Michigan Blueberry Producer, Georgian U-Pick Operator Among Those Honored As ‘Champions of Change’ For Agriculture

Fifteen next generation agriculture leaders from across the country were named “Champions of Change” for agriculture by the White House and USDA. These leaders were recognized for their efforts and activism within their respective industries and communities. 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.

Among those recognized are:
Kristin Fritz Kubiszak, MBG Marketing “The Blueberry People,” Paw Paw, MI: Kubiszak is the retail manager for Brookside Farms, a fifth-generation family farm located in southwest Michigan. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in social work from Cornerstone University, she returned to her family farm that focuses on growing and packing blueberries for distribution through MBG’s cooperative marketing network. Kristin is also on the board of directors for the Van Buren County Farm Bureau as the promotion and education chairwoman, where she strives to educate others about Michigan agriculture and the impact on communities.

Jake Carter, American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, McDonough, GA: Carter operates Southern Belle Farm, which is located just 30 miles outside of Atlanta and consists of U-Pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches, as well as a fall corn maze and educational school tours. He was recently elected as the American Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee Chairman.

Jesus Rodriguez, Chelan, WA: Rodriguez was born in Los Angeles, CA, and is the son of Mexican and El Salvadoran immigrants. His family moved to the Chelan Valley in central Washington before he entered school to work in the tree fruit industry. He will start college this fall, pursuing a degree in horticulture at Washington State University. He plans 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.

Lindsey Lusher Shute, National Young Farmers Coalition, Clermont, NY: 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.

Ryan and Tiffany Batalden, Lamberton, MN: The Bataldens of Lamberton, MN, are fifth-generation beginning farmers. 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, AL: Bridgeforth is a fourth-generation farmer. 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 U.S. and abroad.

Lee Haynes, Nature’s Best Egg Company, Inc., Cullman, AL: Haynes is an egg farmer from North Alabama. Upon graduation from the University of Alabama with a degree in business, he returned to the farm and has held a key management role in his family farm 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, DE and Newton, NJ: Litvinas is the manager of the UDairy Creamery at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She 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. Hunt is the managing partner at Windy Brow Farms, LLC, and The Cow’s Brow Creamery in Newton, NJ. While in college, he worked closely with Litvinas 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.

Adam McClung, Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, Vilonia, AR: McClung 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, AK.

Fabiola Nizigiyimana, Worcester, MA: Nizigiyimana 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, Affinity Farms, New Haven, KY: 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.

Vena A-dae Romero, Cochiti Youth Experience, Cochiti Pueblo, NM: Romero, who is Cochiti Puebloan and Kiowa Indian, was born in Cochiti Pueblo, NM, and is a granddaughter of a Pueblo farmer. She attended the University Of Arkansas School Of Law’s Food and Agricultural Law Program, where she received a 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, Go Green Agriculture, Encinitas, CA: 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 University of California (UC)-San Diego and a computer science and business bachelor’s degree from UC-Riverside. He is also 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, IN: 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, NE: Wineland was born in Sweden and moved to the United States, where she became a U.S. citizen and served in the U.S. 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 University’s JFK School of Government while serving in the military. Desiree and her family call Cambridge, NE, home, where she raises grapes, operates a butcher shop, and completed the Nebraska LEAD Program, Nebraska Ranch Practicum and Cow/Calf College.

Source: White House news release

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