America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council

The America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Farmer Advisory Council is made up of approximately 30 farmers from across the country. The Advisory Council is comprised of farmers with diverse backgrounds from across the US. They are agricultural leaders in their own right, actively involved in their local communities and have a passion for education in rural America. They are responsible for reviewing the top grant applications and selecting the winning school districts.

ANNETTE SWEENEY – ALDEN, IA, HARDIN COUNTY

Annette continues the farming tradition with her husband and two sons on the same farm she was raised on in Buckeye. She studied Farm Operations and Management Information Systems at Ellsworth Community College and received her degree in Education from Concordia University. Sweeney plays an active role in many Iowa community programs. She served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 2009 to 2012 on committees including Education, Veterans Affairs, Natural Resources and was also Chair of the Agriculture Committee.

ADAM BELL – MAYFIELD, KY, GRAVE COUNTY

Growing up in Western Kentucky, Adam Bell spent his youth helping on his family’s row crop and tobacco farm. With a Bachelor’s degree in ag business and a Master’s degree from Murray State University, Bell now farms alongside his father growing corn, soybeans, wheat and dark tobacco. Bell has a passion for education and believes that many schools can benefit from the grants, providing student with the tools to strengthen their math and science skills – the keys to success. An active member of his community, Bell sits on the Soil and Water Conservation District and Agricultural Development boards for Graves County.

BARB WILSON – MEXICO, MO, AUDRAIN COUNTY

Barb and her husband Bruce are both third generation farmers. Wilson resides near Mexico, Missouri, where she and her husband raise corn, soybeans, and wheat. Wilson graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she studied agricultural economics and agronomy. She is a valued member of her community, having received the Dale H. Schnarre Rural Citizen Award for Outstanding Achievement in Farm Management and Distinguished Community Service. Additionally, she has served on the Missouri Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee.

BETHANY PUGH – ENGELHARD, NC, HYDE COUNTY

Bethany_PughAs fourth generation family farmers, Bethany and her husband run a successful farm growing grain, cotton and vegetables. Bethany’s love of agriculture lead her to a degree in Agriculture Business from North Carolina State University. Always eager to educate youth about agriculture, Bethany has recently hosted multiple agriculture awareness days on her farm for local school groups. Traveling across the U.S., she helped plan leadership conferences and was the voice for agriculture. Additionally, she served on the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. Bethany also volunteers as a 4-H club leader and livestock committee member, AWANA coordinator, Sunday school teacher, Hyde County Babe Ruth Volunteer, substitute teacher and school board member.

BRENDA BAKER – OBION, TN, OBION COUNTY

Brenda grew up as a city girl, but when she married a farmer, she fell in love with agriculture. Brenda currently grows corn and soybeans on a family-run farm in Obion County, Tennessee, which has been awarded the Obion County Complex Environmental Stewardship Award three times. Brenda is on the board of trustees at Obion County Public Library, serves on the Tennessee Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, and is involved in Ag in the Classroom on a local, state and national level. Additionally, she co-chairs the Obion County Farm Day and serves as president of the Obion County Fair. Brenda brings to the Advisory Council a love of learning and an understanding of the important role math and science play in agriculture.

DEB MOORE –ROSEVILLE, IL, WARREN COUNTY

Deborah MooreDeb grew up in a suburb of Chicago and had little farming experience until she met and married her husband, Ronald. Since then she has helped raise corn and soybeans and background beef cattle with Ronald and one of their three sons in rural Illinois. Her family received the Ag Service Award from the Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau. She also received an award from Illinois Soybean Association for her involvement with Illinois Farm Families and the Apple for the Teacher Award from the Illinois Farm Bureau. She serves on several committees for the Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau and on the Ag in the Classroom Advisory Council for the Illinois Farm Bureau. Additionally, Deb is involved in her community through her church and The Helping Hands of Roseville Food Pantry. As a former elementary school teacher, Deb is a strong supporter of rural education and believes that math and science curriculum helps develop the critical thinking skills needed to develop complex reasoning skills.

EARL (BUDDY) HANCE PORT REPUBLIC, MD, CALVERT COUNTY

Buddy grew up farming alongside his family in Port Republic, Maryland and continues to farm corn, soybeans, wheat and milo there today. He served as the Secretary of Agriculture for Maryland from May of 2009 through January of 2015 and continues to be active in the community by serving on the Board of Directors for the LEAD Maryland Foundation, Inc. Buddy brings a passion for educating students about agriculture and the opportunities the industry offers to students across the U.S.

JULIA ROBBINS– SACKETS HARBOR, NY, JEFFERSON COUNTY

Julia grew up on her family’s farm in Sackets Harbor, New York. Today, she and her family run a dairy and crop farm and an agri-tourism business called Old McDonald’s Farm. Their farm produces corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, alfalfa, sweet corn and pumpkins for the public. Robbins graduated with a degree in English from the State University of New York (SUNY) – Cortland. In her community, she serves on the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition Board of Directors, is a member of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and is the secretary for the Garrett W. Loomis Foundation.

