Managing Director, Cultivian Sandbox
Interim Board Chair, Illinois Agri-Food Alliance
Ron Meeusen, PhD is a Managing Director of Cultivian Sandbox and co-founder and Managing Partner of Cultivian Ventures. Ron has over 30 years of experience in bringing new technologies and products to market. He has led research and development for major corporations in agricultural chemicals, field crop and vegetable genetics and breeding, animal health, novel foods and industrial materials. His successful projects include the world’s first field trial of a genetically engineered crop trait in 1986, development and launch of one of the first insect and herbicide resistant corn hybrids in 1996, introduction of a trans-fat free canola oil, and development of dozens of new varieties of field and vegetable crops on three continents. Ron has been a frequent speaker at conferences, a consultant to Federal policy on biotechnology regulatory issues, and active in industry trade groups. Prior to forming Cultivian Ron led the expansion of the biotechnology research and development program of Dow AgroSciences, and founded a successful biopharmaceutical company, Immuneworks, Inc. Ron represents Cultivian on the board of directors of AbCelex Technologies, Agrivida (Board Chair), enEvolv, Proterro, Rivertop Renewables, Vestaron and Virgin Plants. He was also a member of the board of directors of Allylix, Aratana Therapeutics and Divergence, Inc. Ron holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in plant cell biology, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in plant physiology.
President, Illinois Farm Bureau
Vice Chair, Illinois Agri-Food Alliance
Richard Guebert Jr., of Ellis Grove, is the 15th president of the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) and serves as full-time executive officer. He is also president of COUNTRY Financial, Illinois Agricultural Service Company, and the IAA Foundation. Prior to his election as president, Guebert served as vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau from 2003-2013. As vice president, Guebert also served as chairman of the COUNTRY/IFB Governance Committee. In 2007, he was appointed by the IFB president to serve as chairman of a Floodplain Study Group. Guebert, his wife Nancy and his son, Kyle, operate a farm where they grow corn, soybeans, and wheat. In 2001, he served on the IFB Co-op Task Force and completed theAgricultural Leaders of Tomorrow leadership training. Guebert was named a Master Farmer in 2006 by Prairie Farmer magazine.
President and CEO, Farm Foundation
Vice Chair, Illinois Agri-Food Alliance
With over 25 years of global leadership and executive experience. Shari has a unique perspective, developed through her experience as a fifth-generation farm owner and operator, entrepreneur in the organic branded food industry, founder of an agribusiness consulting firm and leader of a soil health technology firm.
She began her career in London in financial services and continued in Europe with the Boston Consulting Group. These experiences uniquely positioned her to take the CEO roles at Family Farms LLC, a suite of services for over 1,000 farms, and Applied GeoSolutions (AGS) LLC, where she led the commercialization of technology for soil health and carbon applications.
Shari has served on several corporate boards, including Farm Credit Mid America and Coastal Pet. She currently serves as a trustee for The Nature Conservancy, and advisory boards of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, and Lewis & Clark Agrifood Fund.
Shari has a B.Sc. in Business Administration from the University of Kansas and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
Managing Director, Agricultural Sales, Marex
Mr Andriesen has a broad and extensive career in the agricultural trading and risk management sector. He has experience originating, merchandising and trading North American truck, rail and barge markets as well as managing facilities with firms including Consolidated Grain and Barge, The Ferruzzi Group, Tate & Lyle and Koch Industries. In the late ’90 he transitioned from the physical markets into financial markets where he was on sales desks and managed over-the counter derivative teams for Rabobank, LDC, Zurich Capital Markets and National Australia Bank. In 2009 he Joined CME Group where he was the Managing Director of their Agricultural Product business line. In that role he significantly expanded the product line to include short-dated options, options on spreads, and a range of regional products.
Mr. Andriesen is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business’s Advanced Management Program. He serves on the advisory board for the Kansas State University Center for Risk Management Education and Research and the Illinois Agri Food Alliance. He is active as a mentor with the Special Operator Transition Foundation, a non-profit which helps military Special Operation personnel transition into civilian careers. In his spare time he is a competitive CrossFit athlete. Tim and his wife Marilyn reside in Lake Barrington IL.
Dean, College of ACES, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Germán Bollero brings more than a decade of administrative leadership to the role, having served as associate dean for research and head of the Department of Crop Sciences. More importantly, he has been a member of the ACES family for nearly 30 years.
