Jack Zimmerman was raised in a small town in Minnesota and shortly after graduating high school, joined the U.S. Army. After months of training became an Airborne Infantryman. He deployed in 2010 with the legendary 101st Airborne Division. After spending nine months in heavy combat, Zimmerman, while on a foot patrol, stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and suffered catastrophic injuries. As he lie there on the battlefield, his entire life flashed before his eyes. All the while his teammates were continuing to take heavy fire and fight the enemy while the field medic worked to save Jacks life. Zimmerman was not expected to survive that day, but twenty surgeries and two years later, he left the San Antonio Military Medical Center and medically retired from the U.S. Army. Back home, his friends, family and community rallied around him to offer their support. Zimmerman tackled many hurdles in his first months home and struggled to find his purpose after leaving the military. Through many opportunities to serve, both personally and professionally, Zimmerman found his passion in speaking to others and inspiring through his unique and valued perspective. Today, Zimmerman is a devoted husband and father and is a strong part of his community. Jack’s message “when your life flashes before your eyes, make sure its worth watching” is one that conference attendees won’t want to miss.
Todd Andrews began his comedy career in the Boston area (where he grew up), but eventually moved to his wife's hometown in Western Wisconsin. Todd's performances are wonderfully woven stories about the observations and trials of a "Boston Boy Lost in Wisconsin"; focusing on his "fish out of water" experiences, his wife & family, and other odd life events.
Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s farmers and ranchers. Since 2008, Radke has tackled hot industry issues on the BEEF Daily blog for BEEF Magazine, where she provides tools and strategies for producers to effectively engage with consumers and counter negative media articles on social media.
A former National FFA Extemporaneous Speaking Champion and National Beef Ambassador, Radke has spent the last 15 years on the road fighting for the agriculture, rural America and the western way of life. She believes food security is national security, and her work is focused on keeping producers on the land and ensuring every citizen has access to safe, affordable and nutritious food in this country.
When she’s not blogging or speaking, Radke is penning agriculturally-accurate children’s books to help promote agricultural literacy in schools. Her titles include, “Levi’s Lost Calf,” “Can-Do Cowkids,” “ A Home Run For Peanuts” and “The Soil Quilt.” Radke is determined to teach kids about where their food comes from to help the upcoming generation of consumers be both informed and empowered at the grocery store.
Learn more about Radke at www.amandaradke.com.
Kent Thiesse is a Farm Management Analyst and currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Ag Loan Officer for MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal, Minnesota. In 2003, Kent retired from the University of Minnesota Extension Service, after a 28-year career as an Extension Educator in Agriculture. He has a Masters and Bachelors Degree in Agriculture from the University of Minnesota.
Kent writes a weekly column titled “FOCUS ON AG” that is distributed to several Midwest agriculture publications and web sites, as well as to a large weekly e-mail list. He also writes the “AG OUTLOOK” Column for the MN Valley Business Magazine each month, as well as writing regular articles for the LAND Newspaper and other publications on agriculture related topics. In addition, Kent is a frequent speaker on farm management topics, and serves as the Coordinator for the Feature Forums at FARMFEST each year.
Knowing the profit risk and time associated with testing on a large field scale, Nate Firle of Gibbon, MN designated small acres to strip trial replicated research to gain an understanding of not just how a product performs, but why. Allocating the appropriate time and acres created opportunities to test new products as they surface, providing practical data to area farmers, without taking the high profitability risks of field trials. Since the first replicated trial 10 years ago, Nate has geared up with the right equipment, experience, and people to explore innovative practices, products, and new technologies on over 400 acres known today as AgRevival Research. In 2017, Nate joined with Beck’s Hybrids to broaden this network of information and strengthen the data available for Minnesota farmers through the Beck’s Practical Farm Research program. Nate’s passion for seeking and sharing knowledge with farmers lead him to his current role today as Regional Agronomy Manager for Beck’s Hybrids.
Since 2014, Griffin has led Blue Horizon Energy, a team of nearly 50 energy professionals, through significant growth as they develop energy projects for businesses, farms, and communities across the upper Midwest.
In addition, Griffin is President of the Board for Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA), heading consumer, political, and economic initiatives pivotal to the success and growth of the solar and clean energy sector.
Hal Kimball joined the Blue Horizon Energy team in 2016. Since then he has risen to the role of Sales Manager—playing a vital role in the development of large-scale commercial, agricultural, and not-for-profit solar projects across the Upper Midwest. Hal served as an Infantryman in the United States Army for more than a decade and has previously served in numerous sales roles for Comcast Cable and Vivint SmartHome. A graduate of Annandale High School and St. Cloud State University, he enjoys family trips to Walt Disney World and college hockey weekends.
Jodi DeJong-Hughes has been a Regional Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension for over 25 years. Her area of specialization includes tillage systems, soil compaction, and improving soil health. Jodi’s work focuses on reducing soil erosion and building soil health to improve the grower’s bottom line and to reduce the movement of soil and nutrients to our natural waterways. She enjoys working alongside growers, Ag. industry, and government agencies to bring high quality, educational programs and research to the people of Minnesota.
Brian Ryberg began farming in 1986 with his parents in a partnership until 1997 when they retired. Brian and Sandy formed Ryberg Farms Inc. and have operated as such to the present day. Their large cash crop operation raises corn, soybeans, and sugarbeets in 4 counties near Buffalo Lake, MN. They transitioned the farm to 100% strip till/minimum till in 2014. They also use cover crops after harvest where possible.
Brian also serves on the Southern MN Beet Sugar Coop Board and several other national and local boards as well. The operation has several long term employees that have been vital to their success.
Information coming soon!