March 17, 2016/

Northeast Leaders Recognized by Farm Credit in National Search for 100 Individuals Shaping Rural America and Agriculture

Enfield, Conn. – Farm Credit East is pleased to announce thirteen Northeast leaders were selected in the top 100 for individuals shaping the future of American agriculture as part of Farm Credit’s Fresh Perspectives search. Additionally, two of these leaders, Christine Fesko, of Skaneateles, N.Y., and James Harrison, of Gloucester, Mass., were selected as the top 10 distinguished honorees. The honorees were announced on National Ag Day in Washington, D.C.

Chris Fesko was selected as the top honoree in the Agriculture Education and Community Impact category. Along with her daughter and son-in-law, Chris operates Fesko Farms, Inc., a 600-cow dairy in Skaneateles, N.Y. She also owns Chris Fesko Enterprises, which produces educational videos for schools and the general public nationwide, and the Farm Discovery Center, an educational facility for urban children to experience math, science and language arts in a barn setting as a school field trip.

Executive director of The Food Project, James Harrison, received the top honor in the Sustainability and Natural Resource Conservation category. The Food Project (TFP) is a non-profit organization that engages young people in sustainable agriculture and creates improved access to fresh, locally grown food in low-income areas. James serves as a mentor and role model to teens and was integral in creating new farms in Lynn, Beverly and Wenham, Massachusetts.

Both honorees will receive a $10,000 award to help further their contributions to thriving rural communities and agriculture. They will also be honored in Washington, D.C., at a special Farm Credit event in June.

Additionally, 11 other Northeast leaders were selected in the top 100 and honored in the following categories:

Agriculture Education and Community Impact

  • Jessica Ziehm, of Buskirk, N.Y., executive director of the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition

Beginning Farmer or Rancher Achievement

  • Henry Byma, partner in By-Acre Holsteins in Wantage, N.J.
  • Charles Currie, of Raynham, Mass., founder of Freedom Food Farm
  • Jim Hyland, founder of The Farm Bridge in New Paltz, N.Y.

Financial Stewardship

  • Bill Lipinski, of Hampden, Mass., Farm Credit East CEO
  • John Lombardi, Jr., of Waterford, Conn., retired poultry producer who was instrumental in the development of the Eggland’s Best brand

Leadership (21 and up)

  • Dale-Ila Riggs, owner of The Berry Patch in Stephentown, N.Y.

Rural and Urban Connection

  • Fernand “Chip” Paillex, president and founder of America’s Grow-a-Row in Pittstown, N.J.
  • Levi Cahan, of Whitehall, N.Y., teacher and owner-operator of Rising Sun Farm
  • Lilac Hedge Farm founders Ryan MacKay and Thomas Corbett, of Berlin, Mass.
  • Nancy Robbins, of Sackets Harbor, N.Y., founder of Old McDonald’s Farm and part-owner and operator of the North Harbor Dairy and Robbins Family Grain Company

Farm Credit launched the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives program as part of its 100th anniversary of service to rural communities and agriculture. Selected by a panel of experts on rural matters, these honorees join an impressive list of leaders positively shaping agriculture and rural communities.

“Farm Credit has supported rural communities and agriculture for 100 years, and we appreciate the vision it takes to remain successful over time in agriculture and rapidly evolving, thriving rural industries,” said Farm Credit East Board Chairman Andy Gilbert. “We are delighted to honor these leaders who are helping to define the future of rural communities and agriculture. This honor recognizes their contributions to a vibrant future for rural America.”

Farm Credit East joins the nearly 80 Farm Credit organizations that are celebrating the dynamic future of rural communities and agriculture. For a complete list of the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives honorees, visit


Farm Credit East extends more than $6 billion in loans and has 21 local offices in its seven-state service area. In addition to loans and leases, the organization also offers a full range of agriculturally specific financial services for businesses related to farming, horticulture, forestry and commercial fishing. Farm Credit East is governed by a 17-person board of directors. For more information, go to

Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, today and tomorrow. Farm Credit has been fulfilling its mission of helping rural America grow and thrive for a century by providing farmers with the capital they need to make their businesses successful and by financing vital infrastructure and communication services. For more information about Farm Credit please visit



Kristie Schmitt

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