WATCH: 'A once in a lifetime experience': Glyndon family on hosting Vice President Pence

Vice President Mike Pence meets with farmers in rural Glyndon, Minn. Thursday, May 9, to promote United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. WDAY photo

GLYNDON, Minn. — Last Thursday, the Johnson family had just finished up planting for the day when they received a phone call they never would have expected.

On the line was the Vice President of the United States, who said he wanted to make an appearance on their farm to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a proposed change to NAFTA signed by all three countries but not yet ratified by Congress.

"(It's) something you don't believe at first," said Ryan Johnson, who operates R&J Farms in Glyndon with his father, Ray.

Once the Johnson family believed it was Pence, the answer was easy. "(We) could not say no," Ray said.


With planting already delayed by a long winter, the family scrambled to host the visit.

The Johnsons said the White House wasted no time with preparations. About a dozen staffers showed up on the farm Saturday morning to start getting it ready for the Vice President.

"The level of security they go for is impressive," Ryan Johnson said.

But the tractors had to keep rolling on the family farm with just a handful of extra helpers.

"(We) got a lot of good help, a lot of friends that help, just made a few extra phone calls," Ray said.

Prior to the Vice President listening to the concerns of the two dozen farmers on hand, Pence met privately with the family for 10 minutes to hear their personal concerns about the financial struggles farmers are facing in the midst of falling commodity prices.

"We are nervous — we'll pick on soybeans — last fall we sold for $2 more a bushel then we do today. Any industry that has to drop its revenue 25 percent I don't think it's a good day," Ray said.


But it was also a rare chance to get to know the Vice President on a personal level.

"He was cracking jokes, the ins and outs and things he has seen. (He was) very personable," Ryan said.

The Johnsons want to make it clear Pence's visit was not a photo-op for the region. The Vice President chose to visit rural Clay County to put pressure on Congress to pass USMCA.

But still, it was a day the family will never forget.

"It's not going to go ahead of my wedding or the birth of my children, but its pretty close," Ray Johnson said.

So when Vice President Pence hopped back into his motorcade to head to a steel mill in St. Paul, for the Johnson family it was back to reality in their tractors.

"I want to get the planter out right now, see how long it takes to let it soak in, it's a beautiful day to make hay," Ryan Johnson said.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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