Since 2008, sugarbeet grower Rick Gerstenberger of Snover, Mich. has served on the board of directors for the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, and as president for two years.
“It’s been a great opportunity for Michigan agriculture and Michigan Sugar Company, and to bring that leadership back to our state is just an awesome chance,” he said. “There are always things that you will have to work on that will benefit both your co-op and every other grower in the United States.”
Michigan Sugar is the third largest sugar cooperative in the country. Having their voice at the table with the national organization has been an asset under Gerstenberger’s leadership, but he says it’s a collaboration of efforts.
“We also have great partners throughout the rest of the industry that help support and work together as a team to benefit the whole sugarbeet industry, and that’s really what it’s about,” he said. “We all have some different needs, but we all need to put those needs for everyone on the table and make sure we support them all.”
Gerstenberger has been in the sugarbeet industry since he was 14 years old. During his career, he’s seen the passion, drive and dedication from growers as both producers and advocates.
“It’s something that’s in your blood—it’s something you grow up in or get into,” said Gerstenberger. “It’s almost addicting. This industry means so much to each and everyone of us as growers. Our families would not have what we have today without this industry, and we work to support it. We find ways to fix things nobody can.”
Gerstenberger will continue to serve on the ASGA board and will be shifting his focus into succession planning for Michigan Sugar to ensure the viability of the company and the sugarbeet industry here in Michigan for years to come.
“I think every member on the board at Michigan Sugar and all the co-ops across the country, their plan is to leave the industry stronger than they found it and leave it so that generations to come will have the opportunity to grow sugarbeets,” he said. “I want to make sure we have the opportunity to grow sugarbeets in Michigan. I want my grandchildren to have that opportunity if they wish to do so.”