The Jim Rutherford Scholarship has been established by the McLean County Soil and Water Conservation District to assist outstanding agricultural students at any Illinois College. The student awarded the scholarship should demonstrate superior agricultural academic achievement, commitment to soil and water conservation and potential for innovation and/or leadership ability. The Jim Rutherford Scholarship is awarded in the fall semester of the academic year. This scholarship fund is made possible by generous donations from local donors. Each year an annual Golf Outing is held to raise the necessary funds. Help support the next generation of local agri-business professionals! To make a donation, please contact our office.


Local Scholars Awarded


Scholarship Dollars Awarded


Different Colleges Attended

2024 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Aidan Alt!

Aidan Alt, son of Jessica and Jacob Alt, is of Downs IL at Tri-Valley High School planning to pursue a Conservation Biology Major at Heartland Community College. Aidan is active in Golf, Football, FFA, and 4-H as a member and officer. He has volunteered for the United Methodist Church, Wishbone Canine Rescue, Tri-Valley Youth Ag Days, Midwest Food Bank, and YaBud Country Music Festivals. Aidan’s love for conservation stems from watching his grandfather apply conservation to the landscape. Agricultural instructor, Kristin Myers writes “Aidan stands out as a leader and often encourages others to step up”. Congratulations Aidan!  

Congratulations Kaitlyn Monical!

Kaitlyn Monical, daughter of Jason and Stephanie Monical, is of Bloomington IL at Normal Community West High School planning to pursue an Agriculture degree at an Illinois University. Kaitlyn is active in FFA and 4H as an officer and member, she plays Volleyball, is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honors Society. She has volunteered at the Midwest Food Bank, Parks and Rec Kids Haunted Trail, Operation Christmas Child, and writing letters to nursing homes and veterans. Agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Caitlin Hays writes “Kaitlyn is an outstanding young woman, who is dedicated and responsible”. Congratulations Kaitlyn! 

Congratulations Mary Baker!

Mary Baker, daughter of Molly and Brian Baker is of Bloomington IL at Normal Community High School planning to pursue an Environmental Management/Forestry major at Augustana. Mary is active in FFA as an officer, she is the captain of the girl’s varsity soccer team, member of the chamber orchestra and active throughout Wesley United Methodist Church. Matthew Chapman, Normal Community High School Soccer Coach writes “She inspires greatness and community in others”. Congratulations Mary!  

2023 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Evan Kraft

Evan Kraft, son of Mark and Jackie Kraft, is a Towanda IL native at Normal Community High School planning to pursue an Agri-Business Major at Illinois State University. Evan is active in FFA as both a member and leadership team officer. He is a National Honor Society member, and athlete in Cross Country and the boy’s track and field team. Evan has been a state record book winner in wildlife management and has earned his State Degree. Agricultural instructor, Jennifer Stone writes “Evan has been a critical leader in our department”. Congratulations Evan!  

Congratulations Payton Wiltz!

Payton Wiltz, son of Brian and Mandy Wiltz, is a Lexington IL native at Lexington High School planning to pursue an agricultural degree at local junior college program. Payton is an active member of the FFA and has served officer roles including sentinel, reporter, secretary and vice president. He is a National Honor Society member, earned his state FFA degree and active on his family farming operation. McLean County Farmer and owner of SDM Farms, Dave Stutzman writes “Payton has a good attitude and is an honest and conscientious person.” Congratulations Payton! 

Congratulations Austin Russow!

Austin Russow, son of Eric and Cara Russow, is a Heyworth IL native at Heyworth High School planning to pursue an Agri-Business Major at an Illinois College program. Austin is active in FFA both as a member and chapter officer. He is a National Honor Society member, 4-H member, Track team member and Livestock Judging team member. Eric Updegraff, Cross Country and Track and Field Coach writes His work ethic is unrivaled and makes it easy to root for him.” Congratulations Austin! 

2022 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Amelia Rodriguez!

Amelia Rodriguez, daughter of Sam and Gloria Rodriguez, is a Normal IL native at Normal Community High School planning to pursue a Wildlife Biology Degree. Amelia is active in FFA as a member and officer, Archive Club member, and Cultural cooking club member. She volunteers for programs including Ag in the Classroom, Towels for howls, Sugar Grove Nature Center, City of Bloomington, and Parkland Foundation. She is a founding member of the Illinois Agricultural Education Diversity and inclusion committee and serves on the NCHS Agriscience Program mentoring team. Liz Harris, Agriculture teacher at NCHS writes “Amelia is a natural leader both in the classroom and as a member of our Normal FFA chapter”. Congratulations Amelia!  

