Bob Zelenka, executive director of the Minnesota Grain & Feed Assn. (MGFA), has announced his plan to retire March 31, 2019.
Zelenka began his career as executive director in 1981, when the association was known as the Farmers’ Elevator Association of Minnesota. “It certainly has been a privilege to represent the Minnesota grain elevator and feed mill industry these nearly 38 years. Over that time, I had the honor of working with many exceptional people in the broad agricultural community, as well as some excellent people that work as grain elevator and feed mill managers, owners, employees and co-op directors.”
During his tenure with the MGFA, Zelenka was the voice and face of the industry, its chief lobbyist, its media spokesman, an industry promoter both domestically and internationally and an active participant in the broad agricultural community. He served as president of several organizations, including the National Agricultural Association Executives’ Council, the Midwest Society of Association Executives and the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center – Farmamerica (board chair). He also currently serves on the board of directors for the National Grain & Feed Association and previously served on the board of directors for the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation and Minnesota Agricultural Fertilizer Research & Education Council. Zelenka was appointed by the commissioner of MN/DOT to serve on the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, a position he still holds. He is also a member of the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture Advisory Board.
In 2015, Zelenka had the honor of being recognized by the Minnesota House of Representatives, with an official resolution in recognition of his service, devotion and dedication to Minnesota production agriculture. Most recently, he was honored to receive the 2018 “Ag Mafia” Distinguished Service Award at a Farm Fest Ag Mafia gathering of agricultural friends and colleagues. The Ag Mafia is a loose knit group consisting of agricultural industry leaders, rural legislators, ag lobbyists and others involved in the broader Minnesota agricultural community.
In addition to his duties as MGFA executive director, Zelenka was intimately involved in creating and managing the Midwest Shippers’ Assn. for seven years (with its focus on specialty grains) and managing the Northwest Feed Manufacturers Assn. for several years. He was also fortunate enough and honored to travel the world promoting Minnesota agriculture, joining Governors’ Ventura, Pawlenty and two Minnesota Commissioners of Agriculture on agricultural trade missions to China, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam and Cuba.
Prior to his employment with the MGFA, Zelenka spent five years as a transportation and land-use planner with the Region Nine Development Commission. While at Region Nine, he was project manager of a successful $22 million rehabilitation of the Milwaukee Road rail line running from Alden to Jackson Minnesota, currently operated by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. “It was work on this project that got me noticed by a member of the MGFA board, who encouraged me to apply for the position of executive director and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to represent this significant Minnesota industry, playing a part in addressing its many challenges and ushering in its promising future," Zelenka said.