Bollero is a native of Rosario, Argentina. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the National University of Rosario, Argentina, he came to the University of Illinois to continue his education. He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the Department of Agronomy (now crop sciences), and continued on as a postdoctoral research associate and senior research specialist in agriculture. In 1998, he joined the crop sciences faculty as assistant professor of biometry and cropping systems. Bollero then led the department as head from 2009 to 2018. In 2018, he became associate dean for research and director of the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station, investing in convergent research collaborations across the college and campus.
Bollero is internationally recognized for his scholarship in biometry and cropping systems. His teaching, service, and research contributions have placed him among an elite handful of truly outstanding faculty members. He has been included on the Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students dozens of times. Among other recognitions, he has received several College of ACES awards, was selected as a member of the ACES Academy of Teaching Excellence, and was in the first class of the ACES Global Connect program. Dr. Bollero is a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America and the Agronomy Society of America.
Senior Director of Community Impact, Chicago Community Trust
Michael Davidson is senior director of community impact for The Chicago Community Trust where he leads the neighborhood investment strategy. His portfolio builds the conditions for neighborhood-scale wealth creation, helping the region’s disinvested communities attract, retain and drive investment. Prior to this role, Davidson was the Trust’s senior program officer in sustainable development where he lead grant making for community and regional planning organizations, focusing on the confluence of environmental, economic and social sustainability as the optimal framework for policy planning and development practice. Prior to joining the Trust, Davidson was midwest director for ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability USA. He has also worked as a program officer at the Great Lakes Protection Fund and manager of the Campaign for Sensible Growth. Davidson spent the first nine years of his career in the research department of the American Planning Association (APA), where he provided planning practitioners with best practices in urban and regional planning. He is the founder of the Prairie State Local Government Sustainability Network and a founding member of the Sustainable Communities Division of the American Planning Association. He earned a graduate degree from DePaul University’s School of Public Service and has authored and produced over 30 articles and technical reports on contemporary planning issues.
Rebecca Carlisle Doyle
Co-Owner and Farmer, Hickory Grove Pork Farms & Doyle Associates, The Context Network
Becky Doyle is a lifetime Illinois farm partner with deep pork production background and experience with most Midwest cropping and marketing systems. She is a proven organizational leader and administrator, having served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Director of Resource Development for the UN World Food Programme. While leading those organizations, Ms. Doyle developed strategies and policies – and built teams to implement them that capitalized on opportunities and dealt effectively with challenges. For the past decade, Ms. Doyle has been providing her networks, insights, strategies, and facilitation as a consultant for agriculture organizations/businesses and natural resource protection organizations. In addition to her livestock and crop input work, she strives to optimize understanding of and rationalize actions around climate change, carbon sequestration, regenerative ag, soil health and cover crops. In addition to agriculture commodity groups, she has worked with the Soil Health Institute, American Farmland Trust, The Nature Conservancy, National Resources Defense Council, Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Her 25-year involvement in the Farm Foundation Round Table has provided a national network of producers, agribusinesses and natural resource protection organizations as well as production- serving and consumer-facing companies. She also serves her land grant alma mater as representative to the Council on Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) and the college’s alumni board. Becky has a BS in Ag Communications and MS in Extension Education from the University of Illinois and continuing education certificates from Washington University and Harvard University.
Senior Vice President, OPC Implementation Lead, Obama Foundation
Lori Healey manages the construction and operations of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Hired by the Obama Foundation, she began in this role in December 2020. Prior to joining the Obama Foundation, Healey served as president of a new Chicago regional business unit for Clayco, a real estate development, architecture, engineering and construction firm. She was previously the Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), owner of McCormick Place, the nation’s largest convention center and Navy Pier, Illinois top-visited tourist destination and the 1,258 room Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. In her role as CEO, Ms. Healey oversaw the development of the McCormick Collection which includes a 10,000 seat event center and a 1,206 room Marriott Marquis Headquarters Hotel, scheduled for completion in 2017. Prior to joining the MPEA, Ms. Healey served as the Chief Executive Officer of Tur Partners LLC (“Tur”) and also served as Principal in Charge of the Development Group for the John Buck Company. Ms. Healey coordinated the organizational and planning activities for the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012, acting as Director of the NATO Host Committee as an executive “on loan,” overseeing planning, fundraising and implementation of the Summit and in 2009, was appointed as President of Chicago 2016, where she was responsible for leading Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Ms. Healey held several senior leadership positions for the City of Chicago under the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, most recently acting as Mayor Daley’s Chief of Staff. She earlier served as Commissioner of the City’s Department of Planning and Development.
