Lake Michigan Sunrise by Deb Pike

Our Conference Presenters

Monday, June 10

Image: Craig Culver

Craig Culver
Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board, Culver's Restaurants

Craig’s passion for the business started over 50 years ago when his parents bought their first restaurant. Modeling his mom and dad’s command of the kitchen and gracious, midwestern hospitality, Craig grew up serving guests and learning firsthand about delicious, cooked-to-order food. In 1984 came an idea for a restaurant no one could resist. Craig and his family opened the very first Culver’s featuring ButterBurgers and Fresh Frozen Custard in their hometown of Sauk City, Wisconsin.

Then, in 1987, the franchising arm, Culver Franchising System, LLC, was established. Shaped after the Culver family’s team approach around hospitality and great food, the first successful franchise was opened in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1990. Today, there are more than 650 Culver’s restaurants in 24 states.

As much as the business is about food, Craig will tell anyone who asks that Culver’s is actually a “people place.” This business philosophy fuels the way Craig coaches team members in the restaurant and beyond to always do what’s right for guests, ensuring that they leave the restaurant happy every single time.

Craig is also active in a variety of organizations. He is a member of the National & Wisconsin Restaurant Associations. He is also a board member of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation, the Bank of Prairie du Sac and Kwik Trip.

Image: Carroll Merry

Carroll Merry
Farm Financial Standards Council (FFSC)

Carroll Merry is president of Countryside Marketing, a marketing and public relations company located in Menomonee Falls, WI serving agricultural clients around the country. He has served as the administrator for the Farm Financial Standards Council since 1994. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh and a master’s degree in business management from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI.

His career has included working for J I Case, Gehl Company, Massey-Ferguson and AgriMarketing and AgriFinance magazines. In addition to FFSC, current and past clients include The Chicago Farmers, the American Society of Agricultural Consultants, the agricultural division of the American Bankers Association, and the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. In 2018, he was inducted into the Public Relations Hall of Fame with the Agricultural Relations Council.

Image: Kevin Dobson

Kevin Dobson
Vice President, Business Development, DTE Biomass Energy

Kevin Dobson has been with DTE Biomass Energy since 2007. He leads all acquisition and greenfield development with responsibilities that include identifying prospects, evaluating economic and technical feasibility, proposal development, contract negotiations, and scheduling and implementation activities.

Prior to DTE, Kevin worked in Ford Motor Company’s Corporate Business Development group focused on mergers and acquisitions. He received his MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Image: Mark Hill

Mark Hill
Vice President of Operations, DTE Biomass Energy

As Vice President of Operations for DTE Biomass Energy, Mark Hill is responsible for the safety, profitability, employee development, and customer relationships at 21 landfill gas-to-energy projects and 8 dairy farms with anaerobic digester gas to RNG projects.

Prior to his current role, he was a Regional Operations Director for DTE Biomass Energy and commander of an US Army Cavalry Troop during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mark received his MBA from the University of Michigan and his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Dartmouth College.

Image: Michael Langemeier

Michael Langemeier
Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue

Michael is the Director of Cropping Systems for the Center for Commercial Agriculture in the Department of Agricultural Economics Department at Purdue University. Michael’s extension and research interests include agricultural finance and cost of production. He participates in an international cost of production benchmarking group that compares corn, soybean, and wheat breakeven prices across countries. In addition to his extension and research work, Michael has taught courses in agricultural finance, economic theory, farm management, and risk management.

Image: Kim Bremmer

Kim Bremmer
Ag Inspirations

Kim is a nationally recognized speaker who started Ag Inspirations with a mission to inspire farmers to tell their stories, connect people to where their food comes from, and represent the great success of American agriculture today. She is passionate about teaching the story of sustainable agriculture and the role of science, technology and innovation in how we grow and raise food.

