Special Reports

Welcome to the Green Seam

A new branding effort aims to bring awareness of agricultural expertise in the region.

We no longer just live in Mankato or in Fairmont or in Redwood Falls, or even just in southern Minnesota. We now live in the GreenSeam.

Agriculture is the largest business segment in the area referred to as the GreenSeam, the southern Minnesota and northern Iowa agricultural region. The region has an economic link between production, processing, professional services, education, technology, research, manufacturing, transportation and more. Both directly and indirectly, a majority of businesses in the region are impacted by agriculture. Now that it has a name – a brand – the region is pulling together to make sure it’s recognized not only regionally, but nationally and internationally as well, as an innovative region for business, industry and growth.

“We have an ecosystem of ag here. We have diversity and that helps us support each other. We just want to package the energy and inertia around everything that’s happening. We want to educate people so that we can attract the talent and the business here to retain people. We want to have innovative research happening right here in our region, right here in the GreenSeam,” explains Sam Ziegler, who was hired by Greater Mankato Growth just over a year ago to head up the project. “We want the area to be a magnet for talent, technology and business.”

Although Greater Mankato Growth initiated the venture, and spent significant time and resources to make it a reality, it is truly owned by all the different stakeholders throughout the area. All who have a vested interest in making the GreenSeam as well known as Silicon Valley.

Steering committee chair Jim Marzolf says, “We are trying to create a synergy between business, education and community. We are pulling everything and everyone together. We have to shine the light on this so that other people can see it. At the end of the day it should be a no brainer for businesses to locate here. We have the foundation and we have the talent in the workforce. There is just this cohesiveness here.”

A steering committee made up of experts in a variety of fields who work closely with and in the ag industry, has been working behind the scenes for years. The hiring of Ziegler last year cemented their position and their commitment to the cause. They launched to the public in June.

The foundation here –soil, sun and farms—has always been solid. But one goal of the GreenSeam is to also show off the value-added components found here. Food processors, support services, professional services, everything from engineers to accountants to manufacturers.

Ziegler says, “We have the breadth of knowledge in this region to support this umbrella of agriculture, this epicenter if you will. There are so many components under this umbrella that people don’t even realize. That’s where the GreenSeam comes in!”

Now that the region is equipped with a name, a brand and a message, the hope is to have the GreenSeam shine as a diverse, balanced and sustainable agriculture hub.

“The role we are playing is that we are trying to connect people that normally don’t come together. You have ag associations, Explore Minnesota, manufacturing associations, as well as city and county chambers and economic development groups. Our hope is to bring them all together. Alone each has a voice, but together we can magnify that voice and have greater impact. We can do more outside the region and more within too.”

Doing more within will start with getting area businesses and organizations to share their stories of how they relate to ag and how the ag industry affects them. The “I Am Ag” campaign has started, meant to highlight businesses, most not traditionally thought of as ag, and their connection to an industry that has worldwide impact.

Ziegler says, “There are businesses, individual companies and cities all trying to promote themselves. But that is limited. We are trying to bring size and impact and scope to raise it to a national and international level. But we need to hear from everyone. We don’t know every business or the complexities of each marketplace. That’s why these “I Am Ag” stories are so important. We have now started the conversation!”

The GreenSeam is a way to take that dialogue even further. A significant amount of time has been spent fleshing out the approach. Ziegler has spent the last year managing multiple teams of industry experts in four core areas; promotion, education, business development and public affairs. Each team has built a strategic plan as the group moves forward. The limiting factor at this point is how to talk about it.

Ziegler says, “Agriculture is a challenging word. It’s hard to define in the sense we are talking about. We have to get people to think beyond dirty fingers and hard manual labor. With advancements in research and technology, it’s truly so much more.”

The awareness piece is still evolving. “There are no state charts that show ag as an industry. The only statistics shown are agriculture production. But that doesn’t give a good picture of the impact ag has on a community as a whole. It doesn’t show the value added, quality of living piece. We’re trying to gather that data and reach out and say, ‘hey, look what’s here!’”

It’s important to note, although GMG initiated the GreenSeam, it’s truly a collaborative effort. Ziegler, his teams, the steering committee, all reached out to communities and businesses across southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, helping them find their voice. Now striving to unify it.

Ziegler says, “We want everyone to get intertwined. The call to action at this point is to get everyone to reflect on themselves. To look around and see how agriculture impacts them and how they are connected to it. We are all in this together. This brings us unity. United in trying to make agriculture mainstream. We have a very cool environment here to work in. It’s a very noble, very complex industry with great leaders.”

GreenSeam was a very intentional, well-thought-out brand.

Ziegler says, “What we hear is this area has a lush color of green. And the region feels prosperous so green can represent that as well. Plus the U.S. Department of Agriculture maps of production all use green and our region is always the darkest shade on the graph as far as animal production, crop production and annual income.

“Seam stems from the fact that we are this location in a valley, a seam of richness and vitality. Seam represents cohesion and the sewing together of partnerships.”

The hope is that Green Seam will become more than a place, it will become a state of mind.

Marzolf says, “Our vision with the brand is that people, businesses and communities will use it as a co-brand. They can attach themselves to the GreenSeam. So businesses will have our logo next to theirs. It is exciting and will be interesting to see how this expands and how others visualize themselves and their role in it.”

To share your “I Am Ag” story or for other ways to embrace the GreenSeam, go to www.greenseam.org.

Lisa Cownie

Editor of Connect Business Magazine