In 1977, Jan-Gisbert Schultze came to Minnesota.
“I was an exchange student at Wabasso High School,” he said, adding living with the Tim and Gretchen Baune family was an extremely positive experience.
Schultze, who is from Munich, Germany, made a return visit to the Wabasso area last month. He had the chance to visit his home away from home and to make some connections with people from his past, but the main reason he came was his connection to the land.
“I love agriculture,” said Schultze.
While he has made a career as a venture capitalist, Schultze has continued to maintain a connection to the farm life he experienced in Redwood County.
“I lived on a hog farm and loved it,” said Schultze.
Having grown up in Aachen, Germany, Schultze was not unfamiliar with smaller town living and the rural way of life when he came to Minnesota.
“I had been on farms and always enjoyed being out in nature,” he said.
Yet, exposure to the everyday life of a farm family in the 1970s really opened his eyes. Being part of a small town where he was able to make a lot of good friends, play basketball and baseball and take in the way agriculture is done in Minnesota all made an impression on Schultze.
“That year made a huge impression on me,” said Schultze, adding while he came to the U.S. improve his English speaking skills and learn about American culture he came away with a whole lot more than that.
“That experience changed my life,” he said.
Schultze has done his best to keep up with agriculture, especially in terms of innovation, and it was his interest in regenerative agriculture that brought him to the United States this summer.
In early August, Schultze participated in a soil health academy that was being hosted by Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz at Stoney Creek Farm near Redwood Falls.
“This idea of regenerative agriculture is a paradigm shift, and it is one that I believe the world needs,” said Schultze. “It builds up the topsoil and helps to grow healthy food.”
It also has a huge impact on water quality, and all of those things are very important for the future of the planet, Schultze added.
Schultze said Gabe Brown, who led the soil health academy in August, brought a team to Germany, and he had the chance to hear him there. He also found out that there was an opportunity taking place in the United States to be part of a soil health education program.
Schultze said he “had to be part of that,” and so he made plans to come to the United States.
While Schultze has made several trips to the U.S. over the years, it has been decades since he has been back in the place that made such an impact on him.
Schultze said he had dreams of being a farmer in Germany, but that opportunity never presented itself. Yet, he always maintained that connection to ag however he could.
While he is not directly involved in farming in Germany, Schultze said he wants to be a voice for good soil health practices as a way to enhance the soil as well as the environment.
“This is one way I can stay connected,” said Schultze.
Farming is different in Germany, said Schultze, as most operations are smaller. They are mostly in the 150-200 acres range, and practices are somewhat different.
“No GMO crops are grown in Germany,” he said, adding those in conventional farming do not use as much chemical and fertilizer as they do in the U.S.
Other changes are happening across Europe, said Schultze, who said Switzerland is discussing the possibility to banning all pesticides.
As he learns more about the practices that are being implemented by farmers like Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz the more he believes that is the future of agriculture.
“The benefits are so obvious,” he said.
Life in the Wabasso area has changed a lot since Schultze left in 1978 as a Wabasso High School graduate. He had the chance to visit the farm site where he lived and the community where he spent so much time during that school year.
“So many nice memories came back for me,” he said. “It was like turning back the clock.”
Schultze said he always enjoyed the wide open spaces of rural Minnesota, adding he really enjoyed seeing that again during his visit.
While Schultze will take back new memories from a visit to the Wabasso area more than 40 years after he lived there, what will be even more important are the lessons he learned about regenerative agriculture that he can take back and share with others in an effort to make agriculture even more sustainable and the environment a whole lot better.