Chief Asset Quality & Assurance Officer, Compeer Financial
Terry L. Hinds is Chief Asset Quality & Assurance Officer for Compeer Financial, a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative serving and supporting agriculture and rural communities. Compeer Financial is a $18.5 billion organization providing loans, leases, risk management and other financial services throughout 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Previously, Terry was Chief Risk Officer responsible for the overall risk management of the company including: risk policy, coordination of risk philosophy, risk asset and acquired property management, the association’s appraisal function, and internal audit in coordination with the board’s Audit & Finance Committee. Prior to being named Chief Risk officer he lead efforts in Capital Markets, Agribusiness, Trade Credit, Leasing, ProPartners, Investments, Commercial Bank and other Partner Purchases as well as the association’s legislative affairs activities. Terry’s family is deeply rooted in Illinois agriculture and still owns and operates the first Illinois farm the family purchased in 1848. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in Agricultural Economics and University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Banking. He has spent more than 39 years in various positions within the Farm Credit System including AgriBank, Farm Credit Bank of St. Louis and several Illinois Farm Credit associations.
Senior Vice President, Membership & Corporate Relations, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Jan has a wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors. She began her career at Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications, where she served many corporate clients. In government, Jan was the longest-serving Director of Tourism for the State of Illinois. She later was part of the team that created the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Most recently, Jan served as Director of Marketing at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Working in public affairs, for politicians, government, corporations, arts, tourist destinations, higher education and currently for a business association, Jan has honed her strategic planning skills. Whether it’s planning a visit for foreign officials, or helping organizations extend their visibility, she’s used her experiences to create successful and award-winning programs and events. A few of her clients included Target, Chicago Architecture Biennial, Terra Foundation, and Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. Jan has a passion for etiquette, travel, and entertaining. She is a graduate of New England College with a BA in Communications and holds a certificate in Social Media Marketing from DePaul University
Founding Principal and CEO, The Development Consortium
Janet Mathis is a founding Principal in The Development Consortium, an economic development and real estate consulting firm created in 2006, and is currently the firm’s CEO. Until May 2017, Mathis also was the President and CEO of Renew Moline. Mathis is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Economic Development Association (IEDA), the state association of economic development professionals, and received the organization’s highest award, Distinguished Developer of the Year in 2013. She was named an Edgar Fellow in 2014, and was the recipient of Western Illinois University – Quad Cities’ 2013 Award of Excellence for best exemplifying the four pillars of the university. Mathis is currently on the Board of Directors of the River Bend Foodbank; is President of the Board of Directors for the Center for Youth and Family Solutions; and is on the Board of Food and Agricultural Roadmap (FARM) Illinois. Mathis has a bachelors of science degree in agricultural industries from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with continuing studies in crisis communications from Illinois State University; economic development from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville; and brownfields redevelopment from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
CEO, Good Food Catalyst
Shelby Parchman is a seasoned entrepreneur who has a long track record of establishing and growing new businesses. After obtaining a Dual B.S. in Biology and Chemistry and then a Master’s in Analytical Chemistry, Shelby embarked upon a professional career as a research scientist with Baxter Healthcare Corporation and then the Amoco Corporation.
Whether as an entrepreneur or as a consultant, he has made significant contributions to the development and growth of start-up ventures and established businesses through funding and strategic growth strategies. In this work, he has assisted numerous organizations in obtaining funding through loans, equity, grants, and other financing strategies. Shelby has taught many entrepreneurs how to start and grow small businesses and has been a featured speaker at workshops sponsored by the City of Chicago Treasurer’s Office and Office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. His work was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation Section – “Six ways to make sure you don’t tank your business plan.” Prior to becoming Managing Partner of InUrban Strategies LLC, Shelby was the Managing Director of Sunshine Enterprises where he successfully grew an entrepreneurship training and support program from twelve clients served in 2013 to over 300 clients served in 2017. In late 2017 Shelby formed InUrban Strategies where he focuses on economic development in underserved communities working with local non-profits to develop and implement programming aimed to address the needs of underserved and underrepresented communities. In 2018 he worked with FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator to develop programming (GFAx) to support food entrepreneurs in the underserved communities of Chicago. During his time at FamilyFarmed (now the Good Food Catalyst), he has received several promotions and was appointed by the Board of Directors as the new CEO to execute the organization’s new strategic plan.
