ScoutPro of Iowa Honored as Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year

The American Farm Bureau Federation together with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative’s StartupHoyas has announced the Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year as part of the first-ever Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. The winner was announced at AFBF’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. Four finalists competed for the award by pitching their business ideas to a team of judges before a live audience.


Michael Koenig

ScoutPro of Lone Tree, Iowa, team lead, Michael Koenig, was named Entrepreneur of the Year from a field of four finalists and received a total of $30,000 in prize money to implement his business idea, which is software to assist farmers with crop maintenance.




Paul Greive

Pasturebird, LLC of Temecula, California, team lead, Paul Greive, won the People’s Choice award in the competition and $10,000 in prize money. Members of the live audience at the challenge finals competition and members of the general public voted online to select the People’s Choice winner. Pasturebird is a cost-effective method of producing pastured poultry on a large scale.

“Rural entrepreneurs continue to be a major driving force in our nation’s economy,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “We congratulate all the finalists and wish them well in their future business endeavors.”

The finalist businesses were chosen from more than 200 applicants. Golden Bridges, Inc. of Palmyra, Missouri, team lead – Suzanne Ellerbrock and Pulaski Grow of Pulaski, Virginia, team lead – Lee Spiegel, were the other two finalists who competed in the final round of the challenge in San Diego.

“The seed money provided to entrepreneurs through the challenge will help them take their businesses to the next level, which can make a huge difference in small rural communities,” said Jeff Reid, founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is a key component of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a joint effort between AFBF and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is directly tied to AFBF’s mission of building strong and prosperous agricultural communities. Learn more at

In addition to the prize money awarded at the convention, each of the four national finalists received $15,000 in November for advancing in the competition.

Dr. Ron Leclerc, AgFunder; Amy Gales, CoBank; Mark Rockefeller,; and Dr. Ron Hustedde, University of Kentucky and Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute judged the live finals competition. Dave Alwan of Echo Valley Meats, a cattleman and farmer featured on Shark Tank, served as moderator.



Celebrity Encounters in California

We’re in California, so of course there’s a chance we’ll see celebrities, maybe it will an actor or musician. I would probably walk right past goo if I saw him on the street, but put an animal ag celebrity in front of me and I might turn into a screaming schoolgirl, so I was in heaven Saturday!

I started Saturday at #AFBF15 hearing from someone I have been in awe of for a long time, Jack Hanna, at the AFBF Foundation for Agriculture’s Flapjack Fundraiser breakfast. There aren’t too many people who educate about animals better this man. Then we follow it up with Dr. Temple Grandin being awarded the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award!

Dr. Temple Grandin, in my mind, is the ultimate educator and difference maker in animal agriculture. I have followed her work with animal welfare since I was a college freshman at the University of Nebraska studying Animal Science. This was long before she became famous in the mainstream and I was so glad that one of my professors introduced me to “Thinking in Pictures,” the book (not the movie). This was my first exposure to her writing outside of the traditional scholarly journals, which at the time I was also devouring. It was indeed a privilege to listen to her speak and a few of the best things that I took away included, “You have to expose students to interesting things to get them interested in interesting things” and “We have to open our doors. There’s a whole generation that has no idea what’s going on in ag.” There is no way that this is enough to share, so enjoy the video and I hope that you consider reading some of Dr. Grandin’s other work.

Congratulations Dr. Grandin on receiving the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and thank you for being an inspiration! (Dr. Temple Grandin clip begins at 43:30)

Hilary Maricle is a member of AFBF’s national Promotion & Education Committee and graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership program. She hails from Nebraska, where she is a county commissioner and raises beef cattle, hogs, sheep, corn and soybeans with her family. Her Twitter name is @mariclefarm and she’s also on Facebook (Hilary Esch Maricle).

Top Winners at American Farm Bureau Convention!

The final winners have been announced for the Achievement Award, Discussion Meet & Excellence in Agriculture!

Achievement Award

Award Name State  
Runner Up Ben & Amy Gittins Idaho
Runner Up Matt & Jenna Kilgus Illinois
Runner Up Mark & Cindy Klepper Tennessee
Winner Chris & Rebekah Pierce Kentucky


Discussion Meet

Award Name State
Finalist Megan Hansen Iowa
Finalist Doug Giles Tennessee
Finalist Jeremy Barron Indiana
Winner Sean Arians Illinois


Excellence in Agriculture

Award Name State
Runner Up Jessica Jones Virginia
Runner Up Michael                & Amy                Shirley Tennessee  
Runner Up Phillip & Allison Honea South Carolina  
Winner Paul & Ruth Lanoue Minnesota  


The Art of Discussion: Insight From a Finalist

Twenty-five minutes, four competitors, one question. In a single round of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Discussion Meet contest, competitors strive to display their agricultural knowledge and commitment to improving the industry.

In order to be successful one must perform a balancing act by presenting original and fact-based thoughts while helping to facilitate discussion in a cordial manner.

Over the past several days at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show, dozens of finalists from around the country have aimed to do just this.

Before the final round I had the chance to catch up with Megan Hansen, a “top four” finalist and Young Farmers and Ranchers member from Iowa. For Hansen, success can be found in doing your homework ahead of time.

“Have your opening and closings down, or at least a strong idea of what you want to do with them,” she said. “Have three to five strong points that you want to come across with in the conversation and at least have a couple of solutions to go right along with those thoughts.”

