Donn Teske: NCR-SARE Hero

Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, the term "NCR-SARE Hero" recognizes the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that certain people have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the region.

Donn Teske’s fifth-generation farm was homesteaded by his family when they came to Kansas in a covered wagon after the Civil War. One hundred fifty years later, Teske’s 900-acre farm, a grain and cow-calf operation, inspires his concern for the environment and motivates Teske’s heavy involvement with organizations and policy development that focus on sustainable agriculture.

In addition to full-time farming in the 1990s, Teske worked for the Kansas Rural Center and the Kansas State University Agricultural Economics Department as a farm financial analyst. He was elected president of Kansas Farmers Union in 2001 and was elected as the National Farmers Union Vice President from 2014-2018.

As a sustainable agriculture advocate, Teske has served as an advisory committee member for the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, a member of the Farmer & Rancher Advisory Board to the EPA, and served as a board member for several organizations including the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Kansas Rural Center, Midwest Agency Insurance, Ogallala Commons, and the Kansas Graziers Association. Teske has also appeared in two documentary films, “Go to College, or Take over the Family Farm?” (2011) and “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” (2009).

His service as a farmer representative to NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council was 2011-2018, and he continues to work with SARE through Kansas SARE's state advisory committee. Throughout his work with SARE, Teske provided a significant and experienced voice for farmers who champion sustainable practices in conventional corn/soybean row crop rotations.     

Leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Teska was nominated and selected to receive this recognition, including:

  • "Donn has championed farmers of all sizes to have access to resources that allow them to develop a livelihood through farming. Donn has advocated for policy and funding in the interest of family farmers to work in the best interest of the environment and rural communities with farm families at the center." - Nancy Williams, Co-Founder & President/CEO of No More Empty Pots, past NCR-SARE Administrative Council chair
  • "Donn is a straight forward congenial person. He does not take over discussions but sits back and listens and then makes comments based on what he has heard and his extensive experience. He is a proponent of small farms and the farmers who manage them. He is always willing and ready to promote sustainable agriculture. A while ago my son asked me for suggestions on people for a panel discussion about the future of the Flint Hills of Kansas. I thought about Donn, my son contacted him, and as I had expected he agreed to participate and added to the success of the conference. I will always remember Donn as when I saw him in the evenings after our meetings sitting outside the hotel on a lawn chair smoking a cigar and enjoying life." Mark Kuzila, Emeritus Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, past NCR-SARE Administrative Council chair