Your Farm. Your Future.


2020 Speakers



Joe Bastardi, WeatherBELL Analytics

Joe Bastardi is the Chief Forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics and is an institution in the science of weather prediction. Prior to joining WeatherBELL, Bastardi was the chief forecaster for Accuweather Inc. Many companies across a multitude of industries, including energy, retail, insurance, and agriculture, have profited from his forecasts. His exceptional skills are rooted in a comprehensive understanding of global oscillations and in-depth analysis of historical weather patterns. Mr. Bastardi's analog approach, which finds similarities between current and historical weather patterns, allows him to make accurate forecasts, sometimes in defiance of computer model consensus.

His reputation for making bold and accurate forecasts has landed him on major television programs including Fox News Live, ABC World News, The O'Reilly Factor, The Colbert Report, CBS' The Early Show, Imus in the Morning, and several others.

Mr. Bastardi graduated from Pennsylvania State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Meteorology. While enrolled at Penn State, Bastardi was a member of the varsity wrestling team. He remains active with the wrestling team and currently serves as the team's strength coach. In his spare time, Bastardi participates in amateur bodybuilding and is a previous NABBA American Bodybuilding Champion.

Denton Cinquegrana, OPIS (Oil Price Information Service)

Denton has been with OPIS since 2001 and serves as the Chief Oil Analyst, responsible for the day-to-day operations of OPIS’ news and analysis division. In his role, Denton also provides big-picture views to OPIS subscribers on a variety of topics from supply and demand trends to anticipating price moves in the futures, spot and retail markets in North America. During his time at OPIS, Denton has covered a variety of markets from natural gas to liquids to U.S. refined spot markets. Before becoming the Chief Oil Analyst, Denton was leading the OPIS refined spots team.

Denton has been widely quoted and interviewed as an expert forecasting the price of oil and retail gasoline and diesel explaining what moves can mean for the consumer as well as the industry as a whole. Denton is a frequent contributor for major media outlets such as Fox Business, CNBC, MSNBC and CBS News. Denton is a graduate of Rutgers University and a football letter winner.

Session Speakers

Craig E. Anderson, Michigan Farm Bureau

Mr. Craig E. Anderson manages the Agricultural Labor and Safety Services (ALSS) program at Michigan Farm Bureau.  For nearly 30 years this program has provided subscription services, individualized client services and agricultural industry training programs. Mr. Anderson is the editor of the ALSS Newsletter. He provides contract clients comprehensive management services relating to safety, food safety/security, environment, records maintenance, transportation, labor, immigration and employee management assistance including the development of safety, labor, H-2A, GAP, GHP, HACCP and compliance manuals as well as facility and management reviews. As an industry specialist in agricultural and rural business safety, Mr. Anderson has developed and presented safety programming to more than 10,000 farm and rural businesses with more than 30,000 employees. 

Chris Barron, Ag View Solutions

Chris has developed top-notch agricultural decision-making techniques by working with some of the best producers in the United States and Canada. From bridging the generational gap to helping individual farms become more profitable, Chris helps farmers size their family enterprise to be more competitive in marketing, purchasing and efficiencies of scale. Chris lives in Rowley, Iowa.

Dr. Bruno Basso, Michigan State University

Bruno is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and W.K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He is an internationally recognized agroecosystem modeler with primary research interests in water, carbon, nitrogen cycling, and process-based modeling of agricultural systems for sustainable intensification and long-term sustainability. His research integrates crop modeling with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to understand spatial and temporal variability of crop yield. He is the lead author of SALUS, an agroecosystem model, and coordinates the soil modeling team of the international Agricultural Modeling Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP).

Wayne Bauer, Emergency Services Rescue Training

Wayne grew up on a farm in Huron County, Michigan and is a graduate of Michigan State University. He has worked extensively in a variety of agriculture management positions for 48 years. Wayne has served as the International President of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society with members in 20 countries. He was a key player in the Grain Entrapment Prevention Initiative for over 15 years and served as the Director of Safety and Security for Star of the West Milling Co. with 19 locations across Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and North Dakota for over 20 years. Wayne Retired from Star of the West in 2016.

