The life of a farmer is difficult to grasp unless you’ve lived it. That’s why the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Farmer Advisory Council is made up of approximately 30 diverse agricultural leaders from across the country. These standout professionals can best select the winning school districts because they know what potential looks like. They can scout the farmers of tomorrow because once, they were standing in the same shoes. Check out the advisory council bios for an inside look at what drives them.
Kyle Bridgeforth is a partner and Account Manager at Bridgeforth Farms, a fifth-generation row-crop operation headquartered in Tanner, Alabama that focuses on using modern technology and agronomics to grow high quality agricultural products. Kyle primarily works on crop traceability and efficiencies along with new product implementation. Beyond the farm, he works closely with several industry associations including the United Soybean Board, United States Farmers and Ranchers Association, National Black Growers Council, and the American Soybean Association. Prior to the farm, Kyle worked in the Executive Office of the President of the United States Trade Representative aiding the agricultural team and the Trans-Pacific Partnership efforts. Kyle graduated with a degree in International Studies - Business and Economics from Morehouse College.
Brad grew up on his family’s farm in Monticello, Indiana. A lifelong farmer, Brad now helps to run his 550-acre family farm of corn and soybeans. He is involved with the White County Farm Bureau, is a ten-year 4-H member, and attended a trip to Washington, DC with the Leadership Action Team. Brad and his wife, Debbie, host an agricultural experience every Fourth of July weekend at the city park that usually has about 2,000 people in attendance. They also organized the county’s “Family Night on the Farm,” which was the first in Indiana and won an award in 2015.
Mickey Edwards is from Lampasas, Texas where he and his wife, Jani, operate the multi-generation family ranch. Edwards Family Cattle is a beef cattle business and produces hay used on the ranch. As a student growing up in Lampasas, he helped on the family ranch, was active in FFA, judged dairy cattle, and participated in athletics. Mickey received a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in Educational Administration. Mickey is a retired educator with thirty-eight years of experience as a special education teacher, principal, and as an educational specialist.
Mickey is a state board member for Texas Farm Bureau, a Lampasas County Board Member and a more that thirty-year member of Lampasas County Farm Bureau. He has served on policy development committees, strategic planning committees, and scholarship committees for Texas Farm Bureau.
Mickey is involved in supporting the FFA and 4-H programs in Lampasas County through scholarships and donations to the Youth Livestock Show and Sale. A lifelong love of livestock and stewardship of the land has led to a ranch plan for continued improvement. A belief in the future of agriculture depends on our youth has led to a life of encouraging and mentoring others.
SCHALLER, IA, SAC COUNTY
Since 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.
Josh Geigle is from Creighton, SD, where he, his wife, Shasta, and their three kids, ranch with his parents Norm and Diane on a family ranch that was homesteaded in 1907. They raise commercial angus beef cattle, wheat, corn, safflowers, alfalfa and grass hay. He currently serves as the Pennington/Jackson County Farm Bureau President, Wall Economic Development Corporation Board of Director, Western Dakota Tech SWAC Committee Member, Western Dakota Tech Farm & Ranch Management Program Advisory Board Member, Ash Township Supervisor, started a 3-year term on the Wall School Board of Education, and in 2017 he was on Cattle Business Weekly’s Top 10 Industry Leaders Under the Age of 40. Josh has a passion for agriculture, and believes the agriculture industry is ever changing, and it’s important to get students interested in STEM education, so the next generation is prepared to take agriculture to the next level.
Seena is from Springfield, MN and currently resides in Waverly, MN where she is a high school Agriculture and Foods teacher at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School. Seena’s farm has 80 dairy cows and she grows corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Seena graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education from South Dakota State University, and received her Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership from St. Mary’s University. She currently serves on the Minnesota Association of Agriculture Educators State Board Director, is a past member of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA Alumni. She is also the 2017 chairman of the Region 7 Dairy Show Committee. Seena has received many awards including, but not limited to, the Minnesota Outstanding Young Agriculture Teacher and Outstanding Young Career and Technical Educator, and the MAAE Region V Outstanding Agricultural Education Program. Seena believes that Math and Science is in everything we do, so when students can use hands on experiences provided through this program, they will continue to develop a higher level of processing, synthesizing, and evaluating each situation that arises.
