The Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation officers include Joan Behr – President, James Caldwell – Vice President, Mary Elvekrog – Treasurer, and Patrick Duffy – Secretary.

 

Leadership:
Experienced and Dedicated

The Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. is governed by a highly regarded Board of Directors who are dedicated to sound fiscal responsibility as they carry on a legacy of fostering rural Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors dedicates one meeting annually to analyzing the educational climate in rural Wisconsin and then allocating awards to maximizing the benefit and impact in the rural enterprise. Recipient selections are made, in some cases, by the particular college or university admissions offices according to academics, leadership, service and financial need criteria outlined by the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc.

In some instances, key individuals from throughout the state serve on grant review committees to assist the Board of Directors in determining the people, projects, and programs most deserving of support.

Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Board of Directors

President of the Board


Joan Behr
Retired, Foremost Farms, USA

For over 32 years, Joan served in various capacities with Foremost Farms USA® completing her work there as Sr. Director of Corporate Communications & Brand Management. There she was responsible for internal, external and marketing communications, brand management and crisis communications. “Our relationships are built one-by-one,” Joan often said about how Foremost Farms built its reputation with dairy producers, employees, customers and business influencers. Joan attended Iowa State University and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She is just beginning a term on the Professional Dairy Producers Foundation board of directors.

 

Vice-President

Jim Caldwell, board president
James K. Caldwell
President, First Citizens State Bank, Whitewater, Wisconsin

James grew up on a Wisconsin farm, and witnessed firsthand the need for educational opportunities and leadership development for rural Wisconsin young people. Jim believes these opportunities ensure the enhanced success and prosperity of Wisconsin’s rural and  agricultural communities. He is proud that so many of the WROF, Inc. recipients say their scholarship was a “defining moment” for them. WROF, Inc scholarships empower them to pursue their desired education and return to become strong leadership in our Wisconsin rural communities. James served as President for over 30 years and sees continuing his service as vice president of the board and investing in the organization’s endowment as a way for him to “give back” and preserve our wonderful rural Wisconsin way of life.

 

Secretary

Pat Duffy
President/Grain Merchandiser,  Duffy Grain, Inc.

Pat grew up in a small agricultural community where the value of a good education was instilled in him early on by his grandparents.  His grandmother was a teacher and his grandfather farmed until he began serving the local agricultural community in 1928. After graduating from UW-Madison in 1988 with a degree in Economics he joined the family business. He went on to receive his MBA in Finance from UW Whitewater in 1995. As a third-generation leader of Duffy Grain, a company that provides grain marketing options and services to local grain producers, he believes that helping producers succeed in their farming operations also allows the rural communities where they live to prosper as well. Just as Pat has benefited from the quality educational system in Wisconsin he believes strongly that the future of agriculture in Wisconsin will continue to need new talent, and what better place to find it than in the rural communities in which we live in. By serving on the board at WROF Pat hopes to see that we continue to support our youth and promote opportunities in rural Wisconsin

Treasurer


Mary Elvekrog
Assistant Vice President-Dairy Specialist, Compeer Financial

Mary grew up on her family dairy farm near Stoughton. She was active in 4-H, FFA and graduated from UW-Platteville with a degree in Agribusiness. Mary has been an ag lender with Badgerland Financial since 1981. She serves dairy farmers in Southern Wisconsin, supporting their credit and financial needs. Mary has a strong passion for the success and viability of Wisconsin’s rural communities, and has been active on the Fair Board. She looks forward to serving on the WROF, Inc. Board of Directors and contributing to the success of helping students pursue a career serving rural Wisconsin.  As the Treasurer of the WROF, Inc. Mary assures the financial soundness of the Foundation.

Members of the Board


Charles Crave
CoFounder, Crave Brothers Farm and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese

Charlie Crave is a founding partner in Crave Brothers Farm and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese. In those 41 years, the business has expanded to include six other family partners. He currently serves as the financial operations director, while overseeing environmental stewardship. Daily focus is on continuing to grow the business for future generations by producing quality milk, and award-winning cheese. The diversified agriculture venture includes land ownership, crop production, heifer and dairy cow operations, manure digesters producing renewable energy, and a farmstead cheese factory. Following his completion of the Farm and Industry Short Course program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Mr. Crave partnered with his dairy science professor David Wieckert, and brother George. They rented a 57 cow dairy in Southern WI. Three years later, they relocated to Waterloo, WI, where the business has grown to milk over 2,000 cows and produce cheese that is sold nationally.


