Summit Speakers

2024 Featured Speakers

Keynote Speaker

DAN GABLE | Olympic Gold Medal Wrestler and Coach | Motivational Speaker

Dan Gable, compiled an unbelievable record of 181-1 during his high school and college wrestling careers. He was 117-1 at Iowa State University. Gable was a two-time NCAA National Wrestling Champion and three-time all-American. After college, Gable won a Gold Medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich Germany without surrendering a single point. Gable joined the University of Iowa coaching staff as an assistant coach and took over the program in 1976. As the University of Iowa’s all-time winningest coach from 1976 to 1997, Gable won 15 NCAA National Wrestling Team Titles while compiling a career record of 355-21-5. In December of 2020, Gable was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civilian honor. Dan has authored several books including New York Times Best Selling books, “A Wrestling Life,” and “A Wrestling Life 2,” in addition to owning a top motivational video, “Competitor Supreme”. Learn more about him here

Keynote Speaker

BROOKE DIDIER STARKS | Estate Planning Attorney | Legacy Legal

Brooke Starks' lawyer life finds her being invited into the living rooms of people’s lives. She owns and operates Legacy Legal, a boutique estate planning and business succession company that caters to farm families and entrepreneurs. Having grown up in rural Illinois, Brooke leans on her down-to-earth style to complement her decades of legal expertise and connect with audiences. She strives to break hard topics into bite-size pieces and find solutions to situations families think are impossible. Brooke lives in rural Illinois with her husband and two teens. Outside of law, she is the co-founder of 5 Things, a company that facilitates networking opportunities for working women and E3 Development, her consulting company. Her years in estate work have taught her life is fleeting so she likes to try new things and visit new places as much as she can. For fun, she likes jogging, winning at board games, being in nature, and practicing the art of campfire building.  Learn more about her here


Visit the Farm Futures website to read the latest featured article about Brooke. 

JERRY CARROLL | Farmer and Comedian | Agriculture Speaker

Great comedians say comedy is everywhere. Jerry Carroll found it on his family’s farm where he was a farmer for 20 years before pursuing his life’s dream of entertaining people and making them laugh. Since beginning in 1993, Jerry has performed for crowds from 20 to 20,000 in venues ranging from the local volunteer fire department’s banquet to the Ministers of Provincial Parliament at the Royal York in Toronto, Canada. Jerry has opened concerts for music artists such as Michael Bolton, Patty Loveless, Lyle Lovett and Larry Gatlin. When he's not on the road making people laugh, Jerry still works the fields of his family's farm. Learn more about him here.

CURT COVINGTON | Senior Director | Partner Relations at AgAmerica

Curt Covington has been with AgAmerica since March of 2020. In his current role, Curt assists with credit analysts and production personnel on large agricultural loans. Prior to AgAmerica, he was the Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer of Farmer Mac in Washington D.C. Before that, Curt held the Senior Vice President position at Bank of the West in California. He was a professor at California State University, Fresno’s School of Agricultural Economics, where he taught ag finance and ag accounting for 26 years. Curt is also the owner and operator of The Agricultural Lending Institute headquartered in Fresno, Calif. Curt earned a B.S. in finance at the University of Southern California and an M.B.A. in Agribusiness at Santa Clara University. Learn more about him here.

MIKE DOWNEY | Co-Owner | Next Gen Ag Advocates 

Mike  Downey is co-owner of Iowa-based Next Gen Ag Advocates and an associate at Farm Financial Strategies . He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2000 with a major in ag business and finance and has since been consulting with farmers and landowners on estate planning, farm transition and entity formation, leasing strategies and farm finances. He and his wife founded Farm Raised Capital to serve farmers and ag professionals who want to grow and diversify their farm wealth with alternative real estate investments. Read Mike’s popular Farm Futures blog, More Than Dirt, for advice on farm transitions and farmland. 

TOMMY GRISAFI | Commodity Broker | Advance Trading, Inc. 

Tommy Grisafi is a risk advisor and commodity broker for Advance Trading, Inc. He is the owner of Ag Bull Media and the host of the Ag Bull and ATI ProMedia podcasts. Tommy became a recognized member of the CBOT and CME group on his 21st birthday and has maintained this status for 30 years. In his tenure with ATI, Tommy has worked with customers across the Corn Belt with a focus in North Dakota, the Red River Valley and Iowa. Tommy is also a regular guest commentator for RFD-TV, U.S. Farm Report, and This Week in Agribusiness. Learn more about him here. 

JESSICA GROSKOPF |  Regional Extension Economist | University of Nebraska

Jessica Groskopf is the Regional Extension Economist at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, and the Director of the Nebraska Women in Agriculture Program. A native of Colorado, she received her B.S. in Agricultural Business from Colorado State University and M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University. For more than 10 years she has taught workshops on agricultural lease agreements, grain marketing, transitioning operations between generations, financial management, farm bill commodity programs, crop insurance and more. Jessica and her husband Andy grow corn and dry edible beans north of Scottsbluff, Neb. Learn more about her here. 

