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New Cooperative Leadership Team Announced

The unification to be finalized in February

The Leadership Team that will lead the new cooperative formed from the unification of Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator was announced. Members of the Leadership Team who will lead the new cooperative when the unification is finalized in February include:

Chris Pearson
Chief Executive Officer

Chris Pearson will be Chief Executive Officer for the new cooperative. He joined Wheat Growers in 2013, serving as Senior Vice President of Operations and then Chief Operating Officer.

Chris’s cooperative career began in 1993. He held numerous roles in a local cooperative in southwest Iowa where he grew up. In 2000 he joined Farmer’s Cooperative Company (FC) of Farnhamville, IA (which later moved its headquarters to Ames, Iowa). While there he honed skills in operations, department management, cooperative strategy, financial analysis, people management, construction, and merger transitions. Starting in 2002 he served as FC’s Vice President, Feed Division, for six years – followed by two years as Senior Vice President, Agronomy and Feed, and two years as Chief Operating Officer.

As COO of Farmer’s Cooperative, Chris provided broad operational and thought leadership to help profitably grow and develop FC into a $1.2 billion agricultural cooperative. He also is proud of the role he played in bringing together FC with Wheat Growers and Central Valley Ag Cooperative (CVA) in Oakland, Neb., to form Consolidated Sourcing Solutions (CSS). This was, and continues to be, a representation of what local cooperatives can do when they work together.

Pearson is a graduate of Iowa State University with a B.S. in Ag Studies, and also holds a one-year Bible Certificate from Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. He also has served on many industry and LLC Boards, including being Past Chairman of the Board for Consolidated Sourcing Solutions (CSS) and a Past Board Member of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa.

Mike Nickolas
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Grain Division

Mike Nickolas will be the new Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the new cooperative’s Grain Division. Mike is currently General Manager of North Central Farmers Elevator. He joined North Central in 1998 as its grain marketing manager and in 2012 was promoted to General Manager. Prior to joining North Central, Mike spent 15 years at Wheat Growers in grain marketing. Mike also has served as a director on the South Dakota Grain and Feed Association.

Mike grew up in Bowdle, S.D., and attended Northern State University, earning degrees in Business Management and Marketing.

John Husk
Chief Operating Officer

John Husk will be Chief Operating Officer in the new cooperative. He joined Wheat Growers in 2016 as Senior Vice President, Operations. He has more than 40 years of agribusiness leadership experience from the grain and agronomy supply side of agriculture.

John began his career as a crop scout for Huntting Elevator Company in 1977. For the next 20 years he was the General Manager of Huntting’s businesses in Hayfield, Waltham and Claremont, Minnesota. In 1997 John was promoted and transferred to the company’s flagship facility in Canton, South Dakota. The sale of the company in 1997 prompted John to move to the cooperative side of the farm supply business. In March of 1998 he was hired as the General Manager of Fremar Farmers Cooperative Inc. in Marion, South Dakota. Also in 1998 he was successful in creating a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland and Fremar in the grain division of the business.

After a 3-year stint as the National Sales Manager for a swine genetics business, John returned to the grain and agriculture supply business in 2003 as the President and CEO of Elburn Cooperative. The next 12 years John led the company through very dynamic growth and success as it transitioned to a regional cooperative presence in northern Illinois before leaving in 2015. John has most recently been a General Manager for a portion of Southern States Cooperative.

John attended Austin Community College and Iowa State University with a major in Agriculture and Agriculture Business.

Tracy Linbo
Senior Vice President of Agronomy, Communications & Marketing

Tracy Linbo will be Senior Vice President of Agronomy, Communications & Marketing in the new cooperative. Tracy’s understanding of current market dynamics, agronomy challenges and producer demands enable her to play a key role in identifying new, meaningful ways to contribute to members’ success. She is a recognized leader in agriculture, having led global planning and strategic development for multiple business units of DuPont Pioneer and BASF.

Her 25 years of experience in agribusiness includes 10 years at DuPont Pioneer. Prior to DuPont Pioneer, she spent more than 14 years at BASF Corporation, serving in multiple leadership roles in various domestic and global initiatives of the BASF crop protection business. Her extensive skill set includes sales, marketing, strategy, business planning, regulatory, production and supply chain across the international agriculture business.

Tracy joined Wheat Growers in June 2017. She is a member of the boards of directors of the Ag Retail Association (ARA), Consolidated Sourcing Solutions (CSS) and FieldReveal. A native of Plainview, Minn., Linbo received her bachelor of science in applied economics with an agronomy emphasis from the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture.

Blake Bomesberger
Chief Financial Officer

Blake Bomesberger will be Chief Financial Officer in the new cooperative. Blake has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Northern State University, with majors in Accounting and Business Management. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Blake has been with Wheat Growers since 1998 and served as Controller for 11 years until being promoted to Chief Financial Officer in 2009.

Prior to joining Wheat Growers, Blake was a Supervisor in the Business Services & Tax areas for 7 years with Eide Bailly, LLP a Certified Public Accounting and Business Advisory firm and a Corporate Motel Accountant with Super 8 Motels for 2 years.

Blake serves on the Board of Directors for Dakotaland Feeds, LLC and has been a Board member of the South Dakota Association of Cooperatives (SDAC) for the past 6 years. He has served as a Managing Member of MZB Technologies, LLC for the past 6 years and is past President of Dakota Lakes, LLC. He is a member of the National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives (NSAC), American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Legal & Tax Committee of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).

Joe Zikmund
Senior Vice President, Finance

Joe Zikmund will be the Senior Vice President of Finance for the new cooperative. Joe is currently Controller for North Central Farmers Cooperative. He joined NCFE in 2005 from ADM-BQ, where he spent more than a decade as a traveling representative. Prior to ADM, he worked as Assistant Manager for a North Dakota Fertilizer Plant.

He attended NDSU, majoring in Ag Economics and Crop/Weed Science, with an accounting minor. Joe is a member of the National Association of Accountants for Cooperatives and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. Joe grew up on a family farm near Fordville, N.D. He also is an active member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Knights of Columbus.

Judy Stulken
Senior Vice President, Organizational and Member Development

Judy Stulken, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, will be Senior Vice President, Organizational and Member Development in the new cooperative. Judy joined Wheat Growers in April 2008 from Student Loan Finance Corporation where she had served as Vice President of Human Resources.

Judy has a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Moorhead State University and Master of Science degree in business management from Black Hills State University. Judy also is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Aberdeen Area Human Resources Association. Judy serves on the Board of Directors for Agricultural Cooperative Employment Services (ACES).

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