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Patrice Bailey brings a unique perspective to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

6 Min Read
A 3 dimensional map of the United States of America with a route beginning in New York and ending in Minnesota
WELL-TRAVELED: The journey Patrice Bailey took to get to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is only unique due to its place of origin, starting in Harlem in New York City. Rosa Francis and Duski Saad Harahap/Getty Images

How does a kid from Harlem in New York City end up as an assistant commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture?

Let’s just say it took a gentle nudge from a loving mother.

Patrice Bailey was in his senior year of high school, and he and his mother were having a conversation about what he was going to do after he graduated. “I said that I wanted to go to law school. She said, ‘There are too many lawyers. Why don’t you do something where you can actually feed yourself anywhere in the world that you may find yourself?’”

She suggested her son take an agriculture path in college, to which he recalls responding, “Mom, look, we live in Harlem. There is no knee-high in July.”

Bailey was aware of New York agriculture in the form of apples and dairy, but he admits he didn’t know what that looked like other than the stereotypes. “You know, the bib overalls, a John Deere hat and some dusty boots,” he says.

His journey in agriculture to the present started his freshman year at Prairie View A&M University, a public, historically Black land-grant university (HBCU), where he studied agriculture education.

Leaving the concrete jungle of Harlem, where the closest thing to agriculture was Central Park, to land in Prairie View, Texas, was in some ways a culture shock. Prairie View’s population was right around 8,000, compared to Harlem’s 197,000, but at the college, he saw familiar faces — not so much that he personally knew the people, but he saw what he could become.

With Prairie View A&M being an HBCU, “you see a lot of people that look like you,” Bailey says. “It was an embracing shock, because now I’m like, ‘That person is a VP. I can be a VP; I can be this.’ So, the ability to see yourself in different spaces in real time, it was really welcoming to be able to see yourself reflected on campus every day.”

Ag in big food

Though surrounded by many who looked like his own reflection, Bailey still harbored negative views of agriculture. A trip to the Worldwide Food Expo in Chicago opened his eyes to the opportunities, where he saw the connection large food companies had to ag. A chance encounter there also helped paint a clearer picture of agriculture.

A conversation Bailey had with Charlie Walsh, who was staffing the Pepperidge Farms exhibit, further changed his ag view. “That was the same guy that I saw on the commercials when I was a kid,” he recalls. “It was that conversation that changed my worldview as to how I looked at agriculture from the lens of someone from a city.”

Bailey’s ag mindset continued to blossom through two college internships with the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho.

It wasn’t until 2005, when he joined the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, that he was introduced to Minnesota agriculture. At CFANS, he supported recruitment in agriculture education.

Pride in emerging farmers

Fourteen years later, when Bailey joined the MDA, he became more immersed in Gopher State agriculture, an industry largely devoid of people who resemble himself.

Patrice Bailey, assistant commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

While he oversees outreach, agriculture marketing and development, dairy and meat inspection, and food and feed safety for the MDA, he feels most pride in the development of the Emerging Farmers Working Group and the Emerging Farmers Office within the department.

“We established the working group to break down some of these barriers, not just in the African-American neighborhoods, but also in native neighborhoods,” Bailey says. When asked to dream, if money were no object, “I said I would ask for an office with a dedicated person. I would also ask for translation services to be able to communicate with more people throughout the state.”

The fruition of the Emerging Farmers Office culminated with the hiring of Lillian Otieno last fall to serve as the office’s first director. Bailey says Minnesota is the first in the union to have such an office, though other states are looking to replicate the Minnesota model.

He credits those in the Legislature and communities who worked toward the creation of this resource for prospective agrarians, regardless of their ethnicity, color of skin or background. “No one does anything in silos,” he says, figuratively speaking, “and that’s a conversation of what I would tell different emerging farmers … not to silo yourself, because you need each other in order to be successful in this state, especially when it comes to agriculture.”

Whether it was growing up in Harlem, attending college at Prairie View A&M or graduate school at Iowa State University, or working at Wartburg College, the University of Minnesota or the MDA, Bailey has lived his life outside of silos, knocking down barriers for those in previously underserved populations.

Bailey believes a lot has been achieved in the four years since the EFWG started, “making a difference for all Minnesotans. … It’s a beautiful thing to be able to see it, but it also is a lot of hard work in order to pull it off. And it’s a lot of standing firm on your convictions because it’s the right thing to do, not only for yourself, but also for those who are soon to be contributors to agriculture who may not know that’s what they want to do, but at least the barriers to entry are lessened because of people before them who have advocated for things to change.”

What’s an HBCU?

The Morrill Act of 1862 established the land-grant university system in the United States. Passed and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War, it granted federally controlled land to states. States could then use that land to establish land-grant colleges with the mission of teaching practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering skills. The law democratized higher education.

In 1890, a second Morrill Act was passed establishing more land-grant colleges to provide opportunities for people of color. Between 1861 and 1900, more than 90 institutions of higher learning were established. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defined any historically Black college or university established prior to 1964 with the principal mission of educating Black Americans as a historically Black college or university, or HBCU.

Prairie View A&M University is one such HBCU. It’s the second-oldest public institution of higher education in Texas and originated in the Texas Constitution of 1876. Today, graduates from its College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources see a 90% job placement rate, according to the university’s data.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers a College Partners Directory, so you can find universities near you with agricultural programs.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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