Jena Bjertness, Director of Market Development, North Dakota Soybean Council

Written by: Brady Drake

Tell us about yourself.

I live in Kindred, ND with my husband Mike and three children Henry, Eleanor and Ruth. I am from a rural Minnesota town of under 500 people and am passionate about thriving small-town America. Growing up, my community was driven by agriculture; I value serving the agriculture community that my family before me worked hard to strengthen. My career has advanced North Dakota agriculture in various capacities, from a chemist at an ag processing plant to hosting international buyers to meet farmers growing the North Dakota product they import. I believe in building relationships that prompt meaningful conversations to inspire results.

I have worked in agriculture throughout my career since graduate school—almost 10 years! I have specifically worked in soybean markets for about five years.

What is important to you about the work that you do?

I read a quote by a colleague once, “How lucky are we that we are paid to help our friends?” I feel fortunate to work in a career that serves farmers. I feel that my job allows me to work with farmers that value community over self, and supports my passion for a thriving rural America. Agriculture has impacted my life deeply, and it’s a way of life I hope to work to preserve for the future.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why?

“Community before self” was learned from my grandfather, a pig farmer in Minnesota. My grandpa would be the first to implement any farm management change that could improve the local swine industry, and educate his peers on the importance and benefits of doing so. He showed me that communities need individuals with strategic vision and willingness to change, even further to educate others (especially youth) on the importance of growth. He is the reason I am passionate about serving rural America and working to grow and sustain small-town communities.

What drives you?

Making a better life for my family, both now and in the future. This overarching purpose drives many of my day-to-day decisions: prioritizing my own health and theirs, volunteering in our community and investing my time with them in ways that will truly matter in the future. It’s important to me that my family sees me living a life with purpose and priorities that align with our values.

What are some important lessons you have learned in your lifetime?

I’ve learned that hard work will get you where you want to be. Even if others have more experience than you or more connections than you, the difference between where you are and where you want to be is often made up of hard work.

I’ve also learned the importance of values-based prioritization. Time is the only resource we simply can’t make more of, money comes and goes. It’s the way we spend our time that we will have to
reconcile with.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

My family enjoys going to State Parks and exploring new areas—Fort Ransom is our favorite. While visiting the Parks we like to explore small towns in the area to take in the local café or any other stops; we can’t say no to a small town museum or a parade. My son and I have just taken up cross-country skiing, we enjoy finding outdoor time in the winter especially!

Do you have any book or podcast recommendations for our readers?

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. I will tell anyone with ears to read this book as a complement to our “hurry culture.” Prioritizing my time based on my values is very important to me, and a necessary skill I would encourage in anyone I lead. Also, Atomic Habits by James Clear is a best-seller for a reason; Clear makes a case for establishing habits in accessible ways for impactful results.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program?

I read once, “if you have a nice thought about someone, don’t keep it to yourself.” I want to gain the confidence from this program to apply that concept to ideas — if I have an idea to better our community, I don’t want to keep to myself. I hope to gain connections and skills to take ideas to action. So much progress in small towns comes from a grassroots level. It takes someone that’s just willing and able to act. I am also looking forward to fellowship with women feeling this similar drive that are in similar stages of life to myself.

What do you think can be improved in our community?

A community-wide issue for families right now is access to childcare. Staffing crises at local daycares are causing crippling stress for both parents and daycare staff. We as a community need to find ways to support childcare facilities to make them both accessible and affordable. Childcare is a necessity for many families, not a luxury.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

As a mother of three, I think the business community could hugely benefit from creating an environment that encourages working moms. This may begin with more friendly maternity benefits and continue with an environment that encourages new moms returning to work, whether that’s providing physical space needs, flexible schedules or childcare benefits. Our society has benefited from women in the workplace for many decades. If the workplace does not welcome moms, our society will feel the detriment of their leaving.

What are some of your passions outside of work?

When I’m not at work, you can find me in my gardens during the spring, summer and fall. My family likes to grow vegetables, tend a pumpkin patch and enjoy a cut flower/pollinator garden as well. I did not grow up gardening, so much of this is learned through trial and error (lots of error). I also spend a lot of my time encouraging and taking in my kids’ activities and interests. They are at the most fun ages to watch their interests develop and grow.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of Fargo INC! magazine?

I don’t think I’ve ever found myself in a room with this many highly driven women in similar phases of life to myself; there is a lot of power in that. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do!

Share This Article
Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.