GROWMARK Awards FFA Jackets to Illinois Students Through its Foundation

GROWMARK Awards FFA Jackets to Illinois Students Through its Foundation

“It means that you are a part of something bigger than yourself”

Bloomington, Ill. (September 22, 2021) – The GROWMARK Foundation is pleased to award 25 FFA jackets to Illinois students in honor of Mike Builta, a GROWMARK vice president and long-time employee who passed away unexpectedly in 2019. Students submitted essays explaining what an FFA jacket means to them and their goals as an FFA member.

Recipient Allee Bunnell of West Prairie FFA wrote in her essay, “The FFA jacket means many things to me but one of the most important is that I get to be closer to my dad. He was killed in a car crash when I was six and one of the few things I have of his is his FFA jacket.”

Tyler Horstmann of Wesclin FFA stated, “The FFA jacket stands for faith, honor, and pride. It means that you are a part of something bigger than yourself.”

And Keizer Tome of Macomb FFA wrote, “Having the FFA jacket means I am officially part of the team. Moving around every year I had to borrow a jacket at whatever school I went to and always felt out of place. This is my senior year and I want to have the feeling of owning one.”

Mike Builta was raised on a family farm near Bellflower, Illinois. He was an active FFA member and lifelong supporter of agricultural education. He held GROWMARK System management roles at Christian County Farmers Supply Company in Taylorville, Illinois and GRAINCO FS in Ottawa, Illinois, before becoming GROWMARK vice president of Energy and Logistics in 2018.

Builta’s family has played a key role in helping shape this project as part of his legacy, along with judging the student essays. The Foundation has given 75 jackets to FFA students to-date as part of this project, with the final 25 jackets planned to be awarded next year.

The 2021 recipients are:

  • Lilliana Bernabei ​ Marquette FFA ​ ​ Ottawa, Illinois
  • Allee Bunnell ​ ​ West Prairie FFA ​ Colchester, Illinois
  • Mackenzie Dandridge ​ Sparta FFA ​ ​ Sparta, Illinois
  • Karleigh Ellis ​ ​ Cobden FFA ​ ​ Alto Pass, Illinois
  • Kylee Faupel ​ ​ Donovan FFA ​ ​ Donovan, Illinois
  • Tyler Horstmann ​ Wesclin FFA ​ ​ Trenton, Illinois
  • Kaelannie LaFond ​ Donovan FFA ​ ​ Beaverville, Illinois
  • Riley Matsko ​ ​ Streator FFA ​ ​ Streator, Illinois
  • Wyatt Parks ​ ​ West Prairie FFA ​ Colchester, Illinois
  • Isabel Pistorius ​ ​ Meridian-Macon FFA ​ Blue Mound, Illinois
  • Violet Potter ​ ​ Odin FFA ​ ​ Odin, Illinois
  • Kathryn Scharf ​ ​ Gibault Catholic FFA ​ Waterloo, Illinois
  • Dakota Schober-Kramer ​ North Boone FFA ​ Poplar Grove, Illinois
  • Kristina Smith ​ ​ Meridian-Macon FFA ​ Blue Mound, Illinois
  • Lucas Staggs ​ ​ Normal FFA ​ ​ Bloomington, Illinois
  • Ryleigh Taylor ​ ​ Fairfield FFA ​ ​ Mill Shoals, Illinois
  • Leah Thanepohn ​ Newark FFA ​ ​ Newark, Illinois
  • Keizer Tome ​ ​ Macomb FFA ​ ​ Macomb, Illinois
  • Hannah Treme ​ ​ Newark FFA ​ ​ Newark, Illinois
  • Joyce Walkling ​ ​ Streator FFA ​ ​ Streator, Illinois
  • Zack Walkling ​ ​ Streator FFA ​ ​ Streator, Illinois
  • Benjamin Wamsley ​ Taylorville FFA ​ ​ Taylorville, Illinois
  • Destiny Zeeb ​ ​ Lebanon FFA ​ ​ Trenton, Illinois
  • Caleb Zwilling ​ ​ Fisher FFA ​ ​ Fisher, Illinois
  • Dylan Zwilling ​ ​ Fisher FFA ​ ​ Fisher, Illinois ​

About the GROWMARK Foundation:

The GROWMARK Foundation was formally incorporated in 2005 and supports 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organizations. The Foundation is focused on programs and activities which support: the vitality of the industry of agriculture; agriculture education and consumer understanding of agriculture's contributions to society and the economy; agricultural leadership development; and education about the benefits of the cooperative way of doing business. The GROWMARK System has been involved in a variety of philanthropic efforts, including youth and young leader education and development and scholarships, for decades.

MIke Builta
MIke Builta
Illinois FFA Jacket Logo
Illinois FFA Jacket Logo


Chris Grogan Manager, Publications and Media Relations, GROWMARK, Inc.
Karen Jones Youth and Young Producer Specialist, GROWMARK


About GROWMARK, Inc.

About GROWMARK, Inc:

GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative serving almost 400,000 customers across North America, providing agronomy, energy, facility engineering and construction, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services. Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by member cooperatives. More information is available at

1701 Towanda Ave.
Bloomington, IL 61701