On Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM ET, the White House and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will honor 15 local "Champions of Change," leaders from across the country who are doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching. These champions are leading in their industries and communities, inspiring others who want to find careers and a life on the land, and providing food, fiber, fuel, and flora around the world.
The program will feature USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, who will discuss efforts to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture - women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees - have access to the programs and support they need. The event will include a discussion about how to continue growing and supporting the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
For more information on opportunities to support new and beginning farmers, visit www.usda.gov/newfarmers.
Ryan and Tiffany Batalden, Lamberton, Minnesota
Ryan and Tiffany Batalden are fifth generation beginning farmers in Cottonwood County, Minnesota. Along with their three young children – Finn, Lilly and Stella – they grow certified organic corn, soybeans, oilseeds and small grains on 380 acres, raise a small number of livestock, and have a direct-market popcorn business called Patriot Pops.
Bill Bridgeforth, National Black Growers Council, Tanner, Alabama
Bill Bridgeforth is a fourth generation farmer in Tanner, Alabama. He is employed by Darden Bridgeforth & Sons, which grows cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans, and canola using a variety of cutting-edge agronomic techniques and land conservation practices. Bill graduated from Alabama A&M with a degree in Soil Science in 1980 and is active in the University's agricultural initiatives. As Chairman of the National Black Growers Council, he advocates on behalf of Black farmers in the United States and abroad.
Jake Carter, American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, McDonough, Georgia
Jake Carter operates Southern Belle Farm, which is located just 30 miles outside of Atlanta in McDonough, Georgia. This farm consists of U-Pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches, as well as a fall corn maze and educational school tours. Jake was recently elected as the American Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher Committee Chair, through which he works to share the wonderful promise of a career and life in agriculture with others who love the land and want to create a life there.
Kristin Fritz Kubiszak, MBG Marketing "The Blueberry People," Paw Paw, Michigan
Kristin Kubiszak is the retail manager for Brookside Farms, a 5th generation family farm located in southwest Michigan. After obtaining her Bachelor's degree in social work from Cornerstone University, Kristin returned home to her family farm that focuses on growing and packing blueberries for distribution through MBG's cooperative marketing network. Kristin also sits on the board of directors for the Van Buren County Farm Bureau as the Promotion and Education Chair, where she strives to educate others about Michigan agriculture and the impact on communities.
Lee Haynes, Nature's Best Egg Company, Inc., Cullman, Alabama
Lee Haynes is an egg farmer from North Alabama. While Lee was at the University of Alabama, he studied business. Upon graduation, Lee returned to the farm and has held a key management role in his family farm ever since. Lee will graduate from the Alabama Leaders for Agriculture two-year leadership program in August.
Melinda Litvinas and Jacob Hunt, University of Delaware Creamery and Windy Brow Farms, Newark, Delaware and Newton, New Jersey
Melinda is the manager of the UDairy Creamery at the University of Delaware's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Melinda leads the student interns and employees through their hands-on experience at the Creamery, where they learn the process of operating an agricultural business and engaging the community in the importance of sustainable agriculture and its connection to their lives. Jacob Hunt is the managing partner at Windy Brow Farms, LLC, and The Cow's Brow Creamery in Newton, New Jersey, and while in college worked closely with Melinda in developing community outreach for the UDairy Creamery. After receiving a degree in Animal Science and Agricultural Marketing from the University of Delaware, he returned home to expand his family's small-business by opening his own creamery. Each year 30,000 people come to the farm.
Lindsey Lusher Shute, National Young Farmers Coalition, Clermont, New York
Lindsey Lusher Shute is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). Led by young farmers, NYFC advocates for policy change, provides business services, and creates networking opportunities for America's new growers. Lindsey and her husband also own and manage Hearty Roots Community Farm, a diversified vegetable farm in Clermont, NY.
Adam McClung, Executive Vice President, Arkansas Cattlemen's Association, Vilonia, AR
Adam McClung was raised on a cow calf operation in central Arkansas. He went to Eastern Oklahoma State College and Oklahoma State University on Livestock Judging Scholarships, receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science with emphasis on Business and Agriculture Economics. Adam is currently the Executive Vice President for the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association, and his wife Chantel works for Farm Credit of Western Arkansas. Together they run 7 Diamond 3 McClung Cattle Company near El Paso, Arkansas. and are both devoted to the future of American agriculture.
Fabiola Nizigiyimana, Worcester, Massachusetts
Fabiola is a Burundian refugee farmer and a single mother of five who speaks five languages. In 2013, Fabiola was a founding member of the Immigrant Farmer Marketing Cooperative, a USDA-Rural Development project to assist socially disadvantaged farmers.
Quint Pottinger, owner of Affinity Farms, New Haven, Kentucky
Quint Pottinger is the owner of Affinity Farms, a mixed row-crop and herb farm in Kentucky. He pursued his education at the University of Kentucky, majoring in agriculture economics and upon graduation connected with various agriculture groups in Kentucky, including Kentucky Farm Bureau Young Farmers, Kentucky Corn Growers, and Kentucky Soybean Association. Quint currently serves on the Kentucky Soybean Association board, serving in a leadership education capacity and has just started a year of service with the Corn Farmers Coalition.
Jesus Rodriguez, Chelan, Washington State
Jesus Rodriguez was born in Los Angeles, California the son of Mexican and El Salvadoran immigrants. His family moved to the Chelan Valley in Central Washington State before he entered school to work in the tree fruit industry. Jesus will enter college this coming fall, pursuing a degree in Horticulture at Washington State University, and hopes to enter the tree fruit industry as a field representative for a fruit warehouse or chemical company, and one day, hopefully own his own orchard.
Vena A-dae Romero, Cochiti Youth Experience, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico
Vena A-dae Romero, who is Cochiti Puebloan and Kiowa Indian, was born in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, as a granddaughter of a Pueblo farmer. She attended the University Of Arkansas School of Law's Food and Agricultural Law Program, where she received her LL.M. (Master of Laws degree, an advanced law certification) and worked with the Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative. She now consults for First Nations Development Institute, a leading Native American nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen American Indian economies.
Pierre Sleiman, founder and CEO of Go Green Agriculture, Encinitas, California
Pierre Sleiman is the founder and CEO of Go Green Agriculture, an innovative company that grows produce inside climate-controlled greenhouses using hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil. He holds a Master's degree in Business from UC San Diego and a Computer Science/Business bachelor's degree from UC Riverside. Pierre also sits on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Farm Bureau and will graduate this year from the California Leadership Farm Bureau program.
Beth Tharp, Coatesville, Indiana
Beth Tharp is a second generation farmer who, along with her husband and parents, owns and operates Legan Livestock and Grain, a commercial swine, corn, and soybean farm in West Central Indiana. She lends her voice and experience to local community boards representing agriculture to connect her community with her passion for agriculture.
Desiree Wineland, Cambridge, Nebraska
Desiree Wineland was born in Sweden and moved to the United States, where she became a US citizen and served in the United States Army. She earned a M.S. in International Relations from St Mary's University, and attended studies at Georgetown University; National War College; Air University; and Harvard's JFK School of Government while serving in the military. Desiree and her family call Cambridge, Nebraska home, where she raises grapes, operates a butcher shop, and completed the Nebraska LEAD Program, Nebraska Ranch Practicum and Cow/calf college.