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.
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.
Carlton is a fifth-generation farmer and a partner in his family-owned farm in Tanner, Alabama. On his farm, the family raises corn, soybeans, wheat, canola, and grain sorghum. Carlton graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and a minor in Leadership Skills. Before focusing on farming, Carlton worked in the banking industry. Carlton has put his degrees and love of agriculture to work as a very active member of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade, and he is involved with the National Black Growers Council.
Lana 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. She is a graduate of the American Farm Bureau’s Partners in Ag Leadership Class 7, and was named Monsanto’s 2016 Northwest Region Farm Mom of the Year.
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.
Karen 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.
Stacey didn’t grow up on a farm but when she married her husband, Mike, she fell in love with agriculture. She and Mike operate his family’s third generation farm along with their son, a fourth-generation farmer. Their three daughters also join them on farm when available. Stacey graduated from Central Michigan University with a B.S. in Science and a B.S. in Education. She brings her teaching experience and love of agriculture to her role as vice chair on Michigan Farm Bureau State Promotion & Education Committee where she helps lead the continuing growth of Agriculture in the Classroom efforts, including the new mobile FARM (Food, Agriculture, and Resources in Motion) Science Lab. She also serves on the Capac FFA Advisory Board, the St. Clair County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and as an Advisor on the St. Clair County Farm Service Agency Board of Directors. Stacey brings her passion for science, agriculture, and education to the council. She is passionate about educating people about where their food comes from, while showing an appreciation for farmers and highlighting their hard work and passion for their craft.
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.
Lawrence farms with his wife in Delta, Ohio where they grow corn and soybeans. His love of agriculture lead him to complete the Michigan State Agriculture Tech program. It also drove him to be involved with his community, as well as, serve on the board for the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. Lawrence believes STEM education is the cornerstone of success for future generations, and that these programs have a direct impact on the future of modern agriculture. He trusts that the Grow Rural Education grant program gives schools a chance to develop strong math and science skills as well as inspire innovation and a passion for agriculture. Lawrence’s strong belief in education has been passed down to his daughter, who is currently teaching and motivating first graders.
As 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 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. In addition, Bethany was named Monsanto’s 2014 Southeast Region Farm Mom of the Year.
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.
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.
Jerry was raised on his family’s South Dakota farm alongside seven siblings. He took over the farm at the age of 17 and now manages soybean and corn crops with his wife, Sally, and son, AJ, who recently joined him in the business. Jerry is focused on building the foundation for a bountiful food supply for future generations. He maintains a portion of his farmland as a Conservation Reserve and practices eco-till on the planted acres. Establishing pollinator habitats and resources is a priority for his farm in effort to maintain healthy ecosystems. He has also received recognition in the United States Congressional Record for initiating legislation to establish the Wetlands Conservation Reserve Program. A graduate of South Dakota State University, Jerry is the current President of the South Dakota Soybean Association and a member of the Corn Growers Association and the Farm Bureau. He is involved in his community as an Eagle Scout Counselor, Knights of Columbus 4th Degree member, St. Agnes Catholic Church Reader and Eucharistic Minister.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When someone needs help, farmers answer the call. Every year, we endeavor to make it simple for farmers to lift up their communities through the America’s Farmers programs.