As a mom, Hansen also encourages competitors to utilize more than just facts, and draw from personal experiences. “Take those questions to heart and just see how they can be applied to your farming operation or your everyday life.”

The final round took place this morning with the question, “Should farmers and ranchers be held liable for possible food-borne illnesses when the food item of concern can be traced back to their farms or ranches? Why or why not?”

The top four competitors were (in no particular order):

Megan Hansen – Iowa


Jeremy Barron – Indiana


Sean Arians -Illinois


Doug Giles – Tennessee


The results will be announced in the final general session with the top four finalists receiving a $2,500 prize, and the overall winner receiving either a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado or a 2015 GMC Sierra pickup.

Although the prizes are large and the title of Discussion Meet Champion is prestigious, Hansen reminds future competitors to simply have fun with it.

“Enjoy it!” she said. “It’s there to help us as young professionals and as a part of the young farmers and ranchers committee to be able to have the conversation.”

KennaLewis is a student at California Polytechnic Institute. She was a summer communications intern at the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2014.


New Kid on the Block

Promotion and education. Two words that have begun to take on a whole new meaning to me the last few years, as my involvement in Farm Bureau as evolved. But what do those words mean for Farm Bureau?

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s new Promotion & Education Committee is an exciting opportunity to unite efforts being made across the country in our counties, our states…and sharing ideas, efforts and creativity in ways that make sharing the story of agriculture easier. Because we all know that each and every one of us needs to be sharing the story of agriculture…and not just any story, but our story.

P&E Committee

AFBF’s Promotion & Education Committee (L to R): Teribeth Spargo, Missouri; Phyllis Contour, New York; Renee McCauley, Michigan; Chair Chris Hoffman, Pennsylvania; Vice Chair Val Wagner, North Dakota; Hilary Maricle, Nebraska; and Melinda Groth, Minnesota.

The time has come for promotion and education efforts to no longer be riding shotgun with everything else that’s happening – it must be in the driver’s seat.

We read today’s headlines and we get upset over the stories that are being shared about agriculture, yet we’re not out there be loud enough with our own stories – sharing our own successes, telling our own happy endings. Those times have begun to change, but it’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work…and teamwork as well.

Promotion and education is not just about school programs and handing teachers information, although that’s important, too. It’s about reaching mothers at the grocery store, editors at the newspaper, readers online, friends in social media – the opportunities are endless!

P & E iconOur committee is made up of a group of diverse, driven and dedicated individuals that are determined to ensure that we create innovative ways for states to share ideas and resources, as well as set a solid path for the future of this committee.

Led by Chris Hoffman, committee chair from Pennsylvania, we’re working towards preparing for next month’s AFBF FUSION Conference in Nashville. Other committee members include Phyllis Couture, New York; Melinda Groth, Minnesota; Hilary Maricle, Nebraska; Renee McCauley, Michigan; Teribeth Spargo, Missouri; and me, Val Wagner, North Dakota.

Will it be hard work? Of course. Worth it? Every second.

wagfarms is Val Wagner, a North Dakota farmer and rancher. The Wag’n Tales blog features stories from this mom of four who loves farm life and invites readers to come along for the ride. Follow Val on Twitter (@wagfarms) and find her on Facebook. She is vice chair of AFBF’s national Promotion & Education Committee.


Young Farmers & Ranchers Committees Reunite

Sunday night there was a reception for current and past national Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee members. The reception was one of many occurring so people were filtering in and out to make all of their rounds. It was great to see familiar faces. Everyone had a great time catching up and reminiscing about their time serving on the committee.

YFR iconThe best part of the reception was seeing numerous state presidents in attendance; I counted at least six. And each of these presidents serve on the AFBF Board of Directors. The YF&R program truly is training the leaders of this organization and it was very evident at the reception. There were numerous state board members there as well as past AFBF contest winners.

Thank you to the AFBF Board of Directors for continuing to support this great program. Last night was definitely a showcase of the accomplishments of the YF&R program.

chrischinn is Chris Chinn, a Farm Bureau member in Missouri who serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in San Diego. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She was one of the first “Faces of Farming & Ranching” recognized by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).


An Amazing Day at #AFBF15

By Terry Gilbert

Today has been an amazing day at #15! The day started with a great Flapjack Breakfast with the announcement of the Book of the Year and Jack Hanna and his amazing animals. This was a fun event to help raise money for continuing the efforts of the AFB Foundation.

Flapjack alligatorAt the Leadership Luncheon we were entertained and inspired by Heather Dineen, the 2014 “America’s Farmers” Farm Mom of the Year! A very sweet lady with a great message. Heather was followed by our keynote speaker Leighton Cooley, a Georgia farmer and one of the stars of the documentary film Farmland. His message answered the question “Can I Alone Make a Difference?” Very inspiring and yes, each of us as an individual can make a difference! We just have to do our part!

Flapjack bookVespers at the end of the day led by Amy Gerak and her mom Sherry Saylor was beautiful and inspiring! The perfect end to and amazing day at #AFBF15!




Terry Gilbert is chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee. She and her husband are farmers in Kentucky, where they raise beef cattle and corn. Find her on Twitter (@trg1173) and Facebook (Terry Gilbert).