Sunrise + FFA

Learn how FFA helped to impact the lives of Sunrise employees. Daily, we will post stories, pictures
and shout outs to FFA advisors to showcase how involvement in FFA helped to shape their careers. 


Brady Voelzke

Custom Applicator


Fred Hays

Agronomy Solutions Advisor

FFA was the program that confirmed my commitment to have a career in agriculture.

My Ag teacher was great Mr. Ron Saylor. He taught me so much about myself and what I was capable of if I put the work and my mind to it. He was the person that taught me to never second guess my decisions especially at judging contests. I did receive my state farmer degree. I loved selling fruit, showing dairy cattle, beef cattle and raising vegetables, corn, soybeans and hay for the county fair and my shop projects were hay wagons, and picnic tables. Best times of my life.

Mike Myers

Grain Solutions Advisor

As I look back on my FFA experience I believe that many of the activities such as participating in Public Speaking, Livestock Judging and Parliamentary Procedure were all contesting events that help me develop life skills I have used my entire career in the Cooperative System.

Also my Advisor Mr Nowels challenged me to not be satisfied with being average and enhanced my competitive spirit to always give my best.

Diana Podach

Marketing Assistant

FFA made a huge impact on my life! Through the various Career Development Events and the Supervised Agricultural Experiences I learned about responsibility, time management and success. I learned that hard work pays off. I learned that if you have a goal or dream that you want to reach that you can’t just get it overnight, it takes time to earn it. I also learned so many valuable skills such as job interviewing skills, public speaking, and networking. I also enjoyed meeting new friends and getting to know others in the agricultural industry all around the state.
Shout out to my FFA advisor, Mrs. Valerie Karhoff that helped me through my years in FFA.


Charles Hebble

Agronomy Solutions Advisor

I really enjoyed being in FFA and learning different agriculture practices, that I still use today in my career. It is a great organization to get experience, and prepare you to work in this industry.

Lauren Willman

Agronomy Solutions Advisor Trainee

FFA helped me gain confidence and experience within various forms of Agriculture and was one of the highlights of my time in school.

My advisor shoutout would be Bryan Crapo, he made class fun as well as educational.

Vince Willman

PCT Northern Sales Technical Lead

Doug Bahnsen would be my shout out as a teacher. He grew up in Oak Harbor Ohio. It was a young teacher at Seneca East. He helped push me into soil judging, grain merchandising contest, and meat judging, which’s we got 2nd in state and went to state multiple years. He left teaching for a short time in the late 80’s and was a grain merchandiser at sunrise cooperative in Norwalk actually for a short time. Then went back into Ag teaching in Southern Ohio.

Alexis Gonya

Corporate Relations Administrative Assistant

When I think back on my years in FFA, I think about the friendships made, all the places I was able to travel and the CDE opportunities I had. From public speaking to soil judging, there was always something to get involved in not only to have fun but to grow and learn as a young adult. FFA’s biggest impact on my job at Sunrise has been from this line in the FFA Creed, “I believe in the leadership from ourselves and the respect from others”. Leadership and the respect for your leaders go hand in hand. Leading with compassion and having respect for others is key to a successful career. Unfortunately, I lost my FFA jacket and state degree chain in a fire a few years ago but my brother was still holding on to my dad’s jacket from 1978-79 when he was Vice President, so I was able to take my picture with it.

FFA undoubtedly helped shape me into the person I am today, and I am proud to have spent 4 years in the Clyde FFA Chapter. Shout out to Mr. Z for putting up with my me over the years. He still teaches at Clyde High School today.

Deb Otte

Crop Nutrient Account Manager

Being in FFA taught me many life skills that I still use today from working together as a team, agriculture knowledge, public speaking to organizational & record keeping skills. FFA was a great experience that strengthened my desire to be involved in agriculture as a career.

Jeff Goodbar

Regional Sales Manager

As I look back, I think that extemporaneous speaking was probably the most useful skill that I learned in all of my education, high school and collegiate. It prepared me well to learn how to stay up to date on current agricultural issues and topics but also to be able to build a speech around those topics in a short amount of time. You also had to learn how to respond to questions in a quick way which has helped me with handling objections through out my career. I learned a hard lesson during the state extemporaneous speaking contest. I was asked a question that I didn’t know the answer too and I tried to work around that questions with some facts and figures about a similar subject but didn’t answer the question directly. I should have admitted that I didn’t know the answer. The judge called me out on it and my score reflected the “BS” answer that I gave. If I would have come clean and said I didn’t know, I would have advanced. I will always remember that lesson.

