2021 Richard Schmitz Food Entrepreneurship Series

Be local see local 2021 Richard Schmitz food entrepreneurship series event poster

The 2021 event featured Kristin Duncanson, owner, and partner of Highland Family Farms, and Sheryl Meshke, CEO of Associated Milk Producers, Inc. These local and global Ag leaders talked about how innovation is survival in an ever-changing agriculture world, especially during a pandemic. Watch the event video and learn how innovation, supply chain management, sustainability, and consumer needs are at the forefront of their daily decision-making. Kristin and Sheryl both serve as board members for the MN AgriGrowth Council. Through their local involvement, they are committed to making an impact on a global scale.

Introduction Videos

Listen to the 89.7 KMSU interview of Kristin and Sheryl

View the 2021 event video

Read Bios of our Speakers and Moderator

Kristin Duncanson

Kristin is the owner and partner of Highland Family farms, a Minnesota-based corn, soy and hog farm with a commitment to a triple bottom line approach: economic profitability, environmental improvement and community engagement

She is a consultant at KCOE ISOM a diversified business, accounting and sustainability strategy firm based in Kansas and Washington DC. Kristin’s work at KCOE includes helping producers and the supply change collaborate on conservation and sustainability planning.

Kristin is an advisor at the Meridian Institute’s AGree project, former chair and current board member of the MN AgriGrowth Council. Past Chair of the Non-Profit Feeding Our Communities Partners, past chair of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, former board member of the American Soybean Growers, a member of AAPEX, Moving Forward Advisory Council and several commodity groups.

In 2017, she became a Board Member of the Mankato Area Foundation and in June 2018 at Trustee for the Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

In 2001-2002, Kristin attended the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute where she was a Policy Fellow. She is a 1981 graduate of Luther College with a degree in Political Science and Communications and a 2012 graduate of TEPAP at Texas A&M.

Kristin started her professional career on Capitol Hill in the office of Senator Rudy Boschwitz as a legislative aide before moving back to Minnesota to work at Hubbard Milling Company as territory manager and specialty feed marketing manager.

The Duncansons attend St John’s Lutheran Church in Mapleton where Kristin served as the council president for six years and still provides supply ministry. She also mentors seminary student who are planning to engage in rural ministry for the ELCA.

She is a Masterpiece Art Instructor, an activity which is near and dear to her heart.

Pat and Kristin are parents to six young adult children and enjoy traveling the world where they are not always comfortable.

Sheryl Meshke

Sheryl Meshke is co-president and chief executive officer of Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), the largest cheese cooperative based in the U.S. Prior to her appointment in 2014, she served as the senior executive vice president charged with establishing strategic initiatives aimed at strengthening the performance and value of the Midwest dairy cooperative with nearly $2 billion in annual sales.

Throughout her 30-year career she has held numerous positions in the company, responsible for strategic planning, public affairs, human resources and communications.

Meshke currently serves on the board of directors of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council. She is past chairman of the Minnesota Dairy Research, Teaching and Consumer Education Authority, The Cooperative Foundation, Cooperative Communicators Association and the Minnesota FFA Foundation.

Meshke holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from South Dakota State University and a master’s degree in business from the University of St. Thomas. She is a fifth-generation farmer, operating a hog and sheep farm near Lake Crystal, Minn., with her husband Blake Meshke, son Brent and his wife Leslie. Another son Derek and his wife Tori live in Brookings, S.D.

AMPI is headquartered in New Ulm, Minn., and owned by dairy farm families from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. AMPI members market about 5.5 billion pounds of milk, with annual sales nearing $2 billion. Owning eight Midwest-based manufacturing plants, AMPI makes 10 percent of the nation’s American-type natural cheese, processed cheese and butter. The cooperative’s award-winning dairy products are marketed to foodservice, retail and food ingredient customers.

New in 2019, the co-op launched the Dinner Bell Creamery brand and accompanying Coop Crafted promise. That promise highlights more than 50 years as AMPI and illustrates how family farmers partner with skilled craftsmen to make great-tasting, award-winning products. Learn more at dinnerbellcreamery.coop.

Brenda Flannery

Dr. Brenda Flannery is dean and professor of management at the College of Business at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

She has been at Minnesota State Mankato since 1996 serving in numerous roles and leadership positions including assistant vice president for undergraduate studies and international education, associate professor of management and assistant professor of management. She has been a member of and led dozens of department, college, university and system-wide teams to improve student success and experiences. Dean since 2011, she led the College of Business through successful strategic planning, AACSB accreditation, new and redesigned curriculum, communication and fundraising benchmarks, expanded alumni, corporate and community relations, facility and technology improvements, increased student scholarships and real-world experiences and faculty hiring, development and research.

Students voted Dr. Flannery as the College of Business Faculty of the Year six times from 1997-2003 as sponsored by the Epsilon Iota Chapter of the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. She is passionate about experience-based education and has designed, initiated and implemented award-winning courses and programs with colleagues in entrepreneurship, leadership, experiential and interdisciplinary learning, service learning and international education.

She was a 2014 Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business award recipient, 2012-2013 Minnesota State Student Association Administrator of the Year, 2008-2009 Minnesota State Mankato Outstanding Service Award recipient, and 2009 Campus Technology magazine Top 11 Innovator recipient for leading the development of the university’s Curriculum Design System that has become the way for thousands of curriculum management activities and processes to occur each year.

Dr. Flannery’s research on environmental management and service learning has been published in top academic journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics and Journal of Management Education. Her Bachelor of Science in Marketing and MBA degrees we earned at Western Illinois University and her PhD in Business Administration is from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She has taught semesters abroad at the Tec de Monterrey in Mexico and the University of Lethbridge in Canada and has been a member of delegation visits to Germany, Netherlands, France and Malaysia. She has served on many boards of directors across southern Minnesota including the South Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Regional Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation (RCEF), Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, Mayo Clinic Mankato Community Board and Mankato YWCA. She lives in Mankato with her husband and two children.

Jen Cucurullo

Jen Cucurullo is the Director of Marketing and Communication for the College of Business at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

She has served in this role since 2018. Jen is responsible for communication efforts within the College of Business including events, social media, website, marketing, and the annual In Review.