The first cohort of Casten Fellows, a program honoring the life and legacy of Jill Casten-Downing, recently returned from a successful trip visiting the Baltics.

Throughout the past two years, six Farm Bureau members in Kansas have participated in the 10-part program. In addition to the opportunity to learn about agriculture and culture in another country, participants learned about leadership methods and techniques through several books, resources and group discussions.

Prior to departing for the Baltics, the Fellows heard from four experts from the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service post in Warsaw to talk about agriculture, policy and the U.S. trade relationships of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

A history scholar who specializes in the former USSR region shared the history of the Baltic region since WWI. As she explained how the countries gained, lost and regained their independence, Fellows learned how Balts suffered great tragedies and exhibited courage and resilience.

Then in August, the Fellows traveled to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland for two weeks. They shared similarities, differences, struggles and opportunities within agriculture between the U.S. and these countries by visiting various agricultural operations.

“The things that have excited me most in the Casten Fellows program this year are the times of reflection and learning about myself through the books we’ve read, through the experiences we’ve had and, most importantly, through the discussions we’ve had amongst our group,” Tim Franklin from Sherman County says.

The first cohort of the Casten Fellow program is:

Tim Franklin, Sherman County
Myndi Krafft, Phillips County
Jacquelyne Leffler, Lyon County
Jackie Mundt, Pratt County
Tiya Tonn, Butler County
Cammie Vaupel, Stafford County

The participants are required to fulfill a post-international experience assignment, including presentations about their time overseas and additional leadership growth activities.

The Casten Fellows program is focused on developing individuals who can engage at the highest levels to enact change through meaningful relationships, innovation in ideas and processes, and effective leadership.

If you’d like to have a Fellow present about their experience in your county, contact Edie Doane at To learn more about the Casten Fellows program, visit