I placed first in the state my Junior year in livestock judging. That was cool but what was the best part about that was that I got to judge at the National FFA contest. At the national level you had to give oral reasons on why you placed a class the way you did. I hadn’t done that before so took a couple of crash courses with Dr. Turner on how to do that. Giving oral reasons is pretty close to a sales pitch. You have to explain to someone why you believe the way that you do. That really prepared me for a sales career and will forever be grateful to Mr. McDowell of the Fair Oakes chapter and Dr. Turner for teaching me how to give those reasons. I wasn’t a member of his chapter and he still invested in me.

Daniel Kirk

SPS Manger

FFA taught me about the professionalism within the industry of Agriculture, not just the lifestyle many associate with it. From official dress, parliamentary procedures, and SAEs, the skills and behaviors I learned from those experiences have influenced how I try to conduct myself everyday here at Sunrise.

Jed Bookman

Safety Risk Coordinator

FFA and Agriscience Education opened many doors for me as a high school student. Career development events like Ag Sales, Parliamentary Procedure, and Public Speaking helped me gain confidence while studying for Soil Judging, Agronomy, and the Nursery and Landscaping CDEs taught me many things I still use daily at work. Responsibilities both inside and outside the classroom combined with a genuinely fun atmosphere made putting in many hours of work enjoyable.

I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today without Mr. Mark Hoffman and Ms. Lindsay Bowen – thank you both for being great advisors and great people!

Josh Robbins

Energy Dispatcher

Four-year FFA member in high school. Was President my senior year. We went to St Louis to National Convention. My experience in FFA as president helped in my leadership role at Sunrise as current Dispatcher. Helping to organize and dispatch drivers and routes for propane and bulk oil. Still involved with livestock raising show pigs for FFA and 4H members.

Russ Culler

Agronomy Solutions Advisor


Skylr Timbrook

Grain Operations


Joe Steinberger

Agronomy Solutions Advisor

To be a Farmer is an honorable occupation. The FFA organization has allowed me to broaden my view of Agriculture. There are numerous profession within Agriculture. As an Agronomist for Sunrise Cooperative I can Assist Several Farmers with helping to feed this world. Everybody needs Agriculture to sustain life!!!!

Surprising that after 44 years I can still fit in my FFA Jacket.

Mr. Howard Knowles, The Adviser / The Teacher. Instilled in his students that producing a crops was the main aspect of farming. He also taught them how to be a carpenter, electrician, welder, mechanic, bookkeeping and much more. In a nutshell, you had to be self sufficient. Rest in peace Howard.

Craig Houin & Family

Data Innovation and R7 Lead

FFA is a family affair in my house. No, I am not from Tennessee I am from Indiana, the jacket I am holding is my Father-in-Law’s. My kids are 3rd generation FFA members on both sides, my dad was a member at our Alma Mater in Plymouth Indiana. My wife, Jane, and kids share the West Holmes FFA experience where Jane went on to be State President in 1992-93.

My experiences from leadership, SAE, and activities range from Chapter President, numerous state level judging and speaking qualifications, state band and national band. I have carried these experiences with the realization that anything is possible if you are willing to put the work into your goals. My work and personal life are a result of these lessons, I hope it shows.

Special shout out to my ag teacher, Larry McCollough from Plymouth Indiana chapter. He is funny, insightful, and held students to a high standard. Thank you LOMc!

Zach Gullette

Custom Applicator

FFA has made a huge impact on me both in my personal life and in my career here at Sunrise. I am most thankful for the many hands-on skills and the hands-on experiences I was given. It taught me a deep knowledge and a love for agriculture, confidence in my skills, money management, leadership and friendships that go along with the business, and work ethic - all of which I use daily in my role here at Sunrise.

I owe a lot of my love for agriculture and what I do to my FFA advisors, Ron Brown and Chris Turner. They helped guide me in making my decisions in schooling and my career path. Today, they’re just a phone call away when I need their guidance about my own person farm.

