The Staff

November 5, 2009 06:00 PM

Jeanne Bernick, Editor: Jeanne covers agricultural issues for Top Producer Journal along with forage and wheat production. Her current focus for agricultural issues is energy coverage, including ethanol, biodiesel and wind power. She has worked for the magazine since 1995 and also contributes to Farm Journal.

She has received numerous writing awards, including the American Agricultural Editors' Association's first-place award for editorial opinion, which helped earn her Master Writer status with the association. She has also won writing awards from the National Association of Agricultural Journalists and most recently an award for the best single written article for business publications from the Missouri Association of Publications.

Jeanne earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural journalism with a minor in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri–Columbia. Jeanne grew up on a cattle ranch in southern Missouri. Today, she lives with her husband and three daughters near the Quad Cities in eastern Iowa.

Linda H. Smith, Executive Editor: Raised in Bucks County, Pa., Linda Smith writes about farm business and marketing, including risk management, marketing, trade, economics, finance, taxes and family business issues.

With a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Penn State, Smith advanced her background in economics and management topics by enrolling in courses at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a member of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the American Law Association, and frequently participates in meetings of the American Bankers Association, the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, and the International Agricultural Management Association. Smith has won numerous agricultural journalism awards in her career.

Smith helps steer the direction of the magazine and plan the content of each issue.

In 2002, Smith completed a 15-month stint as Vice President, Communications and Industry Development, at Norman Borlaug University, an online learning provider for the food system. She has served as president of a day care center; executive director of a nonprofit group, Centered Riding; and Public Relations Manager of Suburban Dog Training Club.

Sara Schafer, Business and Crops Online Editor: Sara (Muri) Schafer spends her time directing the online presence for Farm Journal and Top Producer, a sister publication of Farm Journal Media. She also regularly writes business and crop-related news articles for, produces many eNewsletters and appears on AgDay. Sara joined Farm Journal Media in 2008.

As a May 2007 graduate from the University of Missouri–Columbia, she majored in agricultural journalism with a minor in agricultural economics. She was previously employed by Boone Electric Cooperative.

Sara grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm in Jamestown, Mo. Her family raised hogs and cattle, along with corn, soybeans, wheat, milo and hay. She and her husband reside in Columbia, Mo.

Steve Custer, Publisher: Steve Custer is Publisher of both Farm Journal and Top Producer. In this capacity, he has overall responsibility for all operations related to these magazines -- from sales to production of the publications. As he is fond of saying: "If you like what you see in our magazines, tell our editors. If there's something you don't like or think needs to be improved, tell me!"

Custer has worked in a variety of industries, but his first love is serving American farmers. He grew up in rural Iowa in the shadow of his family's implement business. After graduating from Michigan State University, he worked in consumer markets in both Chicago and New York before returning to Iowa and agriculture in 1985. He joined Farm Journal Media in 1998 as V.P. and Director of Marketing for Farm Journal Information Resources and was promoted to his present position in July 2000.

Away from work at Farm Journal, Steve owns and operates a Christmas tree farm in Berks County, Pa., and shows American Saddlebred horses.  . 

Top Producer Contributors

Jerry Gulke, Top Producer Contributor: Jerry Gulke was raised on a small grains and livestock farm near Ellendale, N.D. After receiving his degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering from North Dakota State University, he became employed with Sundstrand Corporation, an engineering company in Rockford, Ill. It was while employed that Jerry started farming part-time and went on to receive a Masters of Business Administration from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill.
In 1975 Jerry began farming full-time in Northern Illinois, and is actively involved in an 1,800 acre corn/soybean farm with his wife Jenny and his two daughters, Ashley and Stephanie. He is also involved with his mother in the overall management of the original farm in North Dakota.
It was Jerry's common sense ability to manage his farm, and market his grains successfully in some of the most troubling times in agriculture that received attention from the media. In particular, Top Producer offered the opportunity to write finance/marketing and management articles during the early 1980s, and eventually the spot of monthly editor of the Marketing Strategy column. It was his monthly column which gained respect and attention among producers that lead him to the field of consulting, and the formation of Strategic Marketing Services, Inc.
To reach Jerry, e-mail

John Phipps, Top Producer Contributor: John writes humor and commentary pieces in his columns "Perspective" and "John's World," which appear regularly in Top Producer and Farm Journal. He has been writing for Farm Journal since 1995. In 2005, John assumed the position of host of U.S. Farm Report, the nation's longest-running TV show. Also in 2005 he began "John's World” – a unique weblog for those who farm and those who like farms. The American Agricultural Editors Association has awarded John's writing with the Best Humor, Best Regular Column, Best Editorial Opinion and Writer of the Year awards.
John was raised on a six-generation farm in east-central Illinois. He graduated from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering and a minor in economics in 1970. John has worked as a nuclear engineering officer aboard the USS SEAHORSE, sold computers and software to farmers, worked in a mortgage banking operation as a closing officer and taught at the Danville Area Community College. He returned to his family farm in 1975.
John and his wife Jan have two sons. Their farm is located in Edgar County, Ill. In addition to farming and writing, John speaks often to farm and business groups and is involved in many community activities on the local, state and national level.

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