Farm Credit announces its top 100 list

Farm Credit announces its top 100 list

Program to celebrate 100th anniversary of the organization highlights 100 people moving the needle in agriculture. Top 10 named as well.

The idea was significant: Identify 100 people making a difference in agriculture, but the Farm Credit system took it on to celebrate its 100th birthday this year. The organization calls the program the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives, and on National Ag Day they announced the 100.

Kim Vanneman, Farm Credit director and a Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives selection panelist told a group gathered at the National Press Club that more than 1,000 nominations came in from all 50 states. A panel of 21 folks winnowed that to the final number. "It was an extraordinary challenge to select 100 honorees from the vast pool of inspiring stories," she says.

The program honored folks in 10 categories:

HONORING 100: Farm Credit released its list of 100 Fresh Perspectives and held a panel with three to discuss key ag issues for National Ag Day. The moderator was Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council; at the table from left, Christine Fesko, Trevor Hoff and Allison Boyd. Check out their stories.

• Agriculture, education and community impact

• Beginning farmer or rancher achievement

• Entrepreneurship and innovation

• Financial Stewardship

• Leadership (21 and up)

• Mentoring and volunteerism

• Rural policy influence

• Rural and urban connection

• Sustainability and natural resources

• Youth leadership (under 21)

The top 10 honorees - one from each category - were also selected and each will get a $10,000 prize to "help further their contributions to thriving rural communities and agriculture." They'll also be recognized at a special Farm Credit 100 event in June in Washington D.C.

Here's the list of the top 10 for the program and their categories:

Joshua Eilers, Texas - beginning farmer or rancher

Christine Fesko, New York - agriculture education and community impact

California FarmLink, Califorinia - financial stewardship

Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh, Kansas - rural policy influence

James Harrison, Massachusetts - sustainability and natural resources

Trevor Hoff, Maryland - entrepreneurship and innovation

Effie Kokrine FFA, Alaska - youth leadership (under 21)

Penny Lauritzen, Illinois - mentoring and volunterism

Kelly Mosley, Florida - rural and urban connection

Russel Redding, Pennsylvania, - leadership (21 and up)

You can find a complete list of all honorees at the end of this story.

Hearing from a panel of honorees - >>>

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Hearing from honorees

Farm Credit conducted a panel with three of the 100 - and two of the top 10 - as part of the announcement.

Farm Credit announces its top 100 list
Christine Fesko, one of the top 10, has a 600-cow dairy, but saw a need for greater education so she created an online video series that is now viewed around the world. She also has a Discovery Center where tours can learn about agriculture on her farm. She sees a great opportunity for farmers these days.

"Agriculture is the beginning of all things," she notes. "And we need to capture the energy that is coming and knocking at our door." She's referring to this growing thirst for knowledge about where food comes from. And she advocates that farmers need to step up and be part of the conversation. That also means encouraging others to get engaged in ag education too.

"There is an insufficient number of FFA advisers to replace those that are retiring let alone supporting new startup programs," she says. "When fourth graders come to our Discovery Center they not only get a day on our farm, but they learn about the possibilities of jobs to study for in college - and we want to keep that connection going."

The rural series Fesko produces aim to show what happens on a working farm and she says it is critical to break down the barrier between the urban and rural population. "Our video series is a tool, and we promote it in schools," she says. She notes she has encouraged other farmers to take on the task of educating and she notes she appreciates the many farms that are taking on that challenge.

Fixing a nutrient desert

Farm Credit announces its top 100 list
For Allison Boyd with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, the challenge is solving what many call a food desert - a lack of good local food in the community. "I call it a nutrient desert, because there's plenty of food available but it is not healthy. People [in those neighborhoods] rely on the corner stores where whole, fresh food is not available."

The alliance has 15 acres under cultivation and this is beyond a network of 'urban gardens.' To be part of the alliance, those farming the land must be intentional about selling what they raise in the local market. To be a member in the alliance the urban farmers have to sell at least $2,000 worth of their crop to the market.

She notes that the organization works beyond just helping those farmers succeed in the urban setting. "We've learned that putting apples and bananas in the corner store isn't the answer, there has to be education and outreach," she says. "They've been eating processed foods their whole life."

The key is teaching these folks how to store, prepare and enjoy these fresh foods which are foreign to them, and Boyd has been part of that effort with the Farm Alliance.

Entrepreneur at work

Farm Credit announces its top 100 list
Trevor Hoff is one of the top 10 and has been an entrepreneur since he was 16. It started with beef jerky from his grandfather that grew into a retail business. Today he's running a farm market in Windsor, Md., that offers a place for local farmers to sell their fresh produce. Part of his work is showing the consumer all the ways that food gets from farm to table.

"Yesterday we posted a calf being born on our Facebook page, and there are a lot of people who have never seen a calf being born," Hoff notes.

He adds that his farm business is expanding by "leaps and bounds" and in the next year he's adding a U-pick berry patch too. "Families don't eat at the dinner table anymore, we want to get them together on the farm and pick that produce," he notes, adding that if they pick together and prepare together they'll sit down to eat together.

His farm market has products from 100 local farms or sale, and people want to know where their food comes from.

