Four individuals were honored with the Missouri Farm Bureau (MFB) Outstanding Service to Agriculture Award December 4, all of them with direct ties to Farm Bureau. The presentations were made by MFB President Blake Hurst during the annual meeting’s opening session at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Each year the award is given to select individuals who have demonstrated their desire to work closely with Farm Bureau and have supported agriculture throughout their careers. This year, four who have recently retired from Farm Bureau join the list of honorees. They are Dr. Robert Young, former chief economist and deputy executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Jim Perch, MFB Insurance Companies marketing director, who retires at the end of the year, Estil Fretwell, former MFB director of public affairs, who retired in September, and Greg Gaines, MFB regional coordinator for northwest Missouri, who also retires at the end of the year.
Bob Young served as chief economist since 2003 and deputy executive director of public policy since 2013 for AFBF in Washington, D.C. He has a long career devoted to farm policy, serving as a co-director of the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute from 1991 to 2003 and as an associate professor in agricultural economics at the University of Missouri. From 1987 to 1991, Young served as the chief economist of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee. He has a doctorate degree in agricultural economics and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in atmospheric sciences from the University of Missouri. Young recently retired from AFBF.
Jim Perch was hired by MFB as an agent in St. Louis County in 1976 after earning a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University. He is a native of Akron, Ohio. Perch has spent his entire 41-year career with Farm Bureau. After working as an agent in St. Louis County, he transferred to St. Charles County and was then promoted to Agency Manager. He won numerous sales contests and awards, highlighted by being named the President’s Agent of the Year in 1984. Five years later, Perch became director of training for MFB Insurance Companies. Later, he served seven years as manager of Farm Bureau Town & Country Insurance Company of Missouri. He returned to the sales department as marketing resources director and 17 years later was promoted to senior director of marketing in 2014. During his career, Perch has moved MFB’s insurance companies through several reorganizations related to sales, advertising, agent recruiting, customer service representatives and research and development. He now serves on the board of directors and executive board of the United Way of Central Missouri. Perch and his wife, Connie, recently celebrated 40 years of marriage. They have two married daughters, Colleen and Katie, and four grandchildren.
Estil Fretwell joined the MFB staff in 1986 as director of state and local governmental affairs, serving in the legislative area for more than 15 years. He then oversaw the public affairs department as director until his retirement in September. Prior to working for Farm Bureau, Estil was a state legislator for eight years, representing four counties in the northeast corner of the state, and was previously on the Missouri Senate staff for four years. Fretwell led Missouri Farm Bureau’s efforts on transportation issues as well as campaigns to renew the state soils and parks tax. He manages a 6th-generation family farm in Lewis County. Together with his wife, Sherry, they have 7 children and 9 grandchildren.
Greg Gaines began his career with MFB in 1975, when he was hired as a regional fieldman for the Northwest region of the state. The title was changed to regional coordinator and Gaines held that position up to his retirement at the end of this year. Gaines was born and raised in Jefferson City where his early jobs included mowing yards, working at nurseries, orchards and garden centers, working as a janitor and as a brakeman on the railroad. He enjoyed working on his uncles’ farms putting up hay, building fence and running a brush hog. Gaines graduated with honors from Central Missouri State University with a degree in horticulture and, after college, was a horticulturist and landscaper while serving in the Army National Guard for six years as an avionics and helicopter mechanic. Days before coming to work for Farm Bureau, Greg married Donna and the newlyweds moved to Cameron where they still reside. The couple has two children, daughter Carrie and son Scott, and two grandchildren.