Although he's president of the Monsanto Fund Board, which is giving more than $5 million in grants to non-profit entities in rural communities this year, the awarding of $2,500 to the St. Martin Heritage Park in rural New Holstein in Calumet County was the first time that Jerry Steiner was on hand to make a program presentation - for a program that's in its third year.
Steiner chose to attend the ceremonial presentation here on April 19 because he is a native of the area, having graduated from New Holstein High School and then the University of Wisconsin-Madison before beginning a 30-year career with Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis, MO.
The Steiners were members of the former St. Charles Catholic parish at nearby Charlesburg, which was a sister to the St. Martin parish in Charlestown.
Among the attendees at the ceremony were Steiner's semi-retired farmer parents Ralph and Alice, state FFA officers and members of the New Holstein and Chilton high school FFA chapters, area residents, representatives of seed dealerships distributing Monsanto-owned brands, and officers and members of the St. Martin Heritage Park.
The park is a property that has been developed as a multiple-use facility since the November 2005 closure of the Catholic parish, which dated to the 1860s. (The St. Charles parish was closed shortly afterward.)
Steiner noted that his career with the Monsanto Co., of which he is an executive vice-president, had taken him to about 30 countries. He said the Monsanto Fund program is designed to support the rural non-profit organizations which often don't have the resources to take advantage of the opportunities they have or take on the challenges they face.
Involvement in farm, community, and government organizations, for which Steiner referred to his parents as an example, is another practice that the Monsanto Fund grant program hopes to encourage, he explained.
He also credited his FFA advisor (the late Tim Meyer) and the FFA organization, for which he served as a state officer and which he credited for its teaching of parliamentary procedure. Steiner claimed that when he sees a meeting run properly it's likely that the meeting is being conducted by someone with FFA training and experience.
The application for a Monsanto Fund grant to the park was submitted by board member Luke Geiser, who is a crop insurance agent today. He and his brother Leon and their families also operate Riveredge Farms, a former dairy farm on which beef cattle and cash crops are raised today along Highway 151 in eastern Calumet County.
Geiser learned about the grant program late in 2012 in the form a letter received as a result of buying seeds from the AgriPartners Cooperative of Chilton, which is a dealer for Asgrow and Dekalb brand seeds - both of which are owned by Monsanto. The number of acres of Monsanto-based crops being grown on the farm was one bit of information required on the application that Geiser submitted on behalf of Riveredge Farms for a potential grant to be given to a non-profit organization.
When Geiser's application was chosen for a grant, he designated St. Martin Heritage Park as the recipient. A follow-up check was conducted by the Monsanto Fund to be sure that the organization was an eligible recipient.
Among the 99 Monsanto Fund grants awarded in Wisconsin for 2013, the only other recipient in Calumet County was St. Mary Catholic School in Hilbert. This occurred as the result of an application submitted by Schneider Farms.
Heritage Park History
St. Martin Heritage Park will use its $2,500 grant to cover a portion of the cost of replacing the windows in the meeting hall on the property. The building has the original windows that were installed when it was constructed by parish members in the late 1950s.
In addition to the meeting hall, at which the local 4-H club and other organizations hold meetings and other activities, St. Martin Heritage Park features the former church (now referred to as a chapel) now a museum detailing the history of the former parish with an extensive collection of documents, pictures, biographies, and artifacts.
The chapel, which is equipped with geo-thermal heating and cooling, is also rented out for up a dozen weddings per year and a Christmas concert is held in early December. A playground is also being developed at the site, numerous trees are being planted as memorials, and a gazebo serves as an additional focal centerpiece on the hillside landscape.
Area families also rent the park for reunions and other events. More information about the park is available on the www.stmartinheritagepark.org Web site.
For 2013, the Monsanto Fund program selected more than 2,000 winning applications from some 70,000 eligible farmers in 1,271 counties in 39 states. Wisconsin had 99 recipients of $2,500 each - a total of $247,500 - in 56 different counties, including many FFA chapters, private and public schools, fire departments, fire and rescue units, food pantries, 4-H clubs, and service groups.
In the Wisconsin applications for 2013, the rationale or described need had about an even split between between two different causes: The difficulties or challenges tied to the 2012 drought and support of the non-profit group's programs or facilities.
Run under the title of America's Farmers Grow Communities, Monsanto's Fund program is open to farmers in any county where corn, soybeans, or cotton are grown. All of the recipients are non-profit organizations.
A companion program, titled Farmers Grow Rural Education, for which the latest nomination period closed on April 15, awards grants of up to $25,000 to school districts. Nominated school districts have until Tuesday, April 30, to submit a formal application. The Chilton school district received a $25,000 grant in 2012 through this program to upgrade its Outdoor Educational Center (school forest).
All of the 2013 recipients of $2,500 through the America's Farmers Grow Communities grants are posted on the www.growcommunities.com Web site. Similar information about the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education grant program is available at www.growrural education.com. Those Web sites also indicate how to submit an application for a grant.