Farm Progress

Winnebago farmer Aron Carlson will lead the Illinois Corn Growers Association as president; past-president Kent Kleinschmidt wins top award.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

November 30, 2017

4 Min Read
LEADERS: The Illinois Corn Growers Association recognized several leaders with awards during its annual meeting. From left are Chuck Studer, Ethanol Award; Kent Kleinschmidt, World of Corn Award; Kirk Kimble, Environmental Award; and Kent Blunier, Excellence in Media Award.

The Illinois Corn Growers Association met last week, holding its annual meeting in Bloomington, Ill. Outgoing president Justin Durdan, Utica, presented several awards, and the association elected new officers.

• President Aron Carlson, Winnebago
• Vice President Ted Mottaz, Elmwood
• Treasurer Mike Homerding, Plainfield
• Secretary Don Guinnip, Marshall

Durdan also presented several awards on behalf of IL Corn.

Kent Kleinschmidt: World of Corn Award
ICGA recognized Kent Kleinschmidt with its top award, the World of Corn Award. Kleinschmidt farms near Emden and was named a Prairie Farmer Master Farmer in 2017. He joined the ICGA board of directors in 1987 and served as president in 1993. Later, he joined the Illinois Corn Marketing Board in 2006, serving as chairman in 2012-13. Kleinschmidt has also often served as the Tazewell County Corn Growers Association president. He’s served on the NCGA board and action teams, and has participated in national and international service opportunities.

“Kent Kleinschmidt continues to be a leader that always shows up for the organization and is willing to spend the time to support corn farmers all over Illinois,” Durdan said.

“There are so many things to appreciate about Kent. He’s always willing to help, and certainly every association needs that sort of volunteer — the ones you can count on. But he also brings humor and friendship to our board meetings and events. He can lighten the mood when needed, and he can drive home a point when he’s passionate about it. He cares about the rest of the farmer board and the staff, and is a friend to each of us,” Durdan added.

The World of Corn Award goes to individuals, organizations or businesses for making significant contributions to the corn industry. The special award, now in its 27th year, was created to recognize the global importance of corn, and specifically to honor individual pacesetters who have made Illinois a leader in the corn industry.

Kent Blunier: Media award recipient
Forrest farmer Kent Blunier received the 2017 Excellence in Media Award for his work promoting Illinois corn and corn farmers through coverage in traditional media or engagement in social media. Blunier created the “Farm Hats” Facebook group, which now runs more than 10,000 members worldwide. The idea for the group began as Blunier considered the many hats farmers wear throughout the day and the years. He began the group for farmers to share “felfies,” (farmer selfies) and to comment about their daily hats and activities.

“Kent really seized on an idea and an opportunity with Farm Hats,” Durdan said, adding that farmers have invited landowners and neighbors to join the group to see what farmers do every day and what they’re concerned about. The group is also useful for interagricultural conversations, like equipment troubleshooting, navigating difficult situations and current events discussions.

Kirk Kimble: Environmental contributions
Kirk Kimble, a corn and soybean farmer near Chillicothe, was honored for his contributions to the environment and for helping other farmers learn about innovative best management practices. Kimble has been using cover crops on his farm for the past seven years and has most recently joined the Soil Health Partnership, a project to make agriculture more productive and sustainable through improved soil health.

“ICGA appreciates Kirk Kimble for his dedication in preserving his land for the next generation and in helping neighbor farmers understand how they can best preserve their land,” Durdan said upon presenting the Environmental Award.

Among his work, Kimble switched one of his farms that had been in conventional tillage for many years to cover crops and no-till practices. With the Soil Health Partnership, he is now engaged in a study on this field. He left one strip out of the cover crops and will now document differences in soil health and crop productivity with and without cover crops.

Chuck Studer: Ethanol Award
ICGA also recognized Chuck Studer, former director of industry relations for John Deere’s Agriculture and Turf Division and an ethanol advocate, with its Ethanol Award. Now retired, Studer worked to improve corn demand through creating new opportunities for ethanol. He was instrumental in developing the Ag-Auto-Ethanol Work Group, an alliance that works to move higher-octane fuels produced from higher blends of ethanol into the marketplace. The alliance includes biofuel feedstock and producer groups, agribusiness partners, infrastructure providers and technical experts.

“That John Deere recognized the importance the health of the ethanol industry would have to their own company profits is significant and has everything to do with Chuck Studer and his work with the corn, auto and ethanol industry stakeholders,” Durdan said.

ICMB officers
The Illinois Corn Marketing Board elected new officers for 2017-18 earlier in the fall.

• Chairman Paul Jeschke, Mazon
• Vice Chairman Don Duvall, Carmi
• Treasurer Roger Sy, Newman
• Secretary Dirk Rice, Philo  

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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