John Burk, Farmer

John Burk is a 4th generation farmer from Bay City, Michigan where he farms with his father and brother. He owns and operates a 4,000-acre farm where he grows corn, soybeans, white wheat, sugar beets, and malting barley. John began using cover crops on his farm in 2000 and has experience utilizing a variety of cover crops including oilseed radish, winter peas, clovers, cereal rye and spring barley. On any given year, around 1,800 acres of his farmland will be planted to cover crops. In addition to his experience on the farm, John holds a master’s degree in crop and soil science from Michigan State University. He also worked as an ag and natural resources agent for Michigan State University Extension service for several years. John has been a member of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan board of directors since 2012 and currently serves as chairman of the Bay County Conservation District.

Paul Burke, USSEC

Paul Burke has thirty years of experience developing export markets for U.S. food and agriculture products. Currently, he serves as the Senior Director for U.S. Soy Marketing in the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) based in St. Louis, Missouri.  As Senior Director of U.S. Soy Marketing, he oversees USSEC’s global marketing plan that differentiates and creates a preference for U.S. soy in export markets. He most recently served as USSEC North Asia Regional Director headquarters in Beijing China for seven years.  In that capacity, he oversaw the programs and activities implemented in China, Japan, and Korea to expand demand for U.S. soy. Burke graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations (James Madison College) and History from Michigan State University.  He also attended the Mandarin Training Center in Taipei, Taiwan.  Prior to his career with the U.S. Soybean Export Council, Burke served as the director of international marketing in both the Michigan and Missouri Departments of Agriculture and international sales manager for Bolinger Marketing, Inc. 

Dr. Erin Burns, Michigan State University

Dr. Erin Burns is a Weed Science Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University. She started at Michigan State in April 2017.  She received her B.S. degree from the College of Saint Benedict (Minnesota) in Biology, her M.S. from North Dakota State University in Plant Sciences, and her Ph.D. from Montana State University in Plant Sciences. Erin’s research and extension program focuses on current and emerging problematic weeds in Michigan cropping systems, specifically forages, potatoes, and corn. Current research focuses on practices to mitigate the development and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds and understanding how climate variability will impact weed biology, ecology, and population dynamics.

Abby Carpenter, Farmer

Abby is part of the fifth generation on her family’s cash crop and beef cattle farm in Adrian, Michigan. In 2008 the Carpenter family diversified the farm by adding a fall Agri-tourism business with a corn maze, hayrides, pumpkins, and more. Later, in 2016, Abby graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Agribusiness Management and helped the family add retail greenhouses to the farm. Abby now manages the family greenhouse business and works as a crop insurance agent while maintaining an active role in all aspects of the farm.

Dr. Martin Chilvers, Michigan State University

Martin works on disease management issues for soybeans, wheat and corn. His areas of expertise include fungal biology, epidemiology, fungal genetics and host-pathogen interactions. He has been instrumental in Michigan State University’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences on current and emerging issues.

Rich D’Arcy, Famer

Rich D’Arcy along with his wife Beverly and a couple very helpful guys grow grain & bean crops near Kingston, MI. They use dairy manure, cover crops and poultry litter as the base for building resilient soils. Long term rotations of corn (non GMO & traited), black beans, navy beans, wheat & non GMO soybean also help to build soil structure. D’Arcy utilizes cover crops including a summer seeded 8-10 way blend and a fall mix of wheat and rye to try to keep the soil covered with live plants year-round. He no-tills corn and plants soybean green into live cover.

