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By Joann Pipkin

Nearly $360,000 has been awarded since 2003 when FCS Financial’s board of directors implemented a program to encourage and support higher education for children or grandchildren* of FCS Financial customers.

Now in its 11th year, FCS Financial’s scholarship program annually distributes up to 35 scholarships. This fall, the board of directors elected to increase the value of each scholarship to $1,500 for 2015. Previously, each scholarship was $1,000. Funds were first distributed in 2004.

FCS Financial is committed to supporting the agricultural youth of Missouri. As a cooperative, this scholarship is one of the ways FCS Financial gives back to its members and supports communities.

It has been five years since their high school graduation in 2009. And, here’s an inside look at what some of the 2009 recipients are doing now.

Andrew Alton

Having earned a degree in electrical distribution systems from Linn State Technical College, Andrew graduated in 2011 and has worked as a heavy equipment operator for Shryock Brothers Farms for two years. He recently accepted a job as an apprentice lineman with the city of Centralia where he will work on power line construction and repair.

At Linn State, Andrew was one of 25 accepted into the school’s electrical distribution system’s program, which typically draws more than 100 applicants.
Andrew and his wife, Sarah, were married in June 2013 and currently reside in Mexico, Missouri.

Sierra Shea Angell Blanchford

Just five years after her high school career ended, Sierra is writing the next chapter —literally.

Already a published author, Sierra is a freelance writer and farm wife based in De Smet, South Dakota. She earned a general agriculture degree with an emphasis in agricultural journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

At MU, Sierra was active in Sigma Phi Lambda, a non-greek Christian sorority, and was a member of Block and Bridle club as well as Collegiate Cattlewomen.

Two internships with Land O-Lakes-Winfield Solutions in South Dakota and Minnesota found Sierra working with marketing for test plot events and alfalfa management.

“I learned a tremendous amount about row crop farming, the cooperative system, raising “dairy quality” alfalfa, and I got to drive all across beautiful South Dakota,” Sierra says.
She also experienced how to market for “test plot” events using different forms of advertising such as sales letters, radio and print ads and social media.

As a freelance writer, Sierra blogs and manages social media for a variety of clients. Her first book, Wild Man: A Mostly True Memoir of a Missouri Cattleman is now on the market and details the wild, mostly true, larger-than-life stories of her grandfather, Luther Angell.

“Luther and the Angell family owned and operated the Columbia Livestock Auction for over 50 years. Many of Luther’s stories from CLA are included in the book,” she notes.

In addition to writing, Sierra tackles record-keeping and assists with farm management duties on the row-crop and cattle farm she shares with husband John Blanchford. Sierra and John welcomed a daughter, Joslyn Shea, in October.

Future plans include growing her business, Sierra Shea Communications, and helping clients meet their social media, blogging and copywriting needs. Follow Sierra on the web at

Hannah Sandidge Erickson

An agribusiness management graduate from MU, Hannah completed her college degree in just three years. While there, she participated in Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Cattlewomen, Mizzou Swine Club and Collegiate Farm Bureau. USDA Farm Service Agency and the Missouri Pork Association hosted Hannah’s internships.

Traveling abroad to Germany, Brazil and New Zealand helped Hannah learn culture and cuisine far from Missouri farmland.

“The chocolate was better than can be described,” Hannah says of her time spent in Germany.

While in Brazil, Hannah spent two weeks learning about agriculture, a trip sponsored by MU’s agricultural systems management department.

“We primarily visited places along the coast, but hiked through a rainforest and toured coffee, sugarcane and orange farms,” she explains noting it was a great learning experience, and especially interesting to learn about how the country celebrates Christmas in the middle of the summer.

“Santa Claus in Brazil wears light-weight clothing and they decorate palm trees with our traditional Christmas lights,” Hannah says.

Through a study abroad experience with the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Hannah was able to learn how an earthquake in New Zealand affected its citizens, and how they are working to rebuild.

“One of our visits was to a “shopping mall” of sorts that was actually shipping containers that had been renovated on the inside to create stores,” she says.

Visits to sheep and wine production enterprises brought Hannah a first-hand look at two of New Zealand’s largest industries. “It was eye-opening to see the large scale production,” she notes.

Currently a financial services specialist for FCS Financial’s Commercial & Agribusiness team in the Marshall, Missouri, office, Hannah and husband Jarrod Erickson are expecting their first child this month.

Lauren Geiger

Now a third year student in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, Lauren first attended Kansas State University where she majored in animal sciences and agricultural economics. She began clinical rotations in late October.

“My first summer of vet school, I stayed at the school as part of the Veterinary Research Scholars Program completing a project on passive transfer of colostrum in dairy calves,” Lauren explains.

This past summer, she finished an internship with Dr. Larry Coleman through the American Association of Swine Veterinarians at the Vet Care Clinic in Broken Bow, Nebraska.