Kim grew up on a dairy farm in north central Wisconsin. She is a mother of two, graduate of UW-Madison and was a dairy nutritionist for 15 years. Kim is an academy member of the National Speaker’s Association, the Wisconsin state coordinator for Common Ground, a regular contributor on Rural Route radio, and is the president of Wisconsin Women for Agriculture.

She serves on the Executive Advisory Counsel for the American Dairy Coalition and in the EPA Animal Agriculture Discussion Group. Kim specializes in communication and connecting with everyday consumers AND is a vocal champion of agriculture everywhere she goes…from the grocery store to the airport.

Image: Ray Massey

Ray Massey
University of Missouri

Dr. Ray Massey is an agricultural economist with University of Missouri Extension. Dr. Massey’s economic specialty is risk management with an emphasis of on the impact of production agriculture on the environment. Notable programs he has collaborated on include: 1) the AgSite Assessment website that allows farmers to get extensive information on the physical and environmental sensitivities of particular fields, 2) Useful to Usable, a website that helps farmers incorporate climate information into cropping decisions, and 3) Behavioral Economics: Understanding Decisions made by Farmers Facing Difficult Choices, and 4) Horizon Point that sends site specific weather information that has been processed through research models to give management advice.

Ray Massey holds a B.S. in Animal Science and M. Ag. in Agricultural Economics from New Mexico State University and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Oklahoma State University. He was on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1990 to 1995. In 1995 he came to the University of Missouri.

Ray is married and has three daughters. He enjoys woodworking and bicycling, and is active in the Compass Church of Columbia.

Tuesday, June 11

Image: Tom Wall

Tom Wall
The Dairy Coach™

Tom has been working with dairies throughout the country for over 18 years helping managers create and implement simple systems that work while training and coaching their employees.

Based out of Green Bay, Tom owns and operates Dairy Coach, LLC, and has been a regular columnist with publications such as Dairy Herd Management and Progressive Dairyman. He is also the creator of the Details for Dairy training video series, and Dairy Interactive Milker Training 3D simulator, and most recently, he launched an employee management system called “PeopleCOR” and a time and attendance system called “The SmartClock™”.

Tom is passionate about helping people reach their potential.

Image: Mykel Taylor

Mykel Taylor
Kansas State University

Mykel Taylor is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. Dr. Taylor’s research and extension programs are focused in the area of farm management.

She grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana and attended Montana State University majoring in Agribusiness Management. Her PhD in Economics is from North Carolina State University. She has worked in extension positions at both Kansas State University and Washington State University.

Some of her current research areas include measuring basis risk for commodity grains, evaluation of Farm Bill commodity programs, and analyzing trends in Kansas agricultural land values, rental rates, and leasing arrangements.

Image: Gary Sipiorski

Gary Sipiorski
Vita Plus Corporation

Gary joined the Vita Plus Corporation team on October 1, 2008 a 400-employee owned nutrition firm based in Madison, Wisconsin.

He was a local and state FFA officer from Denmark, Wisconsin. In 1973 he graduated from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls with a degree in Animal Science. Gary was in the feed industry working for Ralston Purina for eighteen years working with feed dealers and consultants making over 1,000 calls on dairy farms a year.

Gary spent seventeen years with the Citizens State Bank of Loyal as an agricultural loan officer and worked his way up to President and CEO where he serves on the Board of Directors. He graduated from the Graduate School of Banking in Austin, Texas. He did business primarily with dairy producers in Wisconsin. Actively involved in the state of Wisconsin, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. Gary served as state and national director of the Independent Community Bankers of America and chair on the national agricultural committee.

Gary chaired the advisory board of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and is an emeritus member of the Board of Visitors advisory board for the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Science. He chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Growing Agriculture in Wisconsin. In January 2008, he was asked to be on the advisory committee on Agriculture and Industry for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

He is a meeting advisor for the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and writes for Hoard’s Dairyman and many other agricultural publications. Gary has given many presentations in Wisconsin, the U.S. and internationally and the author of the book, “Dairy Money Matters”, published by Hoard's Dairyman.