DEAN HEFFTA | Founder and Director | Clarus Results

Dean Heffta speaks and trains on helping leaders grow beyond technical competency into leadership mastery. He has worked with hundreds of international leaders ranging from Fortune 100 companies to family farms. He is the co-author of the 2023 book “How We Connect” and the president of the Illinois chapter of the National Speakers Association. Dean's Peoria-based firm, Clarus Results, delivers tailored training and coaching solutions designed for team effectiveness. Learn more about him here. 

STEVE JOHNSON | Retired Farm Management Specialist | Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 

Steve Johnson served as the Farm Management Specialist in Central Iowa for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for 21 years, retiring in early 2021. He continues to consult with private industry, farm organizations, commodity groups, ag media, and a variety of ag related clientele on topics related to crop marketing, government farm programs, crop insurance and other crop risk management tools and strategies.  Learn more about him here. 

JAY JOY | Founder and Managing Partner | Bridgeforth, LLP

Jay Joy is founder and managing partner of Bridgeforth, LLP, an advisory firm that guides agribusiness transitions. Jay spent nearly 10 years as a commercial banker providing financing to large dairies, commercial cattle feeders and grain companies located primarily in the High Plains region. In addition to his banking and consulting experience, Jay has served as a partner on a 700-cow dairy in Northeast Kansas, as the General Manager for an 8,000-cow dairy and large farming operation in Western Kansas, and as the CFO for a 9,000-acre family-owned corn and alfalfa hay producer/broker in North Central Kansas. Jay earned a BS in Agribusiness from Fort Hays State University (KS), an MBA in Accounting from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Cornell Dairy Executive Program, and the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Learn more about him here. 

KURT MAERTENS | Technical Service Representative | BASF 

Kurt Maertens is a Technical Service Representative for BASF in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. Originally from a grain and livestock farm in northwest Illinois, he graduated with a B.S in Crop Sciences and a M.S. in Weed Science from the University of Illinois. Working in the crop protection industry for 25 years, Kurt has spent the last 13 working for BASF, utilizing experience in agronomy, application, and crop protection to support retailers and growers with training and recommendations, while also conducting product research and launching new innovations.

PETER MARTIN | Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor | Pinion, LLC

Peter Martin serves as a success catalyst and valued advisor to business owners and leadership teams looking to analyze their next stage of growth. He develops a game plan so leaders can confidently choose among the best alternatives. With M&A and capital raising experience, Peter guides businesses as they acquire, merge, or form joint ventures. He facilitates buy- and sell-side negotiations and improves a business’ ability to borrow and use equity to achieve its goals. Hailing from Colorado, Peter grew up with a passion for helping others. He earned an MBA in finance and accounting at Regis University, and a B.A. in Psychology from University of Northern Colorado..  Learn more about him here. 

SCOTT MCPHEETERS | Farmer | Gothenburg, NE

Scott McPheeters returned to the family operation in 1984 as the 5th generation to farm near Gothenburg, NE after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Ag Economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He currently farms with two sons and raises several irrigated crops including food grade white and yellow corn for Frito-Lay, commercial corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay. His farm is also a sample farm for the Texas A&M Food Policy Center. He enjoys promoting fuel ethanol and is a board member of farmer owned KAAPA Ethanol. He is the business representative to the Nebraska Ethanol Board, and serves on the American Coalition for Ethanol Board. Scott and his wife, Patricia have four grown children and 7 grandchildren.

TODD MILLER | Founder and CEO | Head Honchos LLC

Todd Miller has been helping employers across the United States source legal and dedicated seasonal workers for the past 23 years. He started this niche line of work while working as a Certified Golf Course Superintendent in San Antonio, Texas. Todd faced the same dilemma other employers face each day: labor shortages. He taught himself how to complete the intense H2-A application paperwork so his company could qualify for seasonal labor. As a result, other golf courses and landscape companies asked Todd for his help in securing seasonal workers. Todd began providing this service as a full time business. This past year, Head Honchos processed over 3,000 workers from Mexico and South Africa. Todd recently published his first industry-related self-help book titled Navigating the Farm Labor Shortage: A Guide to Harvesting Success Through the H2-A Season Work Visa Process. He is passionate about sharing his insight into helping employers secure legal workers in order to support their business and in turn boost the U.S. economy. Learn more about his company here. 

JASON ORR | Farmer |  Rowley, IA

Jason Orr is a 5th generation owner-operator at Orr Farms in Rowley, Iowa. He farms with his wife Megan, parents Jim and Janet Orr, and their son Jarret, a recent Iowa State grad. The Orrs raise around 4,000 acres of waxy corn in a cover crop, strip till, corn-on-corn operation. The farm includes 50 head of stock cows which Jason manages with Megan and two younger children Kaydence and Jaxtin. He is the district three representative on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. The farm has used yield maps dating back to 1998 and adapted variable rate technology several years ago, starting with fertilizer, then planting, nitrogen applications, and more recently variable rate rootworm control. The Orrs also DNA test soil for rootworm pressures.

