I grew up on a small dairy farm in rural Hillsboro, where my family milked registered Jerseys and raised Quarter Horses. I attended UW-River Falls and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science pre-veterinary science and continued in the agricultural education master’s program. While in college I served as the president of the Alpha Psi chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. I started my teaching career at Black Hawk High School in South Wayne as a high school agriculture educator and FFA advisor. In 2008, I took on a new challenge and started an agribusiness program at the Monroe campus of Blackhawk Technical College. Now, I’m the agribusiness and farm management instructor, and during the last 13 years, I have worked to build a successful program. My wife Aimee and I have five children and reside on a 25-acre farmette near South Wayne. We have beef cattle, horses, ponies, laying chickens, meat chickens, goats, a couple of dogs, and like every good farm, a herd of cats. In addition to serving as the Green County Farm Bureau Vice president, I have served on the Black Hawk School Board, the Green County Fair Board and I am a member of the Monroe Optimists. I enjoy spending time with our family, hunting, fishing and anything outdoors. Some of the recognitions I have received include Young Professional of the Year award from the Green County Young Professional Organization; Outstanding Postsecondary Agricultural Program of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators; WFBF Excellence in Ag winner and finished in the top 10 in the nation at the AFBF Annual Conference; I created a two-year agribusiness associate degree program at Blackhawk Technical College and implemented a $340,000 grant to purchase precision planting equipment for the college and expand the diversity of instructors to the program; I helped facilitate the addition of a 4,100-square foot Agricultural Learning Center at the Monroe Campus; and I was named the 2021 Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Postsecondary Agricultural Educator.
When you were growing up what did you want to be?
When I was in middle school, I really enjoyed art and computers. My goal was to move as far away from the farm as possible and work as a commercial graphic artist. Yeah, I know, pretty far from where I ended up, right? When I was a freshman in high school, I wasn’t planning on taking any ag courses. My dad said, “Why don’t you just take one class and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to take any more.” So, I signed up for my first ag class with Mr. Marshall and the rest is history. I fell in love with FFA and agriculture. My parents went through a lot on the farm through the years and they always unintentionally discouraged us from dairy farming. I guess I didn’t realize that the ag industry had so much more to offer other than dairying, until I joined FFA. As a senior, I wanted to be either a veterinarian, a high school band teacher or a high school ag teacher. I chose to attend school at UW-River Falls and completed the pre-veterinary science program. About three-quarters of the way through the program I realized my true passion was ag education, so I continued for another year and a half and earned a master’s degree in agricultural education. Thanks, dad for pushing me to take that ag class.
Tell us about your responsibilities as an agribusiness and farm management instructor at Blackhawk Technical College?
I am the lead instructor for a growing agriculture program at the Monroe Campus of Blackhawk Technical College. Each year, I teach about 10 courses on a variety of agricultural topics. Recently, we built a new agricultural training center. I ensure the building is being cared for and that the facilities are being used. I work with high school instructors to articulate courses for college credit, and I work with three adjunct instructors who teach five of the program courses. I ensure the program remains vibrant and up to date, with the purchase of new technology like precision planting, drones, and sprayer simulation. And of course, my primary responsibility is to ensure students get what they need to be successful in the industry. I work closely with an advisory committee to build curriculum that meets the needs of those agricultural employers. I also work closely with the community to provide outreach and assistance through other organizations throughout the district.
How long have you served on the board of directors for Green County Farm Bureau? What is the best part of this role?
I honestly don’t know; it’s been at least 13 or 14 years. It’s been really interesting seeing the changes in the board over those years. Green County has always had a strong Farm Bureau presence and a great board, but as time goes on, not necessarily better or worse, just different. Currently, we are blessed with a very young and vibrant board that is involved and committed to serving Farm Bureau members. Our county has some very good leaders that were willing to step to the side and allow the young board members some leadership roles. This has really allowed the young board members to improve their leadership skills and flourish. It’s fun to be part of a growing organization and to watch the young board develop their talents.
The most challenging part of this role? Accepting the fact that at 40 years old, I am one of the oldest people on the board. All of a sudden, I’ve started to become the historian. All kidding aside, it’s a great group and I’m proud of the board’s accomplishments.
You won the YFA’s Excellence in Agriculture contest. Please share your top takeaway from that experience and that you have used either in your role on the Green County Farm Bureau Board of Directors or in other ways that you advocate for agriculture.
I learned how valuable this organization is and how it really is a big agricultural family. I wish I would have become more involved at an earlier age. This experience made me realize how lucky I was to have the past that I did. Growing up on a small dairy farm, being involved in FFA, Alpha Gamma Rho and other ag and community groups were important in helping me become who I am today. I also realized how passionate I have always been about helping others and teaching people about agriculture. Many of us grow up thinking of ourselves as being ‘just a farm kid’ and we under value ourselves. In all reality being ‘just a farm kid’ is an important, rare and valuable quality that is becoming scarcer and more sought after than ever before.
What is one agricultural experience that has defined you?
During the last 14 years, I’ve had the pleasure of building an agriculture program at Blackhawk Technical College. I remember the first day, I was handed a soil probe and asked to build a new program and teach 13 classes with no equipment, facilities or community relationships. Fast forward to today, we have an excellent facility, industry professionals as instructors, community relationships with advisory members, a foundation fund dedicated to the program and a healthy helping of ag technology at our disposal. I hope that I have impacted lives and helped them form a foundation for life, a family and a career in their industry. Being an agricultural educator is what defines me.
My parents are really smart people. Of course, I haven’t always thought that. We lose focus on what’s really important during our teen years, don’t we? As I have matured in years, I’ve realized how much I really learned on the farm. I took it for granted then, but now I realize how much I really learned in that environment. My mom and dad taught me so many things that now I appreciate so much. I wish everyone could have those same experiences. I hope that I can help provide some of those experiences to my own kids on our small farm and to my students at school. This has also helped define who I am.
What is one Farm Bureau experience that you are most proud of?
Competing in the Excellence in Agriculture contest during the AFBF Annual Convention in San Diego, California. I put a tremendous amount of work into the contest and I’m incredibly honored to have won the WFBF Excellence in Agriculture contest and to have placed in the top 10 at AFBF. It was such an exciting and humbling experience. The people who I met through that trip and the trips to Washington, D.C., and Chicago were amazing. I spent time with a lot of outstanding people and learned how a small group of agricultural-minded people can make such a large impact in such an important industry.
What is something that many Farm Bureau members do not know about you?
I’ve played trumpet in two different polka bands and when I was in college, I used to DJ and drive a school bus.
What Farm Bureau committees have you served?
I’ve been a county delegate for many years and served on the local nominating committee, silent auction committee, farm safety, policy development, county annual meeting planning, media training, fundraising and more.