KAREN KASPER – OWATONNA, MN, STEELE COUNTY

Karen Kasper PhotoKaren grew up in Medford, Minnesota. After a 24-year career as an insurance claim evaluator in Management Services, she retired to begin farming with her husband, Pete, and their son, Tony. They currently farm in Owatonna, MN where they grow corn, hay, and operate a 400-cow dairy as well. Karen is involved with many organizations some of which include: the Midwest Dairy Association, AMPI Coop, the local 4-H, Midwest Dairy Association Farm Mom Network, and the Farm Bureau’s Speak for Yourself Program. Karen was named the Monsanto’s 2016 Midwest Farm Mom of the Year, and she was a “Country Woman of the Year” finalist for Country Woman Magazine’s. She has authored two children’s books, “A Suitcase of Seven” and “Jose’s Farm Adventure”. Karen believes students are the future so we should give them the best support and tools possible.

KATIE HEGER – UNDERWOOD, ND, MCLEAN COUNTY

Despite having grown up a city girl in Minneapolis, Katie has embraced life on the farm and dedicated herself to agricultural education and advocacy. She and her husband raise corn, soybeans, and hard red spring wheat. Katie completed her undergraduate degree in elementary education at Concordia College in Minnesota, moving on to receive her Master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Mary in North Dakota. In 2008, she and her husband hosted the NASDA farm tour, where they highlighted the important relationship between agriculture and energy.

LANA CLAWSON-SATANTA, KS, HASKELL COUNTY

Lana Clawson PhotoLana grew up in Scandia, Kansas where she learned to farm from both of her grandfathers and her parents. She currently resides in Satanta, KS and farms with her husband, Kenby, and their children. Their partnership, KLC Farm, mostly farms irrigated corn, wheat, and sorghum, and they also have a cow and calf operation. Lana has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University. As an active member in her community, some of the groups she is involved with include: Satanta United Methodist Church, Great Plains Annual Conference, and the Finney County 4-H Youth Development Program. She is an active 4-H Foundation Board Member at both the local and state level. Lana believes that the youth programs can be used to help children discover their talents and hopefully have them return to rural areas after college.

LAURA FOELL-SCHALLER, IA, SAC COUNTY

Laura Foell photoSince 1984, Laura and her husband have been farming together alongside his parents on their family farm in Schaller, Iowa. Laura grew up in Illinois helping her father farm and then attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she earned her degree in General Agriculture. Laura and her husband have two children who are actively involved in agriculture in other states. She is an active member of various commodity groups and was chairman of the United States Soybean Export Council (through August 2016) and served nine years on the United Soybean Board. She is currently the Secretary and Treasurer of the Sac County Farm Bureau. Laura believes that Math and Science are extremely important for youth today and should continue to be reinforced by parents and educators.

MARK TUTTLE, – SOMONAUK, IL, DEKALB COUNTY

Mark was only 16 when he began cultivating his own parcels of land, while still helping his father on the family farm. Today, he carries on the family tradition, farming with his own sons near Somonauk, Illinois. There they grow peas, corn, wheat, and soybeans. Upon receiving his Associate of Science degree at Joliet Community College, Tuttle transferred to Iowa State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy. Currently, Tuttle is President of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, and he serves on the Somonauk Fire Board and the Suydam United Methodist Church Board.

MICHAEL HILL – APOPKA, FL, ORANGE COUNTY

Michael Hill has been around agriculture since before he could walk. He grew up on his family’s farm growing sweet corn, potatoes, ornamental landscape trees and blueberries. A graduate of Auburn University, Hill studied agricultural business and economics and minored in Spanish. Today he uses his agronomic knowledge and business experience to manage his family’s blueberry operation. In his community, he sits on the board of directors for the Florida Blueberry Growers Association and the Central Florida Fruit Crop Advisory Committee.

MYKELLYN FUSER AFTON, OK, OTTAWA COUNTY

As a young child, Mykellyn originally became involved in farming with her grandparents in Wellington, KS. Today, she is proud to be part of the 4th generation to farm the original Fuser Farm Home place in Afton, OK where she helps her husband, children and in-laws raise crops and cattle. Mykel graduated from Northeastern State University with high honors and a degree in Education. She has certifications in both elementary and special education and was voted Teacher of the Year in 2014 for Afton Public Schools. Mykel’s community involvement also includes her work with the youth program at her church. Additionally, she brings with her a strong understanding of how funding enhancements to math and science programs in rural public schools helps put students on the path to success through advanced coursework and access to sophisticated technology.

NEIL WALTER– OGLESBY, TX, CORYELL COUNTY

Neil Walter of Oglesby farms cotton, corn and hay and has a cow/calf operation. He has served as president of Coryell County Farm Bureau and currently serves as the State Director for District 8 of Texas Farm Bureau. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from Abilene Christian University in 1973. Neil went on to receive his master’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University in 1980. A fifth-generation farmer, Neil began farming full-time following his degrees. He currently serves on the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation board of directors.