MIKE PEARSON | Director of Broadcasting | Farm Progress

Mike Pearson is host of This Week in Agribusiness on RFD-TV and the Farm Progress America radio show. He was born and raised in south central Iowa where he grew to love agriculture on his family's hog and cattle farm. After graduation from Simpson College, Mike moved to Grinnell, Iowa, where he began working as an agricultural lender and established the Genuine Pearson Cattle Company, a cow-calf and feedlot operation. Over the next decade Mike had the chance to host "Market to Market" on Iowa Public Television. He co-founded the Ag News Daily podcast and Global Ag Network podcast network, before taking over as host of the Agriculture of America radio show. Learn more about him here. 

BEN RIENSCHE | Farmer | Jesup, IA

Ben Riensche is a 6th generation farmer in Northeast Iowa. The family farm, known as Blue Diamond Farming Company (BDFC), specializes in growing grain for competitive local markets. Previously, crop and livestock diversity were central to the farm’s horizontal strategy. Now, with a focus on corn and soybean production, the strategy is vertical. Prior to returning to the family farm, Ben earned agriculture and business degrees at Iowa State University and the University of Chicago, worked in banking for Wells Fargo and UBS, and enjoyed an Eisenhower Fellowship in Hungary helping collective farmers transition to a market economy. Ben and his wife, Lisa, have four grown children.  Lauren (Luke Gosse), Hannah (Mike Hammes), Hans (Grace) and Faith. Ben farms together with son and son-in law Hans and Luke. Learn more about him here. 

ROGER SAFRANEK | Farmer | Merna, NE

Roger Safranek owns and manages Merna Valley Ag, a family farm operation consisting of about 6,600 acres in central Nebraska.  Four generations are currently contributing to the operation and 160 acres of it is family ground, homesteaded in 1882.  We produce conventional and certified organic corn, soybeans and alfalfa.  Some employees have been at Merna Valley Ag for 25 to 50 years.  About six years ago, the family started Merna Valley Organic and began transitioning ground; organic acreage is now at about 4,100 acres. Roger has a wife Sharon who manages the farm office. His father, 97, owns land and is still very interested in the farm. One son works off farm, and one is a partner with Roger. Two college and high school-age grandsons both plan on returning to the family farm. 

SCOTT SHEARER | Ag Engineer and Professor | The Ohio State University

Scott Shearer received his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from The Ohio State University (OSU) in 1986. Currently, he serves as OSU Professor and Chair of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Prior to 2011, he was Chair of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Kentucky.  Highlights of his research career include development of methodologies and controls for metering and spatial applying crop production inputs (seed, fertilizer and pesticides); modeling of agricultural field machinery systems; autonomous multi-vehicle field production systems; strategies for deployment of UAVs in agriculture; and analyses of production agriculture data sets. Learn more about him here. 

BEN SHELDON | Sales Manager | Raven

Ben Sheldon was born and raised on a small swine and grain operation in southern Indiana and spent most of his youth tinkering on older farm equipment. Following his passions, Ben earned a degree in AgriBusiness Management from Purdue University. Ben’s career post college has included a variety of roles within the CNH Industrial family of brands, including Business Analyst, Technology Project Manager for Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and Technology Marketing Manager for the New Holland brand in North America. Ben recently joined Raven North America to lead their independent dealer network as Sales Manager for the US and Canada.

ERIC SNODGRASS | Sr. Science Fellow and Principal Atmospheric Scientist | Nutrien Ag Solutions 

Eric Snodgrass is a Principal Atmospheric Scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, where he develops predictive, analytical software solutions to manage weather risk for global production agriculture. He provides frequent weather updates that focus on how high-impact weather events influence global agriculture productivity. His current research uses machine learning to better understand field-level weather impacts on yields in the US and to increase confidence in long-range weather prediction. He was recently awarded the Educator Award in 2023 for Distinguished Service to America’s High Technology Agriculture by the Mid America CropLife Association. Snodgrass is a co-founder of Global Weather and Climate Logistic, LLC and Agrible, Inc which were both acquired by Nutrien Ag Solutions in 2018. Learn more about him here. 

ED USSET | Grain Marketing Economist | University of Minnesota

Ed Usset serves as a Grain Marketing Economist for the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota, the developers of FINPACK software. Working with colleagues at CFFM and in extension, Ed developed several workshops including “Winning the Game” and “How to Get $4 Corn.” He manages Commodity Challenge, an online marketing education game that uses real-time cash and futures data. Ed also teaches "Commodity Markets" and “Futures and Options Markets” at the University and is a regular contributor for Corn and Soybean Digest and Farm Futures. The 3rd edition of his book, “Grain Marketing is Simple (It’s Just Not Easy)” was released in September 2023. Learn more about him here.