While at K-State, Lauren participated in Collegiate Cattlewomen, Pre-Veterinary Club, Silvery Key Honorary Society and Collegiate 4-H. While not lacking for something to do, she also worked on campus as an undergraduate research assistant in a ruminant nutrition project and was a research laboratory assistant. Additionally, Lauren has been a bank teller at Nodaway Valley Bank, a kennel technician at Countryside Veterinary Clinic, and spends extra spare time working on the family farm.

Lauren enjoyed overseas travel to Panama and Colombia with the International Collegiate Agricultural Program, and journeyed to Australia with the Animal Science Study Abroad group. She also completed an internship in Kansas Senator Pat Roberts Washington, D.C., office.

While still exploring her options in the field of veterinary medicine, Lauren hopes to settle somewhere in the Midwest where the family farm in northwest Missouri isn’t more than a few hours away. Originally from Mound City, Lauren is engaged to Alex Callow, a former FCS Financial scholarship recipient.

Marc Jensen

A May 2012 graduate of MU, Marc earned a degree in agricultural systems management and agribusiness management. At MU, he was active in Alpha Gamma Sigma fraternity where he served as vice president. He also held membership in the agriculture economics and agriculture systems management clubs.

As a field production and research intern for Monsanto, Marc worked in Illiopolis, Illinois. He also earned valuable experience interning with Agrigold Hybrids in Marshall, Missouri, and at FCS Financial. While at MU, Marc was fortunate to travel abroad in Germany and Brazil on two different trips with other students from the university’s agriculture systems management program to gain insight into Europe and South America’s diverse agricultural economy and infrastructure.

As an assistant vice president for traditional and part time farmers in the St. Joseph, Missouri, office of FCS Financial, Marc began his full-time career there in January 2013.

“I enjoy the opportunity to work directly with agriculture producers of all types and sizes,” he says.

In addition to his career at FCS Financial, Marc helps on the family farm and enjoys time with his wife and family.

Brittany Early Kelsey

A May 2013 graduate of Truman State University with a degree in agricultural science, Brittany is currently a product manager for MFA Agri Services in Kirksville where she oversees animal health products and in store feed sales.

While at Truman State, Brittany was a member of Collegiate Farm Bureau, Delta Tau Alpha ag honors society and Sigma Alpha. She completed an internship with Pfizer Animal Health where she worked in animal health related tasks on hog operations.

Brittany married husband Cohen Kelsey in September 2013 and the two also operate a 250-head commercial cow/calf operation. They welcomed their first son, Stockton, to the family in September.

Jarod Koenig

Having earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in human resource management from Southeast Missouri State University, Jarod also captured minors in Spanish and finance. Following graduation in May 2013, he worked for Cultural Exchange Network (CENET), a small, local, non-profit organization. This past June, he, along with wife Jennifer and young son, moved to St. Louis so he could attend graduate school at Concordia Lutheran Seminary.

“Despite having a degree in business, I have desired to become a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor for a while now,” Jarod explains. He’s enrolled in a four year Masters of Divinity program and spent the past summer and fall taking intensive prerequisite classes to learn biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Still involved in his family’s agricultural business, Perryville Pumpkin Farm, Jarod manages much of the operation’s social media marketing from a distance. He also helped design and launch the farm’s website.

While at SEMO, Jarod was president of the Lutheran Student Fellowship organization on campus for two years and was an officer in the International Business Club and Spanish club. He also was involved with the Missouri State 4-H Council and Missouri State 4-H Foundation.

In addition to working for CENET, Jarod completed a paid internship at the organization his last semester of college. The non-profit group has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a J-1 Visa Sponsor.

“(CENET) has sponsored thousands of students from countries all around the world to come to the United States for non-immigrant work visas in order for them to learn about American culture,” Jarod explains. “A large part of my position at CENET was to interview college students from countries all around the world via Skype.”

Jarod’s future plans are to complete his master’s degree and then accept a “call” into ministry. He hopes to be able to stay in the St. Louis area to be close to family.

Meredith Jones Lange

She wore a crown! Meredith is a past Missouri State Fair Queen and says the experience was simply awesome. “I visited every inch of the fairgrounds, congratulating participants and winners and passing out ribbons and awards,” she recalls. Meredith also represented the state after the fair, helping judge county queen contests.

“I’ve been attending the Missouri State Fair ever since I can remember, but as queen, I learned so much more about everything that goes into the planning of the fair and about so many different parts of the event that I’ve never visited before.”

In addition to serving Missouri State Fair Queen, Meredith studied agricultural education at MU, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. At MU, Meredith was active in Sigma Alpha professional agriculture sorority, Ag Ed Society, Mizzou Collegiate Farm Bureau, CAFNR Steering Week Committee, CAFNR Student Council and CAFNR Student Development Board. She was named the National Outstanding New Member for Sigma Alpha and CAFNR Outstanding Freshman.

