Honorary State FFA Degree bestowed upon 13 supporters

Wisconsin Ag Connection
2018-19 Wisconsin FFA officer team president Amelia Hayden presents Luke Wiedenfeld with an Honorary State FFA degree. He was among 13 recipients recognized for their dedication to youth leadership development.

Thirteen supporters of the FFA program were presented the Honorary State FFA Degree during the 90th Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison on June 12. The award is the highest honor which the FFA Association can bestow on a non-member.

Recipients are nominated by local FFA chapters and state FFA staff. The recipients are presented with plaques during a special program to thank them for their dedication to youth leadership development.

Honorary Wisconsin FFA Degree Recipients include:

Ginger Braml has served on the Wisconsin FFA Foundation Board of Directors for four years and is completing a year as Foundation Board President. Braml grew-up on a hog and beef farm and was a member of the Darlington FFA Chapter. She has served as a judge for National FFA CDE contests and enjoys the creed competition as she takes pleasure in seeing the level of public speaking and understanding of agriculture in each FFA member.

Carol Ellis was the Operations Manager for the Wisconsin FFA Foundation for almost two years where she was the behind the scene organizer of donor relations, meetings, and awards while also managing the daily accounting operations. Mrs. Ellis brought her 30 years of non-profit experience to the FFA Foundation. Without any background in FFA, she enjoyed working with the State FFA Officers and learning about their experiences.

Brad Gefvert is an Associate Principal at Fort Atkinson High School for the past five years. Gefvert has received recognition as an Administrator. However, he also has had major accomplishments as an outstanding Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor. Prior to being an Associate Principal he was an agriculture educator and FFA Advisor at Portage High School for 12 years. During his tenure at Portage, he designed a new curriculum and expanded the FFA chapter from 12 members to over 200 and helped establish the Portage FFA Alumni. In addition to chapter successes he has served on the Wisconsin FFA Center Board of Directors and has judged FFA contests at district, sectional and state levels.

Karen Gefvert is the Executive Director of Governmental Relations for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. Each day she is advocating for agriculture, farmers and rural communities through legislative initiatives at the state and national levels. Gefvert plays a pivotal role in organizing Ag Day at the Capitol each year, engaging individuals to interact with their elected officials. Prior to her work with Wisconsin Farm Bureau she was an agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor. For two years, Mrs. Gefvert mentored Janesville Parker FFA members through leadership, personal development and agricultural issues providing them opportunities to grow and expand their knowledge. While at Janesville Parker she won a $10,000 grant for the program’s greenhouse.

James Grasee is a financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments. For the past 12 years he has assisted the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Association in managing their investments. Working with the Wisconsin FFA Alumni was an easy fit for Grasee as he was very familiar with the organization having been an FFA member at Denmark High School and an active member of the Denmark FFA Alumni. Grasee attributes much of his success to his former ag teachers. He is also a member of the Blue and Gold Society.

Claire and Edward Hayden are the parents of this year's Wisconsin FFA President Amelia Hayden. Through their daughter’s many FFA activities, they have supported leadership efforts and witnessed first-hand the benefits FFA offers to all students. Through the years of many FFA events, they have always enjoyed seeing the Science Fair projects and displays and were encouraged by the bright ideas shared by the enthusiastic FFA members.

Jason Kollwelter has been a member of the Wisconsin FFA Foundation Board of Directors for the past six years. He is an agriculture service manager for We Energies. Through work and Mr. Kollwelter’s involvement with Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion, Farm Technology Days, Alice in Dairyland Finals program and his family’s dairy farm, he stays connected to agriculture and understands the joys and discomforts of agricultural life.

Anita Ruger has assisted at the Wisconsin FFA Center for three years. She attended school in Chicago and had no prior knowledge of FFA nor agriculture before moving to Spencer. Through their four sons involvement in the Spencer FFA program the door was opened to FFA activities. Ruger has played a vital role in the behind the scenes operations at the Wisconsin FFA Center when handling member applications, logistics for leadership events and state officer activities. 

Cari Sabel is currently the president of the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Council and is also a leader of the Chilton FFA Alumni Chapter. Sabel is a Business Development Officer for the Collins State Bank and has worked with agriculture lending for over 20 years.  Sabel encourages everyone, especially those that were not in FFA while in high school to join their local FFA Alumni.

Melissa Sylte is co-manager for the Day of Service and Rally to Fight Hunger at the Wisconsin FFA Convention. She began working with the program in 2009 as a way to give back the organization. Sylte attended her first State FFA Convention in 6th grade and was selected to serve as the Wisconsin FFA Reporter in 2001-2002 from the Tri-County FFA Chapter. It is her hope that Day of Service helps FFA members realize how many ways they too can serve within their home communities. 

Paula Treu served as the State FFA Secretary in 1983-84 from the Omro FFA Chapter. She has continued to be involved with the Omro FFA by helping and encouraging FFA members with degree applications, speaking contests, judging teams and state officer candidate coaching. Her assistance to Omro FFA Advisor, Keven Busse, has been very instrumental in the growth of the Omro agriculture education program.

Luke Wiedenfeld was the State FFA Secretary in 1994-95 from the Lake Mills FFA Chapter. For six years he has been a member of the Wisconsin FFA Foundation Board of directors that helps secure funding for state FFA awards and events. Wiedenfeld is the current FFA Advisor and Agricultural instructor for his home chapter of Lake Mills and is also a member of the 2019 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Executive Committee.