University of Wisconsin–Madison



Michael Boland
Koller Professor and Director
University of Minnesota

Michael Boland (Mike) holds the Koller endowed Professorship in agribusiness management at the University of Minnesota where he has teaching, research, and outreach responsibilities in agribusiness management, and in particular, agricultural cooperatives.  He teaches classes in cooperatives, business strategy, and institutional economics. The Koller Professorship was funded by agricultural cooperatives (CHS, Land O’Lakes, CoBank, and Country Financial) and Koller friends, family, and colleagues.

Mike’s current research is on issues in cooperative finance and governance and occupational health and safety issues. Mike teaches educational modules on finance, governance, and strategic thinking in boards of director leadership programs for cooperatives. These programs are taught in 14 states to more than 1000 cooperative senior employees and directors annually. In addition, he has worked with cooperatives in Latin America, China, South Africa, Australia, and Europe. He is a frequent speaker and facilitator on cooperative board retreats, board evaluations, and similar activities. He is a member of National Association for Business Economists and serves on board of directors of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and C-FARE. Council on Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics.

He previously worked for a local farm supply cooperative, a regional cooperative, and state cooperative council. He is the oldest of 12 children and was reared in Minnesota.

Charles F. (Chuck) Conner
President and CEO
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Charles F. (Chuck) Conner became president & CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) on January 22, 2009. As president of NCFC, Conner will oversee the organization’s work to promote and protect the business and public policy interests of America’s farmer-owned cooperatives. He will also provide the strategic vision for the trade association as it continues to seek new ways in which to add value for its membership.

Prior to joining NCFC, Conner had served as the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture since mid-2005. In this capacity, he was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) overseeing day-to-day operations of the department. Conner interacted directly with President George W. Bush and his senior staff to formulate domestic and international food, trade, security and energy policy. He led development of the Bush Administration’s $300 billion Farm Bill proposal and the strategy to educate and inform industry, constituents and Congress.

From August 2007 to January 2008, Conner served as both USDA Secretary and Deputy Secretary.  He played a key role in developing the Administration’s immigration policy including important changes to the H2A program.

Conner’s experience also includes the assignment of Special Assistant to the President, Executive Office of the President, from October 2001 to May 2005, working on the 2001/2 Farm Bill to develop the strategy behind the transfer of several USDA agency functions to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

From May 1997 to October 2001 Conner served as President of the Corn Refiners Association. He also served for 17 years as an advisor to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

Conner is a graduate of Purdue University, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree and is the recipient of Purdue’s Distinguished Alumni Award.  He and his wife Dru have four children.

Ann Kafer head shot

Ann Kafer
Vice President of Human Resources and Strategy Officer

Ann Hastings Kafer has served GROWMARK, Inc. as Vice President of Human Resources and Strategy Officer since May 2017. She joined the organization in 1993 and has held manager and director positions in corporate communications, marketing services, career development, human resources administration, and director of organizational change. Ann also served as Compliance Officer. GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative with $7.3 billion is sales (FY2017) operating in 43 U.S. states and Canada.

She is an honors graduate of the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications. Ann is also a 2007 high honors graduate of Lincoln Christian Seminary with a master’s of arts degree in the Bible. In addition, she has logged hours toward a Masters of Business Administration degree at Illinois State University.

Ann’s professional experience prior to GROWMARK includes serving as director of communications for Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative in Mattoon, Ill., and as communications coordinator for the Illinois Soybean Association.

She currently serves on the board of directors for ACDI/VOCA and for the Midwest Food Bank. Ann is also on the education committee for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and the College of Business Advisory Committee for Illinois State University. She earned the Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional designation in 2013, and she earned the Cooperative Communicators Association’s Graznak Award in 1999 as the outstanding communicator under age 36.

Ann is active in her church and as a speaker and author. She serves on the board of directors for the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, Ill. Ann and her husband Brad live in Bloomington, Ill. and are parents of two sons, Ben and Will.

Phil Kenkel head shot

Phil Kenkel
Professor and Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair
Oklahoma State University

Phil Kenkel is a Regents Professor in the Agricultural Economics Department at Oklahoma State University and holds the Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair.  He is the editor of the Journal of Cooperatives.  In 2011 he managed a national project identifying critical issues facing agricultural cooperatives which resulted in seminars for the House and Senate staff in Washington D.C.  Dr. Kenkel is the current chair of the Cooperative Community of Practice on eXtension which has conducted national webinars on non-qualified stock and other issues. He is also active in the NCERA-210 research committee on cooperatives and has prepared white papers for the CHS Center for Cooperative Growth and the Farm Credit Council. Dr. Kenkel has authored more than 200 research and extension publications, presented over 100 papers at professional meetings and conducted training sessions on producer owned businesses in 6 countries.