PAM SELZ-PRALLE – HUMBIRD, WI, CLARK COUNTY

Board_Walter_NeilF_Dist8Pam grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy farm in Wisconsin and is the fourth generation of farmers in her family. She attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison and worked as a Farm Director for a radio station, Farm Reporter for a TV station and in Communications for a Dairy Genetics Company before returning to her farming roots. She married her husband, Scott, and merged their two dairy herds into Selz-Pralle Dairy. Pam serves on the board of directors for the Foremost Farms USA, WI Livestock Identification Consortium and WI Holstein Association. Additionally, she is a past president for AgSource Cooperative, Professional Dairy Producers of WI and the Central WI Dairy Herd Improvement Association. She is a proud mom of three children and is active in her community through her church council and as a Youth Basketball Association Coordinator and Coach, 4-H Leader and Dairy Judging Coach. Pam truly believes that education provides opportunities for children and that agriculture raises some of the brightest minds in rural communities.

SHELLEY MELLON, YUMA, AZ, YUMA COUNTY

Upon graduating, from the University of Arizona with a degree in Business Administration, Shelley became the 4th generation to follow in her family’s business, R.L. Jones Group. In that same year, she married Colin Mellon, a 3rd generation Yuma produce farmer. Currently they own their own farm and are active in the management and operations of Mellon Farms, Inc. In addition, they operate a ground application company. Shelley serves as Chairman of the Southwest Arizona Futures Forum, is on the Board of Trustees for the Yuma Regional Medical Center Foundation, is Chair of the Yuma Education Advocacy Council, Board of Directors for Expect More Arizona, is a member of the Yuma Youth Leadership Council, is a Coordinator for the Arizona FFA State Leadership Conference, and Co-Chair of the Yuma Union High School District Bond Campaign. Colin and Shelley received 2016 Citizens of the Year in Yuma. Along with raising three children who are very active in the FFA, Shelley’s advocacy has always centered on youth with special focus on health, education and welfare.

STEVE WIESE – WILBUR, NE, SALINE COUNTY

Steve resides near Wilber, Nebraska, where, along with his wife and stepdaughters, he raises wheat, corn, soybeans, hay and cattle. Steve has served on the Village of Clatonia Town Board and the local volunteer fire department. He has also held leadership roles with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and in September 2014, he was appointed to serve on the Nebraska Wheat Board as a representative on the Ethanol Board. Additionally, Steve helps keep youth interested in ag by partnering with area colleges and personally sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship for local high school students involved in FFA.

WENDY YEAGER – ORRVILLE, AL, DALLAS COUNTY

A fourth-generation farmer, Wendy Yeager lives in central Alabama with her husband and daughters, growing cotton, peanuts, grain sorghum, soybeans and winter wheat. Yeager attended Auburn University, earning a bachelor’s degree in animal and diary science and a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition. In her community, she is a board member for the Alabama Corn and Soybean Association and serves as the Dallas County Young Farmers Chairperson. Yeager has a passion for agriculture and believes in educating future generations about the path food travels from the field to their plates.

Jeff Grossenbacher

Jeff Grossenbacher was chosen as Vice President of Kansas Farm Bureau at the 2014 annual meeting.Grossenbacher previously served as 1st District Director serving Atchison, Brown, Jackson, Jefferson,Pottawatomie, Jackson, Shawnee, Leavenworth, Wyandotte and Doniphan counties. Grossenbacher farms a diversified corn, soybean and cattle operation. He is the sixth generation tooperate the family farm in Nemaha County that was started in 1859. He has a passion for education and the development of career pathways through the use of math and science. Grossenbacher graduated from Kansas State University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Mechanization Business and Industries. He is a leader in his church, community and serves on other local boards. He is a lifetime member of the Bern United Methodist Church. He was a McCloy Fellow in Agriculture to Germany in 1998. Grossenbacher and his wife Kathi have five children, Natalie, Megan, Andrew, Trevor and Kristin living near Bern.

Nikki Weathers

Farms with her husband Nathan in Yuma, CO.  The grow a number of grain crops, as well as run commercial Angus cows.  Along with managing their entire cattle operation, Nikki is also a mother of two young children and was selected as Monsanto’s 2016 South West Region Farm Mom of the Year.  Nikki has been heavily involved with her local Yuma County Farm Bureau and the Colorado State Farm Bureau, where she currently serves as the Chair of the Women's Leadership Committee. Nikki has also represented Colorado farmers by testifying at the state capitol and in Washington, D.C., serving as an advocate for agriculture. Nikki and Nathan help educate the community about agriculture, opening up their farm to visitors in the fall, where they have a corn maze and other fun activities. They also grow, harvest and package their own popcorn to sell and hand out to local schoolchildren.