Congratulations Preston Rhode!

Preston Rhode, son of Tyler and Melissa Rhode, is a Carlock IL native at Normal Community West High School planning to pursue an Agri-Business or Animal Science Major. Preston is active in FFA as a member and chapter officer, actively competing on both the FFA Livestock Judging team and local 4-H team. He is an athlete in both football and basketball and National Honor Society member. Preston has served as both a member and officer at the Illinois Junior Simmental Association and member at the Illinois Junior Angus & National Junior Angus Association. Preston Agricultural instructor, Parker Bane writes “Preston Rhode is one of the most accomplished and decorated students I have worked with in 19 years.” Congratulations Preston!  


Congratulations Paige Lemenager!

Paige Lemenager, daughter of Luke and Stacy Lemenager, is a Hudson IL native at Normal Community West High School planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics and Juris Doctor Degree in Agricultural Law. Paige is active in many extracurricular and community activities holding many local, state and national officer and leadership roles.  She is involved with the Illinois Farm Bureau & Affiliates Youth Education in Agriculture Committee, McLean County & Hudson 4-H, Illinois 4-H Ambassador Team, Section 9 & Normal West FFA, Student Council, Promise Council, Business Club, National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, the Illinois Junior Beef Association, Illinois Junior Herford Association, Illinois Junior Angus Association and the National Junior Angus Association. NWHS School Counselor, Brooke Bollmann writes, “The phrase ‘Full Package’ is what I would use to describe Paige Lemenager. Paige is a shining example of a student who balances a wide range of activities, amazing grades, all with grace, kindness and leadership.” Congratulation Paige!    

2021 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Emerson Tarr!

Emerson TarrEmerson Tarr, daughter of Stan and Jennifer Tarr, is a LeRoy native pursuing an Ag Communications and Marketing degree. Emerson was an active FFA officer, high school class president, National Honors Society member, and team captain of the Tri-Valley Cross Country and Track Team at LeRoy High School.  Emerson writes ” This scholarship will help me achieve my education goals, which is the first step in my process to ultimately serve the Ag industry by working with the next generation of Ag leaders. Congratulations Emerson!

Congratulations Teresa Birsa!

Teresa Birsa, daughter of Paula and Terry Birsa, is a Bloomington native pursuing a Forestry-Wildlife Habitat Management & Conservation Degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Teresa was an active FFA member and officer,  a 4-H Memorial Camp Counselor, 4-H member and officer of the Ardent Tillers, 4-H Teen Teachers, and the 4-H federation. She was active in student council, the fishing team, orchestra and a National Honors Society member at Normal Community West High School.  Teresa writes ” I inspire to work as a conservation scientist or in a career related to my field of study.” We look forward to seeing your efforts for conservation in the future, congratulations Teresa!

2020 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Madison Kraft!

Madison Kraft

Madison Kraft, daughter of Mike and Malisa Kraft, is a Towanda native attending Black Hawk
College this fall to pursue a degree in Natural Resources/Wildlife Management. During her
years at Normal Community High School she was involved in Choir, Key Club and served as FFA
President and Secretary. Madison also served as Section 9 FFA officer team as secretary.

Congratulations Ashlyn Mool!

Ashlyn Mool

Ashlyn Mool, daughter of David and Shelia Mool, is a graduate of ElPaso-Gridley High School.
This fall she will attend Illinois Central College to pursue a degree in Agriculture Education. In
high school she was involved in volleyball, basketball, track, student council and FFA. Ashlyn
served as FFA director, treasurer and reporter.

2019 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Leighton Rutherford!

Leighton Rutherford

Leighton Rutherford, son of Shane and Marlene Rutherford, is a McLean native pursuing an Agriculture and Aviation Degree. Leighton was an active FFA member,  National Honor Society member, student athlete with multiple awards including player of the year at Olympia High School.  Leighton writes ” I hope my college education will help me continue what my grandfather has started on my farm and many others. I want to be a resource to help everyone.” We look forward to seeing your efforts for conservation in the future, congratulations Leighton!

Congratulations Sara Ingels!

Sara Ingels

Sara Ingels, is a Heyworth native pursuing an Agricultural Education Degree from Illinois State University . Sara was an active FFA member and officer,  a student council member, softball and basketball athlete, and scholastic bowl member at Heyworth High School.  Sara writes “My dream job is to become an Agricultural Educator at a local school.” We look forward to seeing your efforts for local agricultural education in the future, congratulations Sara!