Jeff Ditzenberger, Farmer

Jeff Ditzenberger has been in Agriculture his entire life.  He comes from a small dairy operation growing up in South Wayne and is an FFA and FFA alumni member. He has worked as an ag mechanic and salesperson for 20 years and in ag advertising for 2 years, as well as owning his own dairy farm until going strictly into crops. Jeff served as the Green County Farm Bureau President for 10 years and as the Ag Chest VP for 5 years, as well as many ag related committees and groups, he brings a vast array and diverse agricultural perspective. He, with his dog Luke, and cat Pancake currently co-manage and operate a farm consisting of 900 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay near Argyle Wisconsin, as well as a sweet corn business and in the off season a snowplow business. He has two children, daughter Harleigh and son Parker. In his free time, he does some stand-up comedy, acting, golfing, riding his motorcycle, officiating weddings, working on his non-profit, TUGS, and playing Santa. 

Todd Feenstra, Tritium Inc.

President and Owner of Tritium, Incorporated (hydrogeologic consulting); LPG, Licensed Professional Geologist (Indiana)

CPG; Certified Professional Geologist (Michigan/Indiana); Bachelor Work at Grand Valley State University; Masters Work at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Mr. Feenstra has 20 years of experience in developing, managing, and protecting high-capacity groundwater supplies in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. His clients include municipalities, industries, developers, and agriculture. He has been working with a not-for-profit group of farmers in Southwest Michigan since 2009 to monitor and model groundwater-surface interactions and the impact of irrigation wells across southwest Michigan. He has testified to the Indiana Senate and the Michigan House of Representatives, and helped craft new Michigan groundwater law in 2018. He serves on two United States Geologic Survey committees related to groundwater and surface water supplies and serves as a board member for the Michiana Irrigation Association. His firm currently operates over 150 monitoring wells and stream gages across 8 counties in Michigan and Indiana with more than 8 years of continuous water level records.

Ehsan Ghane, Michigan State University

Ehsan received his Ph.D. from Ohio State where he worked on conservation drainage practices. Then he worked as a postdoc at U of M (the other one) for one year. He does research and extension in the areas of water quality and agricultural drainage to address agricultural water management issues related to non-point source pollution (i.e., excess nitrogen and phosphorous). Currently, he's working on an edge-of-field drainage research in Lenawee County where he's quantifying the benefits of controlled drainage and a saturated buffer.

TC Huffman

TC Huffman has worked in agriculture for the last 25 years since graduating from Purdue University. His early career was spent as a salesperson at a couple of Ag Retail locations where he helped to implement some early precision agriculture programs. He became a location manager for an Ag Retail company at the age of 28 and spent the next 12 years managing two different locations and as a key account manager for large growers. His career path then took him to be a Field Agronomist for Pioneer in east central Indiana. After a couple of years, he helped to launch the Encirca brand for Corteva which has since became Granular Agronomy. He manages the digital ag business for Indiana and eastern Illinois, which includes over 20 independent crop consultants across the area. 

Amore Ines, Michigan State University

Amor works on the integrations of advanced modeling techniques, in-situ/proximal/remote sensing and advanced climate information for decision supports in agriculture and water management. Using agricultural models, data science, simulation and optimization techniques, he seeks to understand the complex processes of the agricultural production system (at different scales) and its interactions with climate, soil, plants/livestock and management to: elucidate adaptation and mitigation strategies to climate variability and change; assess adoption potential and impact of new technologies on smallholder farming system performance and food security; study potentials of social-ecological agricultural systems; elucidate drivers of sustainable intensification and improved soil and water management. He is interested to explore the whole value-chain of data generation integration-modeling-value-added information dissemination for smarter decision support in agriculture.

Peter Johnson, Real Agriculture

Peter, @WheatPete, is the resident agronomist with Real Agriculture, where he posts a weekly podcast “Wheat Pete’s Word”. He is a regular on “Agronomy Monday” on Real Ag radio, Sirius Satellite Radio 147. Peter spent 30 years as the Ontario Cereal Specialist, and loves to talk anything agriculture, especially wheat! He leads the Middlesex Soil and Crop Improvement Association’s applied research program, is the Environmental Advocate for the Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario, and is a member of the Ontario Compaction Team. Peter operates a small farm near Lucan, Ontario, where he constantly tries out new production ideas, and where the “rubber hits the road”! He is enthusiastic and passionate about agriculture, and loves to be challenged by growers. So “have at him”!!!

