholar and now Riverview’s communications intern, says the program improved his public speaking skills the most. “By the end of my senior year, I was much more confident speaking in front of people, whether it was students or when we met with legislators at the state capital.”

The students do an advocacy project such as a classroom visit, community presentation, or legislative meeting monthly to earn their scholarship.

David Yost, who manages feed procurement for the farm, says “We have this attitude as farmers that we are independent and kind of relished as a group, but we don’t tell our story well. Here at Riverview, we make a point to tell our story to earn our social license.”

Natasha adds, “We want more people to see and know the good stories in ag, so they can then tell the story, and maybe even want to work in it, too. There are so many career opportunities in agriculture; it’s our job to get kids interested in it.” ‡

Above. On a field trip to Riverview's Desertview Dairy, students raced to put nipples on calf bottles, which is harder than it looks. David Yost, Riverview feed procurement manager; Taryn Picht, 2020-2021 advocate scholar; Emmanuel Chavira, 2019-2020 advocate scholar; Grace Mortenson, 2020-2021 advocate scholar


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