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A Jacket of Blue, A Heart of Gold, and A Woman With Passion

Krista Russell

Krista might not have been raised on the farm, but her passion for agriculture is hard to beat. She wasn't found running a tractor or preparing livestock for show, but after watching her brother don the revered blue corduroy, a spark ignited in her that prompted her to follow in his footsteps. Krista began her journey by joining the Junior FFA program in middle school.

"My brother, who is four years older than me, was part of FFA. I saw all the great things he was able to do with it, and I knew from watching him that I wanted to join. Our junior meetings were actually hosted at the high school. We laugh about it now, but Derek did not want me to be there, even though he was my inspiration for joining."

Nothing– not even a little sibling dispute– could keep her away. Krista would remain in the Junior FFA program before donning the blue jacket herself when she entered high school. While in high school, Krista made the most of her FFA experience. She participated in contests like forestry, parliamentary procedure, animal science, and over a dozen others. She even found a way to incorporate her love for instrumental music with FFA.

"One of the coolest experiences of my life was successfully auditioning for the National FFA Band, not once, but twice. My first time was as a high school senior when I played on stage at the National FFA Convention and at Churchill Downs. Then, in my second year, my freshman year of college, I performed as the first chair flute."

Not only did she grow in her content knowledge of agriculture and leadership, but she found an environment where she could challenge herself to pursue lofty goals. As a result, she attained the high honor of the Illinois State FFA Degree (the highest state-level award) and her American FFA Degree (the highest honor in the nation for FFA members).

After high school, Krista attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where she served as the president of the College of Agriculture's Collegiate FFA Organization.

"My experience with CFFA was special to me. I was able to start giving back to an organization that had given me so much and continue crafting my personal and professional development."

Before choosing to pursue her master's, Krista's intention was to become a high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. Part of her studies included a practicum serving as a student teacher. Her student teaching efforts with the Goreville High School FFA program helped secure the team the National Chapter Award in 2018.

"The turning point in my life that led me away from the prospect of teaching was an internship with the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center the summer before I student taught. At the end of my internship, I was given the opportunity to work on a USDA grant that would cover my master's tuition. This experience also sparked my interest in agricultural policy. For the next two years, I worked closely with the University of Illinois Extension and their 4-H programs to promote ag education in the Metro East while completing a research study focusing on the Renewable Fuel Standard and agricultural land use change."

That study was later published in the Spring of 2023 in the scientific journal Biofuels. Also, during her graduate work, Krista was named an Excellence in Agriculture scholarship winner by the National Corn Growers Association, a national-level honor. After completing her master's degree, Krista was hired by the Climate Corporation / Bayer Crop Science as a Customer Success Specialist for all of Canada in 2021. She then supported the south and east coast before being promoted to her current role as a Regional Experience Advisor in May 2022.

"As an REA, I am a senior customer experience team member. I oversee customer engagement for Climate FieldView for half of the U.S. and Canada. I help plan engagement strategies within these territories and support my team in their execution. As a team, we partner with growers to ensure they have the best experience possible with our platform in a concerted effort to improve the efficiency of their farming operation."

Though residing in the St. Louis area, Krista is always close to home. A committed supporter of her community, and especially the Jersey County Fair. Krista has served as the Agricultural and Garden Products Department judge for the fair for several years, in addition to lending a hand with the talent show in previous years.

"My story begins in Jersey County. Even though I'm home often and only live minutes away, residing in the big city has helped me realize how much my roots have shaped me into the professional woman I am today. My work in the agriculture industry has taken me all over Canada and the United States, allowing me to establish close friendships with colleagues all over North and South America while contributing to something bigger than myself. If I had thought that a career in ag was only for 'farm kids,' I wouldn't be the person I am today, nor would I have the experiences I have."

For those considering a career in ag but don't know if they'd like it, Krista has this to say: "Go for it. There's something for everyone. This industry is too big for there not to be something for you. You definitely do not need to have been raised on a farm to work in this industry. I found a love of agriculture through FFA. Even though I wasn't raised on a farm, my passion for this field has carried me through high school, college, and postgraduate and into my dream career. I do not do agriculture for a job; it is a core part of my identity. It's what I love. And it's a community that's unlike any other."

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