2024 Iowa Farmers Union Board of Directors

Aaron Heley Lehman, President

Aaron is a fifth-generation family farmer from rural Polk County, where he and his family raise corn, soybeans, oats, and hay in both organic and conventional rotations. Aaron was elected to serve as the IFU president in 2016 and had served as the IFU vice president immediately prior to his election. He also has served as the executive director and legislative director for IFU and on the National Farmers Union Policy Committee. Aaron’s father Phil is a past IFU vice president and board member, and Aaron was active in Farmers Union youth programs growing up. Aaron is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and Treasurer of the North Polk School Foundation. He is a graduate of North Polk High School in Alleman, Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Aaron has previously served on the North Polk School District Board of Directors, the Iowa Citizen Action Network Board of Directors, and various school and church communities. He is a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa chapter of the National Farmers Organization. Aaron and his wife Nicole have two children, Jordan and Benjamin. [email protected], (515) 291-2656

Ryan Marquardt, Vice President

Ryan Marquardt is a fifth-generation Madison County Farmer. He owns and operates Wild Rose Pastures, LLC with his wife and high school sweetheart Janice and their two children. They have raised and direct marketed grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and turkeys and free-range eggs for over a decade in Central Iowa.  In addition to the serving on the Iowa Farmers Union Board, Ryan also serves on the Iowa Food Cooperative Board, Madison County Development Foundation Board, and the Practical Farmers of Iowa Savings Incentive Program Selection Committee. In the past, Ryan has run for the Iowa House, and served as president of the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, church council president, and township trustee. Ryan graduated from Iowa State University with MA in Sustainable Agriculture, a BS in Community and Regional Planning, and a certificate in Public Administration. Ryan is an ardent supporter of open markets and transparency for farms of all sizes, streamlining regulation for small and medium producers, and opposing monopolies in the agricultural supply chain.

[email protected]

Haleigh Summers, Treasurer

Haleigh is a graduate student studying conservation practice adoption in Iowa. Her B.S. was in Agronomy and Seed Science, and her Master’s was in Agronomy studying non-chemical ways to control herbicide-resistant weeds. Her current research focuses on geospatial modeling of conservation practices across the state of Iowa to make water quality improvement effective and efficient.

Suzan Erem, Secretary

Suzan Erem is the retired executive director and co-founder of the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, launched in January 2015 to permanently protect land to grow healthy food. Suzan graduated from the University of Iowa in the mid-1980s with degrees in Journalism and English, cutting her political teeth on the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. The stories of family farmers getting thrown and harassed off their land by lenders stayed with her all of her life.

Suzan grows Asian pears, Japanese walnuts, chestnuts and honey-berries on her land in rural Cedar County. (Photo by Emily Kestel)

Mike Carberry, Southeast District

Mike CarberryMike Carberry of Iowa City was elected to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in 2014.

Mike was raised in Newhall, Iowa, in a large, fifth generation Iowa family. His family moved to Johnson County in 1976, and Mike graduated from Iowa City Regina High School, then earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Iowa in 1983. He held several positions in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability, including as the Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association; Midwestern Nuclear Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth; Senior Regional Field Director with the Iowa Global Warming Campaign; Campaign Manager for Citizens for Public Power; and Director of Green State Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in advocacy, outreach and campaign organizing around environmental issues. Mike also worked as the Benefit Director at Iowa City’s Englert Theatre.

Mike’s volunteer efforts also reflect his interest in the environment. He has served many roles with the Sierra Club, including Chairperson for the Iowa City Area Group, and member of the State of Iowa Chapter Executive Committee. He was awarded the 2013 Environmental Activist of the Year award from the State Chapter of the Sierra Club. Mike currently serves on the boards of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Iowa Wind Energy Association and 1000 Friends of Iowa

[email protected]

John Gilbert, Northeast District

J. GilbertJohn and his wife, Beverly, farm with one of their sons, and one of his brothers and their wives in north central Iowa’s Hardin County.  They are the county’s last dairy, and have been selling their pigs to Niman Ranch since 1998.  John has been a long time Iowa Farmers Union member, and is in his second term as a board member.  His late parents, William and Mary, were also members for most of their lives.  John and Beverly have two sons and one daughter, and two grandchildren.