The passion exhibited by each of these honorees offers some insight into the challenges ahead, and some potential solutions.

Check out the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives list with all honorees ->>>

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Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives Honorees

Joshua Eilers, Austin, TX
Beginning Farmer or Rancher
Grand Prize Honoree

Trevor Hoff, New Windsor, MD
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Grand Prize Honoree

Christine Fesko, Skaneateles, NY
Agriculture Education and Community Impact
Grand Prize Honoree

Effie Kokrine FFA, Fairbanks, AK
Youth Leadership (under 21)
Grand Prize Honoree

California FarmLink, Santa Cruz, CA
Financial Stewardship
Grand Prize Honoree

Penny Lauritzen, Lanark, IL
Mentoring and Volunteerism
Grand Prize Honoree

Barry Flinchbaugh, Manhattan, KS
Rural Policy Influence
Grand Prize Honoree

Kelly Mosley, Green Cove Springs, FL
Rural and Urban Connection
Grand Prize Honoree

James Harrison, Lincoln, MA
Sustainability and Natural Resources
Grand Prize Honoree

Russell Redding, Harrisburg, PA
Leadership (21 and up)
Grand Prize Honoree

Aaron Alejandro, Austin, TX

Matt Meals, Newville, PA

Art Barnaby, Manhattan, KS

Melissa Mellinger, Strasburg, PA

Addy Battel, Cass City, MI

Jay and Colleen Meyer, Stevensville, MT

Scott Biggs, Oklahoma City, OK

Adam Montri, Bath, MI

Kenny Bounds, Laurel, DE

NC Choices – Women Working in the Meat Business Program, Raleigh, NC

Caleb Brannon, Puryear, TN

Joe Newton, Yuma, CO

Erin Brenneman, Washington, IA

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International Foundation, Arlington, VA

Dr. A. Blake Brown, Boone, NC

Michael O’Gorman, Davis, CA

Alex Bryan, Lansing, MI

Odessa Oldham, Lander, WY

Emily Buck, Gallatin, TN

Carly Olufs, Petaluma, CA

Troy Buck, Alpine, AR

Fernand “Chip” Paillex, Pittstown, NJ

Henry Byma, Wantage, NJ

Vernon Peterson, Kingsburg, CA

Levi Cahan, Whitehall, NY

Paulette Pyle, Albany, OR

Aislynn Campbell, Corpus Christi, TX

Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, Tallahassee, FL

CHS, Inver Grove Heights, MN

Dale-Ila Riggs, Stephentown, NY

Kurtis Charling, Oakland, NE

Nancy Robbins, Sackets Harbor, NY

Jacob Chisholm, Gary, MN

Russell and Marilyn Rosenboom, Clifton, IL

Travis Choat, Terry, MT

Anthony Schultz and Katrina Becker, Athens, WI

Erick Coolidge, Wellsboro, PA

Scott Farms, Lucama, NC

Charles Currie, Raynham, MA

Seneca FFA Chapter, Louisville, KY

Wayne Davis, Brandon, FL

Neil Shore, Boonville, NC

Jerry Doan, McKenzie, ND

Katherine Sims, Newport, VT

James “Jimmy” Dodson, Robstown, TX

Riley Slivka, Winifred, MT

Robert Easter, Mahomet, IL

Carley Snider, Moscow, OH

Robert Elliott, Louisburg, NC

David Specht, Basin City, WA

Michael James Faison, Hopewell, VA

Joshua Steward, Harrington, WA

Farm Alliance of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD

Kurt Stiefvater, Salem, SD

Farm to Family, Mansfield, OH

Scott Stone, Centralia, MO

Lon Frahm, Colby, KS

Jessica Tekippe, Fort Atkinson, IA

Alyssa Garner and Kirsten Kapraun, Maroa, IL

Mark Thompson, Fresno, CA

Courtney Gerstenecker, Carlyle, IL

Joe Tomandl III, Medford, WI

Bernard Geschke, Papillion, NE

Valley Small Business Development Corporation, Fresno, CA

Frank Gifford, Mount Olivet, KY

Steve Verett, Lubbock, TX

Beckie Gurley, Sparks, MD

Senator Elder Vogel, Jr., Rochester, PA

Pakou Hang, St. Paul, MN

Rick Waitley, Meridian, ID

Hattie Henderson, New Florence, PA

T. Leland Walker, Red Oak, OK

Jim Hyland, Kingston, NY

William Walker, Olin, NC

Zachary Ilbery, Checotah, OK

Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Planning Committee, Lanark, IL

Ann Karlen, Philadelphia, PA

Stephanie “Stevie” Whalen, Kunia, HI

Diane and Roger King, Holmen, WI

Scott Williams, Oregon, IL

Kiera Leddy, Stockholm, SD

Terry Woodbury, Leoti, KS

Lilac Hedge Farm, LLC, Berlin, MA

Maykia Xiong, Carthage, NC

Bill Lipinski, Enfield, CT

Justin Zahradka, Lawton, ND

John Lombardi, Jr., Waterford, CT

Amanda Zaluckyj, Coloma, MI

Angela Mason, Glencoe, IL

Jessica Ziehm, Greenwich, NY

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