Q. Tell us about yourself.
A. I grew up on the farm we still live on. We were involved in dairy until 1995. Today we rent the land out. My wife, Bev, and I have five children, four of them are involved in agriculture. I attended the Farm and Industry Short Course at UW-Madison and am a graduate of the Farm Bureau’s Institute. One of the greatest things that I have done was serve as a state FFA officer. It opened a lot of doors and gave me the chance to get up in front of people. I have also served on the Sauk County Farm Bureau Board since 2002.
Q. How long have you been involved with Ag in the Classroom?
A. I decided to get a committee together to represent each school district in Sauk County five years ago. I give a lot of credit to Sheri Hicken who encouraged us to go into the classrooms and develop programs.
Q. Why get involved?
A. I have a tremendous passion for agriculture and love to keep up with what is happening in the industry. When I first saw the Ag in the Classroom logo with the barn and pencil, I knew that if I could share my story and agriculture’s story to people, I would love to do that.
Q. How is your county program organized?
A. We present five topics roughly every other month to 43 different second grade classrooms in five school districts and seven parochial schools in Sauk County. Last year 15 people served on our team of Ag Ambassador volunteers.
Q. Who are your volunteers and how do you get them involved?
A. It is sometimes hard to find volunteers because many people are working during the day. I have been fortunate to be able to find retired agribusiness people and teachers to help out. It all started with a recruitment meeting at the county fair with 16 to 18 people and eight of those have been continuous volunteers. Some people hear about our program and contact me to volunteer.
Q. What has been your greatest success?
A. The relationships we have built with schools. It is always fun when you get a new teacher who is very cautious but then after the first presentation, they want to know when we will be back. Another success is the number of kids we have been able to reach. Each year we are in front of 700 to 750 students in second grade. Over five years that’s 3,500 to 4,000 kids.
Q. What did winning WFBF’s County Awards of Excellence in Ag Promotion and Education mean to you?
A. It was very rewarding to show other Farm Bureau members what we have been doing in Sauk County. I was able to talk to a lot of Farm Bureau members and share our ideas with them and encourage them to build their county programs. We will also be able to use the award’s financial prize within our Ag in the Classroom program.
Q. How do you see AITC changing in the future?
A. I see the trend of online learning expanding. It’s something I have worked to improve my skills in. I tell teachers about the online resources and their connection to math, science and social studies. However, the face-to-face connection will remain really important.
Q. Any final thoughts?
A. Sauk County has seen its participation in the Ag in the Classroom’s annual essay contest really grow. Five years ago when I first started we only had one essay submission. Last year we had 261.
Also, we have to go out and tell our story and contact the teachers. You don’t just knock on the door and expect to give a presentation. When we started, we had developed our program and invited teachers to come to a meeting after school to see our presentation. Building relationships is the biggest part of this program. It’s the relationship of talking with the teachers and working together.
Original version appeared in the February/March 2015 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.