Gary has been married to his wife Linda for 46 years. They have three adult children and four grandchildren.

Image: John Kappelman

John Kappelman
Cereal Byproducts Company

John was born and raised on a family owned dairy farm in eastern Wisconsin. After a successful 32 year career as a Wisconsin dairyman, John left active day to day dairying, and joined Cereal Byproducts Company. He devotes his time to dairy production and business consulting, international dairy development, dairy education fundraising, and regularly authoring columns for several dairy, and farm publications. He works with upper Midwest dairy farm families on an ongoing basis to improve management, sustainability, and profitability.

John, and his wife, Chris, have four married children, and five grandsons. They reside in Cedar Grove, WI.

Image: Karen Kelley

Karen Kelley
Kelley Country Creamery

Karen Kelley was born in Milwaukee, moved to West Bend at 2 years of age and was raised there. She graduated from West Bend West High School and received an associate degree at Moraine Park Technical College for Business and Marketing. Karen married into the dairy farming business to Tim Kelley over 34 years ago. They have five children, four girls and one boy. Over the years she developed a passion and dream for a farmstead creamery. Her creamery was opened on May 2010 and continues to grow and entertain new customers on a daily basis. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, five grandchildren and traveling (especially visiting new ice cream shops).

Thursday, June 13

Image: Monica Kramer McConkey

Monica Kramer McConkey, LPC
Eyes on the Horizon

Monica Kramer McConkey has 25 years of experience in the behavioral health field as a counselor, program supervisor and administrator. Her work has primarily been with the child and adolescent populations. Monica’s focus throughout her career has been to increase access to, and remove the stigma often attached to mental health services. Monica grew up on a farm in northwestern Minnesota and has intimate understanding of the dynamics leading to farm stress and its impact on farm families. She currently travels throughout the country speaking on the impact of Emotional Stress on the Farm through her consulting business Eyes on the Horizon. Monica is also the Director of Business Development at Prairie St. John's in Fargo.

Monica received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Southeastern University, Lakeland FL and a Master’s degree in Counseling from Regent University, Virginia Beach VA. She is Licensed as a Professional Counselor in Minnesota.

Image: Tina Kohlman

Tina Kohlman

Tina Kohlman has been with UW-Extension since 1999, most recently serving as UW-Extension Fond du Lac County’s Dairy & Livestock Agent supporting the Fond du Lac County dairy industry. Her proactive outreach includes programming efforts utilizing university-based research to help producers adopt or improve management practices on the farm; conducting on-farm field surveys and research related to farm management practices and production costs; and development of publications and curriculum which help improve productivity, efficiency, and profitability for farm clientele. Tina is a graduate from Western Kentucky University (B.S. Biochemistry with an agriculture emphasis) and the University of Georgia (M.S. Dairy Science with a nutrition emphasis).

Tina has developed innovative extension programs focusing on employee management, dairy workers training (English and Spanish), and farm succession and business transition. She works throughout Eastern Wisconsin teaching agri-business professionals and farmers strategies in effective communication and is currently on a team developing a farm succession workbook with tools to facilitate family meetings, set goals, and develop an action plan.

Image: Stephanie Plaster

Stephanie Plaster

Stephanie Plaster is the Extension Agriculture Educator for Washington and Ozaukee Counties. She focuses on farm management, dairy, and livestock programming across Sheboygan, Washington, and Ozaukee Counties through a Tri-County Ag Specialization. Stephanie has a BS in International Agriculture focused on Animal and Dairy Science from UW-Madison, and she received a Master of Agriculture from Colorado State University in Integrated Resource Management.

Through her farm management extension programs, Stephanie has led and facilitated numerous farm team meetings, giving her the great opportunity to develop and hone effective communication skills and strategies, and her experience managing volunteers and employees has given her insight into managing discord and conflict in a positive and productive manner.

She supports the agriculture community in helping others make connections through communication and active listening, most recently leading efforts in supporting farmers during challenging times.

Last Update 6/10/19