Jeff and his wife Kathi farm a sixth generation family farm in Nemaha County that was started in 1859. They currently grow corn, soybeans and have a successful cattle operation. He and his wife have five children, Natalie, Megan, Andrew, Trevor and Kristin living near Bern, Kansas. He graduated from Kansas State University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Mechanization Business and Industries. In 1988, he participated in the McCloy Fellowship in Agriculture tour in Germany. He is the current Vice President of Kansas Farm Bureau, and previously served as 1st District Director serving 10 counties. 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 has a passion for education and the development of career pathways through the use of math and science.
EARL (BUDDY) HANCE
PORT REPUBLIC, MD
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.
Adam Hinton is Vice President of Hinton Mills, an operation of five retail farm supply locations and feed mills based in Flemingsburg, KY. He also serves as Director of Kentucky Welding Institute, a private welding school in Flemingsburg, KY. Adam is founder and President of A Better Community Foundation, a not-for-profit, grass roots fundraising and advocacy organization for agricultural education in Kentucky. Adam serves on Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Economic & Market Development Advisory Committee, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Feed Advisory Board, the TENCO Workforce Development Board, and as Chairman of the Kentucky FFA Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Adam was recently appointed to the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Adam is a graduate of the Kentucky Ag Leadership Program and is Kentucky’s first graduate of the American Farm Bureau Federation Partners in Agriculture Leadership Program. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Centre College in 2000. Adam is also a partner in a coffee business and owns an insurance agency, The Hinton Agency, along with his wife, Melissa, who manages the business. The couple have one daughter, Addie.
Lindsay did not grow up on a farm but when she married her husband Brian (a seventh-generation farmer) in 2008, she began to learn everything about the farm operation. Today, she and Brian operate M3 Farms in Kingstree, SC where they maintain over 3,000 acres of row crops including corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans. Lindsay manages the farm office and handles the day-to-day operations. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Williamsburg Regional Hospital Foundation, where she is now serving her fourth year as Chairman. Additionally, she is also a member of the Williamsburg Academy Development Board where she serves as Secretary. Lindsay is also a member of Kingstree United Methodist Church where she serves as a Trustee and on various other committees within the church. She is honored to serve on the AFGRE Advisory Council because she believes that education and interest in agriculture is the key to creating successful leaders for the future of the agriculture industry. Lindsay resides on the farm with her husband Brian their three children Ed, Olivia and Lola.
Mckenna Mellon was born and raised in Yuma, Arizona and grew up influenced by agriculture. As a 4th generation farmer for Mellon Farms Inc., Mckenna has had many different jobs such as a tractor driver, Certified Food Safety Inspector, Date Palm manager, and even the portable restroom inspector. Mckenna attended Gila Ridge High School and became very involved in her academics and several clubs including FFA where she competed and held various chapter and district level offices. After high school, Mckenna served as the Arizona Association FFA State President and traveled across the state where her team conducted workshops, lesson plans, and projects which were implemented in 75 different high schools. Mckenna is now studying at Cornell University and is double majoring in Communication and International Agriculture and Rural Development.
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.
Deb 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.
ELIZABETH QUESNELL KOHTZ
TWIN FALLS, ID
Elizabeth Quesnell Kohtz, DVM owns and operates a dairy veterinary practice, milk quality laboratory and row crop farm. She performs traditional veterinary medicine as well as consults with large dairies. Dr. Kohtz is president of the Twin Falls County Farm Bureau, a graduate of AFBF PAL Class 7, President Elect of the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association, past secretary/treasurer of the Magic Valley Veterinary Medical Association, past President of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, PTO Secretary of St. Edwards Catholic School, and chairman of the Kimberly FFA Advisory Board. She is an avid runner and dabbles in Ironman 70.3 triathlons. Elizabeth and husband, Steven, are busy raising daughters Arabella, 9, and Josephine, 7.
Dr. Levy Randolph is an assistant professor of agricultural communications at Kansas State University. Levy received his doctor of philosophy degree in agricultural education and communications from the University of Florida in 2019. Prior to his academic career, Levy owned and operated a video production company. Levy teaches Video Production in Agriculture, Crisis Communication, Introduction to Agricultural Communications, and Theory in Agricultural Communications at Kansas State. Levy is married to Tiffany, who also works at Kansas State University as an assistant professor of agricultural communications. They currently oversee and manage the video production company and produce educational videos for agricultural organizations.
