The end of a tradition
The final DFL corn feed at the Ted Suss and Janet Marti farm drew more than 200 people, including key Minnesota Democrats
LUCAN — Over the past 16 years, a lot of people have gathered around the front porch at Ted Suss and Janet Marti’s farm near Lucan. The guests have included Democrats from across southwest Minnesota and beyond, plus a long list of political candidates, legislators and state officials.
“It’s been a real honor to bring these folks out to southwest Minnesota,” Suss said.
But Wednesday night was the end of a tradition as more than 200 people attended an annual sweet corn feed at the farm, organized by the DFL in Minnesota Senate District 16.
“This is the last corn feed at this location,” Suss explained to the crowd. He said it was partly because Minnesota will be drawing new legislative districts, and it wasn’t certain yet how the District 16 borders would change. He said it was also because they were selling the farm.
While Wednesday’s program included short speeches from Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and other Minnesota Democrats, Suss and guests also shared memories of the corn feed over the years.
“I tell people (Walz) gave his first ever stump speech as a candidate for Congress from this porch,” Suss said.
“The first time we had one of these corn feeds was in 2005,” Suss said.
At the time, Democrats in the district “were looking to have some kind of summer, family fun event,” said Marshall resident Tony Doom. “Ted said, ‘You can use my farm.'” Doom said organizers always planned the corn feed for the same day as the Farmfest agricultural forum, and over the years legislators visiting Farmfest would also make stops at the corn feed.
Doom and Suss said over the years, guest speakers at the corn feed have included former U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith, and Tim Walz, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
As he addressed the crowd, Walz said it was hard to encapsulate everything that has happened over the past year and a half. Minnesota was not only dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but with increased awareness of racial inequity, and with economic angst.
“There’s a lot of things that were hard over the past 16 months,” Walz said. But he said it was also important to focus on ways Minnesotans have come together. “If there’s anything we need right now, it’s a little more kindness, it’s a little more concern for others.”
Ellison and Minnesota Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman also highlighted positive Democratic accomplishments. Ellison said the DFL and Walz had helped give his office support to do more antitrust litigation.
“They were able to help us stand up for small businesses, for small farmers,” Ellison said. He said his office has also been able to focus more on working to help prevent wrongful convictions and wage theft.
Speakers called on Minnesota Democrats to stay active in their communities, field strong candidates and organize for the 2022 elections.
“We’re not going to wait until October of next year, we’re going to do it right now,” Ellison said.
“We’ve got the fight of our lives coming in 2022,” Hortman said. “Let’s keep the House, keep the governor, and flip the Minnesota Senate.”
Some DFL candidates were already asking for voters’ support at Wednesday’s event. Speakers included three different candidates — Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson, Mark J. Lindquist and Ernest “Joey” Oppegaard-Peltier — who all seek to challenge Michelle Fischbach in Congressional District 7.
Suss said it was a little emotional to think that Wednesday was the last corn feed to be hosted at his farm. He said it had become a tradition for the party, as well as for the community.
“The great part for me is, this is a little like a class reunion. I get to see all my friends,” he said.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful it is that all you folks came out here,” Suss said to the crowd at the end of the evening.