The Soy Ambassador Leadership Program, sponsored by the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs, gives participants opportunities to gain leadership experience, industry exporsure, and a global perspective. Ambassadors will develop skills and qualities that are crucial for future leadership roles in the soybean and agriculture industry.
Applications for 2019-2020
The application process for the 2019-2020 class of Soy Ambassadors has ended. Applications for the 2021-2022 class will be accepted starting June 1, 2020. Additional information, including eligibility requirements, can be found on the Soy Ambassador Program Details page.
The 2019-2020 Soy Ambassadors include:
Chandler Bane is a fifth-generation grain and livestock farmer from McLean County. He raises corn, soybean, wheat, forages and cattle with his parents near Arrowsmith, Ill. A graduate of Iowa State University, Chandler received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural systems technology with an emphasis in ag and bio systems management. Before returning to the farm, he interned with Case IH Pro-Harvest throughout the United States. In addition to farming, he has served his community as a volunteer firefighter for the last six years.
Josh Griffin lives in Centralia, Ill., with his wife and daughter, and comes originally from a family farming operation in Paris, Ill., with corn and soybean production. He currently works for WinField United, and helps on the farm during planting and harvest time. His uncles run a 100-head beef cattle operation on the farm as well. Griffin is a board member of the Southern Illinois Fertilizer and Pesticide Conference and sits on a non-profit board for Marion County churches.
Jake Heeren lives outside Sheldon, Ill., with his wife and three children. He works for FMC Ag Solutions as a retail market manager. He also has had territory management roles in the seed industry with Pioneer and Beck’s Hybrids. He started his career working in retail for Crop Production Services as a crop consultant. He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and received a bachelor’s degree in ag business. He also attended Danville Area Community College and received an associate’s degree in ag business. Heeren also sells and services small precision ag business products. He is active in his church and the Milford FFA Alumni.
Michael Moore started farming with his parents in 2014 near Roseville, Ill., growing corn, soybeans and feeder cattle. Moore is also responsible for all technological aspects of the farm. He received his bachelor's degree in horticulture and landscape management from Illinois State University in 2011 and was employed by a landscaping company near Chicago prior to going home to farm. He serves on committees at his church and sings in their sanctuary choir, the Ecumenical Singers and Choral Dynamics of Galesburg. Moore enjoys teaching with the Ag Day for Kids program. He is a Chicago sports fan and enjoys time with wife, Sarah, and his stepson.
Jacob Schmidgall, Atlanta, Ill., has been farming with his father since 2011 as Schmidgall Family Farms. Prior to returning to the farm, Schmidgall worked for Precision Planting in Tremont, Ill., as a technical support associate troubleshooting customer issues. He also has experience working for an internet provider installing and troubleshooting for customers. He received his bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He and his wife, Brittney, have three young children.
Grant Strom is co-owner/operator of Strom Farms, Dahinda Ill., a corn, soybean and cattle farm he shares with his parents, Doug and Marsha Strom, sister, Joanie Stiers, and his wife, Kristen. In addition to marketing, input selection, purchasing and recordkeeping, he manages the family's grain drying and storage facility, consults for companies and groups within the fertilizer and crops industry and recently served as a 4R Advocate for The Fertilizer Institute. Strom earned a bachelor’s degree in farm and financial management from the University of Illinois and is a graduate of the Illinois Agriculture Leadership Program. He and Kristen were named American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher National Achievement Award Winners in 2017.
Brock Willard Pittsfield, Ill., is a 2012 graduate of Western Illinois University and has a bachelor’s degree in ag business. He is a fifth-generation farmer who works with his uncle and grandfather in Adams and Pike counties raising soybeans, corn and hogs. Willard also is employed off the farm with Compeer Financial as an insurance officer selling crop insurance. He was a 2017 American Soybean Association DuPont Young Leader and is a member of the Pike County Farm Bureau Young Leaders. Willard also serves on the University of Illinois Extension Advisory Council for Adams, Pike, Brown, Hancock and Schuyler counties.
Soy Ambassadors Travel to Mexico and Guatemala in 2015
In March 2015, the Soy Ambassadors visited Mexico and Guatemala to learn how U.S. soybeans are used in human diets and market development. While there, the group did the following:
- Observed long-term ISA involvement in the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) pork promotion campaigns in Mexico City by:
- touring a deboning plant
- visiting several open air markets
- watching a live tv spot on two stations that promote U.S. pork.
- Leared how long-term market development is created in Guatemala with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) by:
- visiting two different processing plants that use soy flour
- going to a school that created and sold soy milk to fund student tuition.
Soy Ambassadors Travel to Asia in 2012
In February 2012, the Soy Ambassadors visited soybean buyers in both Japan and Taiwan. While in Japan the group did the following:
- Visited with US Grains Council and ASA Japan staff to understand the soybean market in Japan
- Visited a soybean processing facility outside Tokyo
While in Taiwan, the group continued efforts as they :
- Attended meetings with soybean container buyers in Taiwan
- Toured a new port in Taiwan
- Attended meetings at the American interests office while in Taiwan.
- Attended meetings at the ASA office in Taiwan where the US Grains Council was present
- Met up with Mike Levin, Ron Moore, Ron Kinard and Scott Signman
Soy Ambassadors Travel to Central America in 2011
We traveled to Central America on February 21, 2011, joining representatives from the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and National Soybean Research Laboratory (NSRL). During this trip, we visited Guatemala and Nicaragua and did the following:
- Attended the Cargill/World Soy Foundation Corporate Responsibility Conference.
- Met with officials involved with nutrition programs in Central America.
- Visited WISHH and NSRL project sites in Guatemala City.
- Ate a soy foods lunch and experienced how well soy fits into the local cuisine.
- Tasted soy cookies and were treated to songs by the girls at Fundaninas, a local orphanage.
- Toured ag experimental plots and a coffee co-op in Nicaragua.
- Had dinner at the home of Kevin Marinacci, executive director for the Fabretto Children's Foundation.