Jim and Mary Grant, Jeff Hicken receive high honors from WFBF

WFBF and Wisconsin State Farmer

The presentation of two of the highest awards given to its membership was a bittersweet affair during the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in Wisconsin Dells on December 5.

Waupaca County Farm Bureau members Jim and Mary Grant received the highest award Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation bestows upon its members when they were presented the organization's ‘Distinguished Service to Farm Bureau’ award.

In a more somber moment, Tom and Agnes Holt accepted the ‘Distinguished Service to Wisconsin Agriculture’ Award posthumously for their late son-in-law Jeff Hicken. Hicken passed away at the age of 47, on June 18, 2021.

Waupaca County Farm Bureau members Jim and Mary Grant received the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s ‘Distinguished Service to Farm Bureau’ award, the highest honor WFBF bestows upon its members.

50-year commitment 

“It is because of their dedication to the Farm Bureau organization and agriculture that I am extremely pleased to recognize Jim and Mary’s distinguished service to Farm Bureau,” said WFBF President Kevin Krentz of the Grants.

The Grants have been actively involved in Farm Bureau and their community for the past 50 years. In addition to serving as the town clerk and as a dairy leader in the local 4-H club, Jim served as president of the board at FS Cooperative in Amherst, as well as serving as a delegate for the Consolidated Badger Cooperative, Morning Glory Farms and Foremost Farms.

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“Jim and Mary will say that they don’t deserve this award because they got more out of Farm Bureau than they ever put in,” said former Waupaca County Farm Bureau President Wayne Steingraber. “They don’t realize how many lives they have touched during the years of service to their church, family, community, agriculture and Farm Bureau. They don’t deserve this award – they deserve so much more.”

Steingraber also said that Jim and Mary had a slow start in Farm Bureau. Initially they joined the Portage County Farm Bureau but weren’t active due to the distance to travel to the meetings.

A neighbor asked the couple to become members of the Waupaca County Farm Bureau family. Jim eagerly agreed and was elected to the board of directors. He served 13 years as president and then as secretary and treasurer for many years. He was the greeter at county annual meetings and served as a delegate representing Waupaca County at the WFBF Annual Meeting for many years.

The late Jeff Hicken's in-laws, Tom and Agnes Holt accept the ‘Distinguished Service to Wisconsin Agriculture’ award presented posthumously to acknowledge Hicken's outstanding contributions to Wisconsin’s agricultural industry. They are joined by WFBF President Kevin Krentz.

Knowledgeable and generous

Krentz told members of the audience gathered in Wisconsin Dells that Jeff Hicken was "knowledgeable and generous in his work on behalf of Wisconsin’s agricultural educators”.

“Thank you, Jeff for your leadership to agricultural education and the FFA. You are missed and your legacy will impact the agriculture community for years to come,” Krentz said.

A former member of the Lomira FFA and former Wisconsin FFA State Sentinel, Hicken was a UW-River Falls graduate who started his career at Sauk Prairie High School as the agricultural education instructor.

In 2006, he started his service at the state level as the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Education Consultant and State FFA Advisor with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, a position he held until his passing.

Jeff’s legacy includes his family, his impact on agricultural education and FFA, and his service to many coalitions, committees, and boards.

“Jeff had a heart for service and participated in numerous coalitions, committees and boards including the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Board of Directors, National FFA Foundation Board of Trustees, National Association of State Supervisors of Agriculture Education Board of Directors, AgrAbility of Wisconsin Advisory Council, and School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies Foundation Board,” said nominator Joe Bragger. “Jeff is extremely deserving of this award.”