Aliesha Crowe, Ed. D.
Vice President of Academic Affairs, Northwoods Technical College

Dr. Aliesha Crowe is beginning her new role at Vice President of Academic Affairs at Northwoods Technical College in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Prior to this she served as the Vice President of College Advancement at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Prior to joining NWTC, Dr. Crowe served as the Executive Director of Institutional Advancement for 5 years and Dean of Industry, Energy, and Agriculture for 4 ½ years at Chippewa Valley Technical College. She also served as a UW Agriculture Agent in Rusk County for 7 ½ years, and a 7-12 agriculture teacher for 2 years. Aliesha remains active in her family’s agribusiness in rural Barron County. In partnership with her brother, she owns Crow Bar Land & Cattle Company, LLC. They provide custom cropping services and raise registered Simmental cattle and registered Quarter Horses. She and her siblings will be the fourth generation to own and operate Crow Bar Ranch in Barron, WI. Aliesha earned a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development from the University of Minnesota, a Master of Science in Agriculture Education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from UW River Falls. Aliesha is a 2019-20 Rising Presidents Fellow in the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence.


Jerry Gaska
Veterinarian and Founder, Gaska Dairy Health Services, S.C.

Dr. Jerome Gaska graduated in 1985 from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls with a bachelor’s degree in Meat and Animal Science and from the University of Wisconsin – School of Veterinary Medicine in 1989 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. In 1993, he established Gaska Dairy Health Services, S.C. in Columbus, WI. The veterinary practice is devoted solely to providing health and management services to progressive dairies. He managed a 2,000-cow dairy in Dodge County for 7 years and consults with large heifer and dairy operations. He is the Town Chairman and member of the Plan Commission for the Town of Elba, a member of the Wisconsin Livestock Facility Siting Review Board since 2006 and is currently the board’s Vice-Chairman, and a member of the Board of Directors of Farmers and Merchants Union Bank, Columbus, WI since 2012. He served on the Columbus School District Board of Education for 9 years where he was president for 2 years. Jerome is a member of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, National Mastitis Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association and the Columbus FFA Alumni.

 


Betsy Leonard
Education Director – Agriculture, Natural Resources & STEM, Wisconsin Technical College System Office

Betsy Leonard is Education Director – Ag, Natural Resources and STEM for the WRCS, a position she has held since 2019. Prior to this she served as the Online BBA Coordinator for the UW-Whitewater. For 19 years she was an part of the Mid-state Technical College staff as an Academic Advisor. She received her bachelor’s and MBA at Lakeland College, and an Associate of Applied Science in Business Management at Mid-state Technical College. In addition, she is a Certified Life Coach.

 


Sam Miller
Managing Director, Group Head, Agricultural Banking, BMO Harris Bank

Sam Miller is Managing Director of Agriculture Banking at BMO Harris Bank. Sam manages and leads production agriculture and agribusiness-related banking activities. Sam has over 37 years of agricultural banking experience, the past 33 at BMO Harris Bank.

Being passionate about the agricultural industry, Sam has served on many boards including the Wisconsin Dairy 2020 Council, Wisconsin Bankers Advanced Agricultural Banking School, American Bankers Association-Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association, Dairy Business Innovation Center and the FaB Wisconsin Food and Beverage Leadership Council. He is also on the faculty of the National School for Beginning and Experienced Ag Bankers.

In September 2013, Sam was awarded the Bruning Award  by the American Bankers Association for Rural and Agriculture Banking for his leadership and outstanding dedication to providing credit and financial guidance to farmers, ranchers, and businesses in rural America. In October 2012, Sam was recognized by the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association (WALSAA) as one of 40 honorees who have a common commitment to agriculture, life sciences and paving the way for future generations. He also writes a monthly Agrivision column for the Wisconsin Agriculturist magazine, speaks at many agricultural conferences, and has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal as well as other news outlets about ag industry updates. Sam holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh.


Brett Renk
President, Renk Seeds

Brett is a 6th generation Badger who respects and appreciates our Wisconsin rural heritage. The foundation and core of Renk Seed Company’s business is its seed corn sales to Wisconsin farmers and agri-businesses. Brett says he can think of nothing more rewarding or fruitful than investing in the education and organic growth of the rural youth of Wisconsin. He says, “They are our future and this is what WROF, Inc. is all about: helping build our rural Wisconsin enterprise.” Through his own investments of time and dollars, the Renk family hopes to encourage others to see the impact supporting the Foundation will have in rural Wisconsin.


Sue Schultz

Project Director, Direct Ag Contact, Inc. 

Sue Schultz serves as a project manager for Direct Ag Contact, Inc the largest and most experienced provider of temporary agricultural professionals in the United States. She manages new product role-outs and staffing additions for research, sales support, plot management and more. Prior to this she worked with Beck Ag to improve ag business results through data-driven, go-to-market strategies helping clients glean market insight from their customers that positively impact their business results.

Sue and her husband, Richard, dairy and crop farmed for twenty-one years. Her career path included teaching agriculture at Lakeshore and Moraine Park Technical colleges, USDA-Farm Service Agency contractor, self-employed farm consultant and her own ag marketing business. As a servant leader, giving back to her community has been a lifelong priority. Past leadership includes cooperative director, President of the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Association and Association of Woman in Agriculture (AWA)Corporation. Locally Schultz has served as her Church President, along with a host of agriculture and community leadership roles.