Jeff Polenske of Tilth Agronomy Group in Appleton, Wisconsin, was awarded International Certified Crop Adviser’s (ICCA) Adviser of the Year Award.
Polenske began work with a bachelors’ degree in Agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and experience as an intern in a county extension office, scouting fields and providing reports. Crop consulting was just starting as a profession, and Polenske sought out the additional training. In 1991, he became a Certified Professional Agronomist, which became the CCA program in 2012.
Polenske’s work can be described by the numbers: 29 years, 56 current clients and 50,000 plus acres of his own clients, while managing a consulting firm with 23 employees and helping with their clients. It can also be described as a commitment. “Some people would call it a passion, and some would call it a disease,” Polenske states. “If people are hiring me as a consult I should be available with farmers’ hours.”
Nominator and University of Wisconsin-Extension agent Bryan Jensen mentions Polenske’s generous approach: “Jeff has the mind and attitude of a teacher. He has laid the foundation for creating the next generation of agronomists.”
Polenske’s involvement includes past president of Wisconsin Association of Professional Agriculture Consultants (WAPAC), and an active member in this organization. He has also served as the Educational Outreach Committee chair and co-chair for the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC). He is the current co-chair of the IPM-NMP (Integrated Pest Management and Nutrient Management Planning). He is on the Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup, a past member of the Midwest Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Regional Committee.
Polenske is a member of the Outagamie County Forage Council and has served as the president. He also is one of a select few private certified conservation planners for Wisconsin. He has been a part of Wisconsin rewrite committees for both the NR590 and NR243 rules for nutrient management, as well as the Committee for Sustainable Agriculture.
Further, Polenske keeps active with research, including WAPAC Grain Trials, silage plot, tropical corn silage for heifer feed, sulfur on alfalfa, fungicide on wheat and alfalfa, Maximum Return to Nitrogen (MRTN) corn plots, nitrogen and phosphorus movement in the soils and several other projects with the University Extension focusing on water quality improvement.
Polenske represents and promotes his company and work as a CCA at events like the Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show, county Breakfast on the Farm events and the Dairy Business Association. He is an instructor at the annual land conservation field day and also judges at the annual land conservation speaking contest.
“One of the keys to growth is getting involved as much as we can. It’s a thirst for learning—now I’m teaching and I still want to learn,” Polenske says.
The International Certified Crop Adviser of the Year Award recognizes a certified crop adviser who delivers exceptional customer service, is highly innovative, has shown that they are a leader in their field, and has contributed substantially to the exchange of ideas and the transfer of agronomic knowledge within the agriculture industry. The award is given on an annual basis at the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) Annual Meeting. The award consists of hotel and travel expenses for two to the ASA Annual Meeting, $2,000 honorarium, a commemorative plaque, and a one-year membership in the American Society of Agronomy.