Jody Underwood

Office Manager


Corky Knott

Grain Operations

FFA helped with working on the family dairy farm and then to go on to Tractor Troubleshooting. I always liked farming. It all helped to be able to climb bins and work on equipment which is a necessity working at a grain elevator.


Derek & Michele King

Branch Manager & Precision Solutions Specialist


Danny Kimmet

Truck Driver


Joe Olinger

Operations Manager

FFA was a great and critical building block to where I am today. The FFA has many unique experiences, which helped me pursue a career in agriculture.


Seth Young

Agronomy Solutions Advisor

FFA was a great experience for me in high school. I was involved in many FFA projects and also received my State Degree. I believe that the hands on and practical learning was valuable for a career in agriculture later on. The FFA Program helped teach responsibility and social skills that are critical in most career fields today.

I was privileged to have a great FFA advisor that dedicated his life to the program for many years Mr. Ken Fliehman. He is now retired.

Garrett Verburg

Grain Operations

FFA taught me a lot of things about agriculture that I did not get to learn on my small family farm. These things I learned help me daily to be better at helping customers with their feed needs and helped with our daily work at the elevator.


Aron Burmeister

Custom Applicator


Becca Whited

Office Manager

In FFA, I raised and showed dairy steers. I didn’t discover FFA until my junior year in high school and I wish I'd had the opportunity to do FFA all four years as I loved it very much.

While I am just now starting my career in agriculture, FFA provided useful tools in my previous career as well. FFA teaches the value of hard work, teamwork and respect. As I transition from my previous career to Sunrise Cooperative, the horticulture class I took with FFA allowed me to understand the concepts of the products I am working with. While I didn’t know all the different names of the chemicals and fertilizers, my basic knowledge allows me to understand what is happening at work.

I would like to send a shout out to my FFA Advisors all the way from Glendale AZ, Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Clark. These two men helped shape me into the person I am today. Thank you so much.

Clark Smith

Branch Manager

I was in FFA all through high school and was chapter president my junior and senior years. I enjoyed participating in general livestock, dairy and soil judging, parliamentary procedure contests and the many projects that the chapter took on. I don’t think we realized it at the time but the FFA was teaching us early on how to work with others toward a common goal much like we do in our current jobs at Sunrise. I was fortunate to have two very good FFA instructors.

Fred Cooke instructed the chapter my freshman through junior years and Richard Benich was our instructor my senior year.

Chris Horning

Assistant Sunrise Precision Solutions Manager

38 years working in retail agriculture and still realize how my FFA experiences still affect me today. From being a chapter officer to participating in individual and team competitions taught me many thing's that at the time I never realized the importance of. Public speaking, teamwork, and challenging yourself to do things out of your comfort zone are FFA experiences that will guide you no matter what you do in life.

Shout out to Randy Eppley retired FFA adviser who always pushed myself as well as the whole chapter to always believe in our own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, part of the FFA Creed.

FFA member 1980-1983.


Bethany Heitz

Grain Office Manager

I was involved in FFA all four years of high school and loved every minute of it! FFA has enhanced my love for agriculture and I knew I wanted to be involved with Ag.

FFA prepared me for my current role at Sunrise as an Office Manager in many ways. By doing proficiencies and learning how important it is to do paperwork to being an FFA officer and helping those around me.

Shout out to Mr. Brown & Mr. Turner at Wapakoneta High School.

Ethan Oney

Grain Operations

FFA impacted my career choice by showing me how important agriculture is, and it inspired me to pursue this job with an agriculturally based business.

Mrs.Lucha was my FFA Advisor.

Give FFA Day

On February 25th, we celebrate the next generation of leaders who will change the world, but we cannot celebrate alone. You can help by participating in this annual day of giving and investing in the future of FFA members, the FFA organization and agriculture as a whole. In honor of Give FFA Day, Sunrise Cooperative will make your gift go twice as far with a matching contribution to the Ohio FFA Foundation, up to $25,000. With your help, we can double the impact, and, together, we can reach our goal. Gifts of every size make a difference.
Below is a message from George D. Secor, President/CEO of Sunrise Cooperative, along with some Ohio FFA State Officers about the importance of Give FFA Day.


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