Notable achievements in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion include:
1) Development of Supply Chain program for Rush University Medical Center to increase outreach and purchasing for minority-owned businesses on Chicago’s west side.
2) Development of the non-profit organization JumpHire in partnership with Tullman Community ventures to address lack of diversity and participation in the workforce for residents of Chicago’s south and west sides.
3) Development of Good Food is Good Medicine program in partnership with the Builder’s Initiative and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to address health inequities on Chicago’s south and west sides.
Partner, Global Agribusiness, Ernst & Young
Andrew Selck is a member of EY’s Global Agribusiness Center and leads its focus on Digital Agriculture. He works with various agribusiness clients on emerging trends and technologies impacting the industry and has authored numerous whitepapers and spoken at industry conferences on the topic of Digital Agriculture and its transformative effects. Andrew has almost 15 years of experience focusing in the Agribusiness and Life Sciences sectors. He has an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and is a Licensed CPA in Illinois.
Partner, Open Prairie Rural Opportunities Fund
Lee Strom is a Partner at Open Prairie Rural Opportunities Fund. Prior to his current role, he was the President and CEO of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation, Illinois’ premier agriculture leadership development program. Previously, Lee was CEO of FARM Illinois, a role he assumed in April of 2015. During his leadership over the 2 ½ years as FARM Illinois’ CEO, Lee’s efforts grew the organization into a respected convener of Illinois’ many entities that touch the food and agriculture sector. Lee also spent nearly a decade of service in Washington D.C. where he served as the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Farm Credit Administration. FCA regulates the $250 billion national network of Farm Credit System institutions and Farmer Mac which provide credit and financial services to the nation’s agriculture and agribusiness sectors. He also served as chair of the $3.5 billion Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation. Lee has served as an agriculture advisor on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Advisory Board on Agriculture, Labor, and Small Business, and served in numerous other leadership capacities within the agriculture and finance sectors. In 2011, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Northern Illinois University for his efforts in protecting and managing the assets of the agriculture industry. Lee and his wife reside on a farm in Kane County, Illinois where his ancestors settled in the late 1800’s. Lee has been involved in the agriculture industry his entire life.
President and CEO, Gilster-Mary Lee Corp
Tom Welge serves as President & CEO of Gilster-Mary Lee Corp, a store brand and food service manufacturer headquartered in southern Illinois. He is the 4th generation of the family working in the 127 year old business. Prior to assuming his current role in 2020, he worked in sales, technical services, and served as the organization’s General Counsel. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Buena Vista National Bank in Chester, IL, a board member of the Illinois Manufacturers Association (IMA) and the SI-NOW! Foundation (a regional economic development organization), and an advisory director of Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. He is also President of the St. Nicholas Brewing Co. which operates 3 brewpubs in southern Illinois. Tom holds a BA in Business Administration from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL and a JD from Washington University in St. Louis.
President Emeritus, University of Illinois
Board Emeritus, Illinois Agri-Food Alliance
Robert A. Easter is President Emeritus of the University of Illinois after serving as the University’s 19th president from 2012-2015. Before becoming president, Easter spent his entire, nearly 40-year career as a senior administrator and faculty member on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, where he earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. He was interim chancellor from 2009-2011, serving as chief executive officer of the 42,000-student campus, and also served as interim provost and interim vice chancellor for research. From 2002-2009, he was dean of the nationally ranked College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Before that, he served as head of the Department of Animal Sciences, where he has been a faculty member since 1976. An expert in livestock feeding, Easter has co-authored a book on livestock production and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters, and numerous papers for conferences and industry publications. He also has spoken to audiences in the United States and 30 foreign countries on livestock feeding. In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), and was appointed as chair of BIFAD in 2007. He also is a fellow of the American Society of Animal Science and a member of Farm Foundation Roundtable and serves on the board of 1st Farm Credit Services, Agrible, and the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation. Easter earned an undergraduate degree in agricultural education in 1970 and a master’s degree in animal nutrition in 1972, both from Texas A&M University. He completed a doctorate in animal science at the University of Illinois in 1976 and immediately joined the Animal Science Department as an assistant professor of swine nutrition and management. He presently holds the rank of Professor Emeritus. Easter served as the inaugural Board Chair of the Illinois Agri-Food Alliance from 2015 to 2021, leading the development of the Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois (FARM IL) strategic plan and the creation of the ILAFA organization. Easter was bestowed the role of inaugural Board Emeritus in March 2021.