Royce grew up farming with his father and two brothers on their family farm in Minatare, Nebraska. He later attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Animal Science and Diversified Agriculture. Today, he farms alongside his mother and two brothers growing corn, sugar beets, and great northern beans. He is very involved in his community and serves on several committees such as the Wheat Quality Council, Nebraska Ag Leadership Council, Crete American Legion Baseball Board, and the Crete High School Booster club just to name a few. Royce believes that STEM programs are the building blocks of education and will help teach students the invaluable lessons of research and critical thinking. He is excited to serve on the Advisory Council because it is a unique opportunity to invest in rural America’s youth and future ag leaders.
Pam 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.
Andrew currently studies Mechanical Engineering at Fresno State University in Fresno, CA. He served as the California State FFA President from 2016-2017 and was heavily involved in the FFA and 4-H programs. During his time as State FFA President, he visited dozens of high schools across the state, teaching in the classroom. Andrew's passion for innovation, agriculture, and education have led to his involvement in the Entrepreneurship Mentorship program, an ASI Senator, and Young Farmer's and Rancher's Discussion Meet. He believes in bridging the gap between the San Joaquin and Silicon Valley, and has spoken in the Silicon Valley about agricultural technology and with youth about opportunities in agriculture. Andrew would love to pursue a career in agricultural entrepreneurship.
THREE RIVERS, MI
Julie and her husband, Eric, live and farm near Three Rivers, Michigan. Originally not from the farm, Julie discovered her love of agriculture after working as an Integrated Pest Management scout during her summers while attending Hillsdale College. After graduating with a BS in Biology, she began a career with one of the major seed corn hybridization companies in southwest lower Michigan. Today, she and Eric operate Stephenson Farm & Market, where they raise cash crops, seed corn and a roadside farm market. The market has a growing summer CSA program and concentrates largely on growing squash and pumpkins. Julie has been and active member of the St. Joseph County Farm Bureau for nearly 20 years and currently serves on the Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors, representing Michigan’s Promotion and Education Committee. She has had the privilege of serving as a Regional Educator in the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture’s FARM Science Lab and has a great passion for agricultural education outreach.
LE ROY, NY
Natasha Sutherland and husband Richard returned to the farm in 2014 with their two children Daniel and Lockwood from New Zealand. There, the couple rose through the dairy system from staff member to lower order share milking. She is now a Co-Owner and Operator at Stein Farms LLC in Le Roy NY and is a part of the third generation to return home to the farm. Natasha manages the cows while brother Jerrod runs the shop and cousin Nathan overseas feed and manure. The dairy farm is milking 1,000 head with an additional 800 young stock and operates on 2,400 acres both owned and leased. Natasha is the Herd Manager, while also overseeing human resources for their eighteen staff members. Beyond the farm, Natasha is an "agvocate" in Genesee County Farm Bureau and is also the Promotions and Education Chair. The position of Pro-Ed places Natasha at the head of an amazing group of volunteers who host every kindergarten class from the county on a guided tour of a running dairy farm.
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.
Nikki farms with her husband Nathan in Yuma, CO. They 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 Southwest 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.
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.
Bridgette grew up in a rural community surrounded by agriculture but did not have an opportunity in school to be involved in formal rural education. At 17 years old, she met a young man that would become her husband just five years later. This is where she was formally introduced to agriculture, as her husband and father-in-law operate a multi-generational beef cattle and cotton farm. She was crowned as Miss Alabama Agriculture in 2011 and was able to serve as a representative for rural education. In 2013, Bridgette graduated from Jacksonville State University with a Bachelor of Social Work, and later received a Master of Social Work from the University of Alabama. She enjoys spending time with her husband and toddler son on their farm, and is honored to raise a child in this lifestyle. Bridgette is active in her local Young Farmers' Committee by participating in political meetings, educational farm days, supporting non-profit organizations, and providing rural education to the community.
I want to give back to my community with:
A donation to a local non-profit
Celebrating 10+ years of Grow Communities! Enrollment has concluded. Check back Jan 2021 for a list of winners. Read about how our donations are making an impact.Learn More
A grant to grow innovation in schools
Grow Rural Education
Supports rural education by offering farmers the chance to nominate local school districts to compete for $15,000 grants to enhance STEM education.Learn More
A scholarship for a future ag student
Grow Ag Leaders
Gives students pursuing a future in agriculture the opportunity to earn a $1,500 scholarship toward their education.Enroll Today!