Story by McKenna Dosier, Photography Editor
Out of more than 1,000 nominees, two Murray State students were nationally recognized on the Farm Credit Fresh Perspectives 100 Honorees list.
Courtney Gerstenecker, senior agriculture education major from Carlyle, Illinois, was nominated in the youth leadership category and Caleb Brannon, junior agribusiness major from Puryear, Tennessee, was nominated for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Farm Credit is an organization established almost 100 years ago that gives rural communities and agriculture “reliable and consistent” credit.
Honorees can be nominated by anyone. A selection panel of 21 agriculture experts with a wide range of skills careers and backgrounds, chooses the honorees. This year there were more than 1,000 nominations.
Brannon grew up on a 600-acre family farm in Tennessee where they grow and harvest a rotation of corn, wheat and soybeans. He also owns a 40-acre sharecropping farm with his brother.
Growing up in and around the agriculture industry cultivated his passion for agriculture, making him want to pursue an agriculture career and advocate for the industry, he said.
Gerstenecker grew up on a southern Illinois corn, soybean and horseradish farm. Her father runs the farm and is a crop insurance salesman and her mother is an agriculture teacher at the local high school.
She said agriculture is in her roots, and by growing up in the industry, she has gained a respect for it.
“That’s why I want to teach, to hopefully instill a respect and passion in my students and in the community,” she said.
Both honorees were and are active in Future Farmers of America (FFA). Gerstenecker was elected as the Illinois state reporter for 2012-13. Brannon participated in the agriculture sales contest and is receiving his American Degree, the highest degree awarded, at the 2016 National FFA Convention in October.
Brannon said he received around 12 nominations to be on the list, some from River Valley Ag Credit and some from within the university.
Members of the local Farm Credit in her hometown nominated Gerstenecker. She said they were in cahoots with her parents and other members of the agriculture community.
Brannon said it was a huge honor for leaders in the agriculture industry to see him rising, and it has shown him his hard work is being recognized.
“A big thank you for all the kind words that they used to talk about me and my story,” he said.
Gerstenecker said she didn’t even know she had been nominated until a representative from National Farm Credit called to congratulate her.
“I was really humbled and honored that they thought of me to nominate in the first place,” she said. “And the fact that I was chosen out of 1,100 people as one of a hundred was basically breathtaking.”
As far as his plans for the future, Brannon plans to continue helping on the family farm, building up his knowledge and involvement and going into agriculture sales.
Gerstenecker plans to student-teach in Kentucky from August to December, then move back to Illinois to continue teaching agriculture.