Meredith took part in a study abroad experience with the Mizzou Ag Systems Management group, traveling to England.

“We spent a couple of days in London, touring the city,” Meredith explains. “We rode in the London Eye, watched the changing of the guards in front of Buckingham Palace and went to the Tower of London.”

A stop at a sheep farm where the farmer raises world award winning sheep dogs was a highlight of the journey. The group toured a potato farm and also JCB equipment factory and enjoyed a stay at Harper Adams University.

Meredith’s study abroad experience helped pave the way for her future; on the trip she met her now husband, Dylan Lange. She currently teaches junior high and high school English and business at Southwest Livingston R-I in Ludlow, Missouri.

Derek Paradeis

Derek majored in agriculture at Crowder College in Neosho. Currently, he works for Taylor Cattle Company in Reeds, Missouri, as herdsman. The operation consists of 60 head of Simmental, Limousin and Hereford cows.

In 2015, Derek plans to attend Mendenhall Auctioneer School in North Carolina and hopes to eventually sell purebred cattle sales. He would also like to expand his own Simmental cowherd.

Kyle Schieber

Fish and chips, not cheeseburger and fries. While not exactly pertinent to tillage practices, the food remains a prominent memory of Kyle’s study abroad experience to England while in college at MU.

“Eating at restaurants across (England), fish and chips was one of the main entrees that really drew our attention compared to a cheeseburger and fries in America,” Kyle explains.

An MU graduate, Kyle’s journey took him to the fields of England where he learned different tillage practices and observed how much smaller the farmers there are compared to those in the U.S. The journey was part of a hands-on experience to see global agriculture made possible by MU’s agricultural systems management club.

“We toured JCP equipment manufacturing plant and got to be on the assembly line as agriculture and construction equipment were assembled,” he says. A stop at a John Deere dealership brought comparisons how different equipment size is in England compared to the U.S.

Touring Harper Adams University opened Kyle to learn cutting edge technology on agriculture equipment. Students there worked hands-on with engineering to bring more efficiency to farmers across the world, he says.

“Interacting with (students) our age in a different country and farming background broadened our horizons on how agriculture compares around the world,” Kyle explains.

A Brown and Dickinson Scholar, Kyle was selected through MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The experience exposes students to major agribusinesses in Kansas City and St. Louis by seeing the day-to-day operations first-hand.

While at MU, Kyle also completed two internships with Syngenta. Those experiences opened the door to his career as he currently is a retail district sales representative for Syngenta, covering north central Missouri. He resides in Columbia.

Angela Suter

Having received her bachelor’s degree in architectural studies, emphasis in interior design, from MU, Angela is currently working toward her graduate degree in architecture at the University of Kansas.

While at MU, she was a member of Mizzou Student Foundation, Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society, United States Green Builders Association and Cru, a Christian organization. She was named a Flagship Scholar while at MU.

Angela earned an internship at MU Space Planning and is currently an architect intern with Management and Pulse Design Group in Lenexa, Kansas, while pursuing her graduate degree. Additionally, she studied abroad with Nordic Architecture through KU.

After completing graduate school, Angela hopes to work in the architectural field.

Sawyer Thompson

Having earned degrees in psychology and criminal justice from Southwest Baptist University, Sawyer graduated cum laude in May 2013. While at SBU, he was a member of the Behavioral Science

Club and completed an internship with the Howell County Sheriff’s Department. He lives in West Plains and after working in the auto industry, is taking some time off to explore his career options.

Becca White

Becca earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the MU in 2012 and a master’s degree in agricultural leadership, emphasis in ag economics, in December 2013.

While at MU, she participated in Mizzou Independent Aggies and was on the CAFNR Development Board. She completed internships with Missouri Farm Service Agency, Rep. Tom Shively, and the Missouri Corn Growers Association, and was a teaching assistant in an ag marketing class.

Becca works for the Farm Service Agency as a County Operations Trainee.

Kacie Wright Wiederholt

An agricultural business graduate from Northwest Missouri State University, Kacie currently is a loan officer with FCS Financial in the Maryville office.

While at NWMSU, Kacie was an agriculture ambassador for the university, helping promote its agriculture department and school farm. She also was active with Collegiate Farm Bureau. Kacie gained work experience while interning as a program technician at the Morgan County Farm Service Agency, in the office of the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and with FCS Financial.

On the president’s and academic honor roll, Kacie recorded an audio clip about her NWMSU experience that was used by the university president at the House Appropriations Committee on Education Hearing at the Capitol on Feb. 1, 2012. She earned her American FFA degree in 2010.

Ashley Winfrey

Currently in her second year of teaching agriculture at Northeast Vernon County School, Ashley graduated with a degree in ag education from Missouri State University in 2013.

While at MSU, Ashley participated in Collegiate FFA and Collegiate Farm Bureau. She has served as a parliamentary procedure minutes judge at two National FFA Conventions.

Ashley resides in Stockton.
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