The award is given to those who contribute to agriculture education. The National FFA Organization’s board of directors chose Wheeler for this year’s honor for his commitment to farmers and education.
Wheeler will receive the award during the National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Oct. 29.
“I am truly humbled to receive the award,” Wheeler told The Missouri Times. “I’ve fully devoted my career to serving farmers and agriculture across the board. Part of that is making sure we’re educating not just the ones we want to bring up in leadership but the consumers and the people we feed on a daily basis.”
Wheeler praised the commitment of Missouri Soybean and its staff, noting “leaders would not exist without great staff members. I owe them so much thanks as well.”
Wheeler grew up in a small town that did not offer an FFA program, but his parents’ commitment to service and leadership inspired him to help Missouri farmers.
Wheeler spearheaded the expansion of the Ag Education on the Move program, an initiative teaching students about agriculture and production as well as a set of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) events and workshops to provide experience in the field.
“Gary Wheeler was instrumental in pivoting the Ag Education on the Move program from a soybean checkoff program to a coalition of Missouri’s agriculture organizations, allowing the program to connect with thousands of youth,” Keith Dietzschold, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) agricultural education director and Missouri FFA Association state advisor, said. “The implementation of this program has been greatly beneficial for Missouri FFA, as well as rewarding, seeing the model being carried into other states.”
Wheeler also led a multi-state collaboration through the Center for Soy Innovation, a facility showcasing soy-based materials from flooring and insulation to biodiesel. The center, which opened last year, was built using soy-based materials and showcases educational displays for all ages.
The association is pursuing innovative uses for soy through the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, including soy-based tires and golf balls. The research is funded through the soy checkoff, a program where farmers contribute half of 1 percent of the sale price of their crop for education, research, and promotion.
Wheeler took the helm of Missouri Soybean in 2014 after more than a decade of association management, industry relations, and advocacy. He previously served as executive director of the Missouri Corn Growers Association.
“I’m thankful to Missouri soybean farmers and their checkoff has given me the ability and resources to drive their mission to educate students and consumers not just in Missouri but across our nation,” Wheeler said.
Missouri touts agriculture as its largest industry. The state is home to nearly 26,000 FFA members.
Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.
Contact Cameron at email@example.com.