Congratulations Andrew Gilbert!

Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert, son of Jason and Tara Gilbert, is a Gridley native pursuing an Agribusiness Degree from Illinois Community College and later transfer to Illinois State University. Andrew was an active athlete, member of both the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society at ElPaso-Gridley High School. He was active in the bass fishing team, and volunteer for youth football camps, and the Jog for Joey 5K scholarship fundraiser.  Andrew writes ” I plan to use this scholarship money to further my education in the agribusiness field..” Congratulations Andrew!

Congratulations Kimberly Medernach

Kimberly Medernach

Kimberly Medernach, is a Arrowsmith native pursuing a Precision Agriculture Degree from Parkland College. Kimberly was an active FFA member and officer,  she received her discovery, greenhand, chapter and state FFA degrees, was awarded star greenhand, and a FFA service award, and was active in the bass fishing club at LeRoy High School. Kimberly writes ” With the Precision Ag Degree, I hope I will be able to lead our farm operation in a progressive and successful way.” Congratulations Kimberly!

2017 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Craig Birkenbeil!

Craig Birkenbeil

Craig Birkenbeil, son of Jason and Sherry Birkenbeil, is a Lexington native attending Joliet Junior College in the fall for a degree in crop production. Craig will be using this scholarship to further his education and educate others on best management practices to conserve our natural resources. His plan after college is to farm in Nebraska. During his years at Lexington High School, Craig was involved in basketball, baseball, and FFA. Craig served as FFA President and plot manager his senior year. He is also active in church youth group.

Congratulations Victoria Medernach!

Victoria Medernach

Victoria Medernach, daughter of Michael and Gina Medernach, is an Arrowsmith native attending Parkland Community College in the fall to pursue a degree in Agriculture Education. She plans to transfer to University of Nebraska Lincoln to continue her education and ultimately become an Ag teacher. Victoria also hopes to help on her family’s farm as much as possible. During her years at LeRoy High School, Victoria was active in student council, key club, drama club, and served as FFA president and secretary. She also volunteers at the local American Legion, Food Bank, and Festival of Trees.

2016 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Garrett Conaty!

Garrett Conaty

Garrett Conaty, son of Dawn Conaty, is a LeRoy native attending Heartland Community College this fall for the agriculture course and ultimately transferring to Illinois State University to major in Agribusiness. Garrett plans to go back to the family farm after graduating from ISU and start a career as a salesman.  While attending LeRoy High School, Garret was active in FFA, Wrestling, and Football. He is also active in 4-H and has served as Historian, Secretary, Vice-President, and President.   Garrett is the ninth generation to be active on the family farm where they produce corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa and other hay, raise beef cattle and Katahdin sheep.

Congratulations Blake Edwards!

Blake Edwards

Blake Edwards, son of Kevin and Karen Edwards, is a Lexington native attending Joliet Junior College in the fall for Ag Supply Business. Blake hopes to acquire an internship during his sophomore year at a seed and chemical dealer or grain handling facility and obtain a position with that company following his internship.  During his years at Lexington High School, Blake was involved in FFA, F.L.O.A.T.S (freshman mentoring program), baseball, football, and community garden.

2015 Scholarship Winners

Congratulations Nickolas Parkhouse!

Nickolas Parkhouse

Nickolas Parkhouse, son of Kevin and Dee Parkhouse, is a Gridley native attending Illinois State University this fall for Agribusiness. Nick’s goal for college is to graduate in four years and has interest in not only Agribuisness, but the science aspects of agronomy as well.  While attending El Paso-Gridley High School, Nick was active in many extracurricular activities, including FFA, Mu Alpha Theta, Show Choir, Choir, Youth in Harmony, Golf, Basketball, and Baseball.  Nick was also active in the Trinity Lutheran Youth Group and worked at the El Paso Golf Club.  He enjoys hunting, fishing, and golf in his free time.

Congratulations William Patton!

William Patton

William Patton, son of Mike and Niki Patton, is a Lexington native attending Illinois Central College this fall for Ag Production. Will is excited to gain more knowledge of grain and livestock farming.  He plans to take his knowledge back to the family farm to boost efficiency and productivity.  Will has been an active 4-H member of the Lexington Leprechauns for 10 years, where he has held various positions and participated in many activities.  While attending school in Lexington, Will held multiple positions in FFA and played many sports, including Football and Track.  Will is currently doing ground maintenance at the Brandt Research Plot in Lexington and has learned much about the Nitrogen run-off study being conducted there.

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