Eric Karbowski, Michigan State University Extension

Eric Karbowski is the Behavioral Health Educator with Michigan State University Extension.  Prior to joining MSUE, Eric was the Executive Director for the Missaukee County Commission on Aging. Additionally, Eric supervised a program in the public mental health system for ten years. Eric also worked for Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids Workforce Development program and Michigan Works! providing vocational rehabilitation, education and training services/supports to individuals. Educationally, Eric earned his bachelor’s degree of science in education and master’s degree of arts in administration from Central Michigan University.

Allyson Maxwell, Farmer

Allyson and her family raise corn, sugar beets, soybeans and dry beans on a four-generation family farm that began in the late 1800s in Hope, Michigan. The Maxwell farm consists of Allyson, her husband Peter and their two sons, Peter’s father, uncles, and cousin. Allyson has a Bachelor’s degree is from Kansas State University and was previously employed by Monsanto in a position that worked closely with farmers to plan meetings and industry events. She has also worked for Crop Production Services where she supplied farmers with seed, crop nutrients, and crop protection. In addition, Allyson is a volunteer for CommonGround, helping to educate consumers about farming.

Don Morse, Farmer

Don Morse farms around 2100 acres in Birch Run, Michigan growing corn, soybeans, sugar beets and wheat. In addition to the farming operation, Don also has a Pioneer seed dealership that his daughter works with him on. 2019 was Don’s third year planting cover crops. 800 acres are enrolled with NRCS his remaining acres are cover cropped on his own. Don also implements no-till practices on his operation.

Marisol Quintanilla, Michigan State University

Marisol is an Applied Nematologist at Michigan State University. She grew up on a family farm in Chile that produces table grapes and other diverse crops. Marisol received her master’s and doctoral degrees at MSU and spent two years at Northern Marianas College before moving to the University of Hawaii. Her work included nematode identification and she gained extensive experience in working with specialty crop growers. Most recently, she has studied nematode community structure, soil health, and pest management in edible crops as part of her research and extension work.

Steve Safferman, Michigan State University

Steve has research, teaching, and extension appointments. His research entails evaluating and/or developing wastewater treatment systems, waste to resource technologies, decision support models, and practices to retain nutrients in soil to maximize beneficial plant uptake. He teaches in the Department’s first technical course on basic engineering analysis of biological systems and an advanced water resource recovery class, jointly with the Department of Environmental Engineering. He also teaches interdisciplinary sustainability classes in the Honors College.

John Schramski

John Schramski grew up on his family’s cash crop and cattle farm in Huron County, Michigan. He received his B.S. degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences in 2013. Upon graduating, he worked as a crop consultant in Michigan’s Thumb Region for four years. John is currently pursuing a master’s degree with a focus in Weed Science at Michigan State University under Dr. Christy Sprague. During this time he has also served as the Science Policy Fellow for the Weed Science Society of America. His research focuses on integrating fall-seeded cereal cover crops with herbicide programs for management of horseweed (marestail) in no-till soybeans.

Manni Singh, Michigan State University

Maninder “Manni” Singh is an assistant professor of cropping systems agronomy at Michigan State University. He has been employed at Michigan State since 2016. He received his B.S. degree from Guru Nanak Dev University in Agriculture, his M.S. from Punjab Agricultural University in Agronomy, and his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in Agronomy. Manni’s research and extension program focuses on current and emerging issues in corn, soybean, and wheat-based cropping systems of Michigan with an overall goal to improve the productivity, profitability, and climate resiliency of these systems.

