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Illinois Soybean awards ag leaders

The Illinois Soybean Association recently recognized several members of the Illinois ag community for their work in the industry, including Bob Easter, Gary Schnitkey, Mike Bost, Leanne Casner and more.

Holly Spangler

December 18, 2023

3 Min Read
Pictured clockwise from top, left: Bob Easter, Holly Spangler, Gary Schnitkey, Leanne Clavin and Mike Bost
WINNERS: Four of the five Illinois Soybean award winners are shown here. They are (clockwise from top left) Bob Easter, Holly Spangler, Gary Schnitkey, and Drew and Leanne Casner. Illinois Soybean Association

The Illinois Soybean Association recently hosted a night of awards and recognition, honoring everyone from farmers to agricultural economists who’ve made a difference in Illinois agriculture — calling it their Impact Awards banquet.

“ISA is proud to honor these hardworking individuals who are leading our industry into a better future through their leadership, excellence, commitment and service,” says John Lumpe, CEO of ISA. “We thank them for all of their contributions that benefit farmers and the Illinois agriculture industry as a whole.”

The organization recognized five Achievement Award winners, including:

Chairman’s Award: Bob Easter. This is ISA’s highest award, recognizing someone who’s gone above and beyond to serve the state’s soybean interests, and is presented in appreciation of their dedication, leadership and years of service to the soybean industry. Easter was named an Honorary Master Farmer by Prairie Farmer earlier in 2023, and he served as University of Illinois president from 2012-15. Before that, he held a variety of leadership roles across campus, including dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and head of the Department of Animal Sciences.

“Bob has dedicated his life to developing a positive future for the agriculture industry,” says Ron Kindred, Atlanta, Ill., farmer and ISA chairman. “From his research on soybeans for swine feed to his efforts in helping build a market for Illinois soybeans in China, his dedication to the soybean industry has had a profound impact on farmers across the state of Illinois.”

Farm Family of the Year Award: Leanne Casner and Matthew Clavin. This award recognizes a family’s commitment to ISA and impact in their community and across the industry. Casner and Clavin help run Clavin Dairy Farm near Rosamond, Ill. This father and daughter also host several farm tours annually. Casner started a Facebook page called Daily Dose of Dairy.

“Both Leanne and Matthew are passionate about educating others about agriculture, and go out of their way to share facts about life on a dairy farm and why they milk cows,” Lumpe says.

Friend of Illinois Soybean Farmers Award: Gary Schnitkey. ISA presented this award to Schnitkey, a renowned agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, in recognition of his work to champion Illinois soybean farmers. Schnitkey is a Soybean Industry Endowed Professor in Agricultural Strategy and a Gardner Agriculture Policy Fellow at U of I.

“Dr. Schnitkey analyzes the profitability of major field crops, including soybeans,” Lumpe says. “His research makes a difference to Illinois soybean farmers, as it informs and encourages them to make long-term changes to boost both yield and profitability.”

Legislator of the Year Award: Mike Bost. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, is recognized by ISA for his work advocating for policy and regulatory issues that affect agriculture. Bost represents 34 counties of Illinois’ 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Rep. Bost actively advocates for policies that address issues Illinois soybean farmers are facing,” Lumpe says. “Through his work on the House committees on Veterans’ Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Agriculture, Bost is truly making a difference for Illinois agriculture.”

Excellence in Media Award: Holly Spangler. ISA presented this award to Spangler for her coverage of Illinois soybeans and Illinois agriculture. Spangler is editor of Prairie Farmer, executive editor at Farm Progress and author of this story.

“Holly’s dedication to the Illinois agriculture industry makes her an excellent recipient for this award,” Lumpe says. “Her writing is not only award-winning, but also can be relied upon for providing the latest industry news and updates. She has quite a knack for sharing relevant information in a way that is relatable to farmers.”

Young farmers in spotlight

ISA also recognized many members with its 20 Under 40 Award, shining a light on young farmers in Illinois. They include:

  • Adam Holste, Altamont, Ill.

  • Austin O’Neall, LeRoy, Ill.

  • Cassandra Schleich, Monmouth, Ill.

  • Chase Brown, Warrensburg, Ill.

  • Cody White, Clinton, Ill.

  • Daniel Elmer Grebner, Metamora, Ill.

  • Ellen Rahn, Mount Carroll, Ill.

  • Erick Kane, Ottawa, Ill.

  • Jake Perino, Deer Grove, Ill.

  • Nik Jakobs, Sterling, Ill.

  • Jeffery Landers, Mendota, Ill.

  • Jarod Stock, Beardstown, Ill.

  • Justin Rahn, Mount Carroll, Ill.

  • Kate Huffman, Galva, Ill.

  • Kayla Gallagher, Mansfield, Ill.

  • Rosalie Trump, Clare, Ill.

  • Seth Lambert, Macomb, Ill.

  • Thomas Titus, Elkhart, Ill.

  • Thomas Weger, Flat Rock, Ill.

  • Bill McDonnell, Ottawa, Ill.

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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