Tara Smith, Michael Torrey Associates, LLC

As Executive Vice President for Michael Torrey Associates, Tara Smith leads a team of talented staff focused on developing and implementing legislative and regulatory strategies, building coalitions and informing policymakers on client priorities, including work for the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB). Before joining Michael Torrey Associates in August 2013, Smith worked as a Senior Professional Staff for the Senate Agriculture Committee under Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) where she covered commodity programs, crop insurance and disaster assistance. Smith was also previously Director of Government Affairs for the American Farm Bureau where she handled the farm bill and commodity issues. Smith has past worked for Monsanto Company and Promar International, an agribusiness consulting firm. Tara grew up on a corn and soybean farm in central Illinois. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Davidson College in North Carolina and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Christy Sprague, Michigan State University

Dr. Christy Sprague is a Weed Science Extension Specialist and Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University. She has been employed at Michigan State since September of 2003.  She received her B.S. degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences, her M.S. from the University of Illinois in Agronomy, and her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Weed Science. Christy provides leadership and expertise, working to educate on management strategies for emerging problematic weeds in soybean, small grains and other crops. Throughout her career, she has received several awards from the Weed Science Society of America and the North Central Weed Science Society.

Lee Thelen, Farmer

Lee Thelen farms in St. Johns, Michigan with his wife Marilyn.  They have two children.   Lee began farming is 1981.  Over the last 39 years he has grown the farm to 2000 acres where he raises corn, soybeans, wheat and Holstein steers.  He also grows some rye, oats and occasionally oilseed radish seed which he uses to seed cover crops.  Lee is dedicated to enhancing the soil health on the farms by implementing minimal tillage, utilizing manure in the system and planting cover crops.  In addition to farming Lee is the Greenbush Township Supervisor.

Addie Thompson, Michigan State University

Dr. Addie Thompson graduated from Iowa State University in Genetics in 2008 and obtained her PhD in Applied Plant Sciences at the University of Minnesota in 2014 researching maize meristem and plant morphology under Dr. Gary Muehlbauer. She studied quantitative genetics with Dr. Rex Bernardo for a short time before going to Purdue University in 2015 as a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Mitch Tuinstra working on high-throughput phenotyping in sorghum and the genetics of drought tolerance in maize. In 2018 Dr. Thompson started as an assistant professor studying maize genetics in the Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Department at Michigan State University.

Curtis VanVorst

Curtis VanVorst is a partner with his dad and uncle on a 6,000-acre crop farm in Bronson, MI. They grow corn, soybeans, and seed corn. The soil on their farm ranges from sand to clay to muck and everything in between. They are able to get across their sand ground quite early in the spring and have been pushing planting dates earlier and earlier in April for corn and soybeans. Most years they have found their best yields to be their April planted crops. Up until this past year their earliest planting date was April 12th, but with the studies that BASF has done over the past few years they decided to push the envelope and try some March beans this year. Curtis is a Michigan State graduate and is currently employed as a sales agronomist at Ceres Solutions on top of the farming gig.

Jeremy Wilson, EFC Systems

Jeremy was raised on a family farm near Olney, Illinois where he operates an 800-acre grain farm with family. He graduated from Wabash Valley Jr. College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Agriculture Production and received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Eastern Illinois University in May of 1995. Jeremy started his career with a Crop Insurance Company as a loss adjuster in 1995 then went to work for Wabash Valley Service Company as a crop specialist in 1999 and in July 2006 accepted the position as Technology Specialist for Crop IMS, an information management, scouting and technology company based in south-central Illinois. In February of 2019 he was named Senior Vice President of Field Data Solutions for EFC Systems based in Brentwood Tennessee.  For the past several years, he has worked with growers to collect a wide variety of data for in-depth data analysis.  He also has worked with several manufacturer’s technology from yield monitors to GPS guidance systems.  Jeremy also is involved with the AgGateway, an industry consortium working to develop data standards to facilitate the transition to Digital Agriculture, on the Precision Ag Council. He currently holds the position of Vice Chairman of the Strategic Board of Directors.

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2020 Great Lakes Crop Summit - January 29 - 30, 2020

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