[email protected]

Emilee Harriss-Puicelli, Southwest District
Chris Henning, Northwest District

Chris Henning is a landowner and crop-share farmer in Greene County near Jefferson, Iowa.. Since the ‘93 Floods in the Raccoon River Watershed, Chris and her farmer/operator have transformed her farms into great examples of sustainability – incorporating prairie wetlands and stream buffers with crop rotations, cover crops and minimum tillage practices to protect water and build soil. An active member of Women, Food and Ag Network, she participates in the “Women Caring for the Land” program and is a Conservation Ambassador for the National Wildlife Federation. She is featured in the 2017 book, Women and the Land. Chris was named Iowa Environmental Farm Leader in 2021 and is Practical Farmers of Iowa 2021 Farmland Owner Legacy Award recipient.

Beth Hoffman, Southeast District

Beth Hoffman has been reporting on food and agriculture for more than twenty-five years, and moved to Iowa with her husband to work on his family’s 530 acre farm in 2019. She blogged for Forbes and studied the food system in depth as a student, fellow and co-lecturer at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism. She has completed several documentary projects including a year cooking with immigrant women in their homes and telling their stories. She was an Associate Professor in Media Studies at the University of San Francisco and wrote the book Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Growing Food in America about the economics of farming, told through the story of moving to the farm. You can reach her at [email protected]

Joshua Manske, Northwest District

Joshua Manske grew up in Algona, IA. He attended Grand View University in Des Moines, where he studied history and was a three-time All-American golfer. After college, Josh played professional golf around the globe. He currently sits on the Iowa and National Farmers Union board of directors. He farms and manages farmland in Iowa and Minnesota as well as selling Farm Real Estate. 

[email protected]

Chris Petersen, Northeast District
Shaffer Ridgeway, Northeast District
Jerry Rosman, Southwest District
Aidan Struve, Northwest

Karen Varley, Southwest District

Karen Varley grew up on an Allamakee County dairy farm and studied agronomy and plant breeding at Iowa State and Cornell University.  She has worked in the seed industry and for ISU Extension and was involved in several ag-related entrepreneurial ventures.  Since 1989 she and her husband, Warren, have worked on the family farm in Adair County, raising cattle, poultry, and sheep, as well as four humans.  In 2015 Karen graduated from Drake Law School and joined Warren’s law practice in Stuart. Karen has led a couple of community garden projects and served as poultry superintendent of the Adair County Fair.  She enjoys escapes on the Raccoon River Valley Trail with her bike, Mulberry.   

Ron Tigner, Honorary Board Member
Elle Gadient, Beginning Farmer
 Elle Gadient grew up on her family’s diversified farm in eastern Iowa raising livestock and crops. She recently returned to Iowa as the fifth generation in her family to farm in the Midwest. In addition to farming, Elle serves in the unique position of Niman Ranch farmer advocate, providing support, education and community building among the brand’s network of hundreds of small to mid-size, independent family farms and ranches across the country. She was included on Forbes’ 2023 prestigious 30 Under 30 list, recognizing her leadership to “redefine the way we eat, drink and think about consumption.” 

Iowa Farmers Union Staff

David Andrews, Executive Director

David Andrews grew up on a diversified grain and livestock family farm operation near Melbourne, Iowa and was engaged in farming for twenty-five years following graduation from Iowa State University. He has done agricultural consulting work in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Tanzania and has managed large agricultural projects in Romania and the Philippines. Most recently, he retired as Executive Director of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin. A nonprofit institute, whose focus is education, research and policy initiatives to promote organic agriculture. He holds BS and MS degrees from Iowa State University.

[email protected]

Deborah Bunka, Membership & Fundraising Director

Debo42104345_10212513322815121_1038531304150269952_nrah comes to Iowa via Canada where she worked for various non-profits including serving as Executive Director of the Tamarack Foundation for learning disabled children in Saskatchewan, and editing an arts newspaper in Hamilton, Ontario. Relocating to Ames in 1996 with her family, she wrote a monthly column on food history and availability of seasonal local foods for the Ames Tribune, while also writing a regular food column for the regional ‘Facets’ magazine.  For five years, Deborah ran a farmers market in Ames, opening Iowa’s first year-round, indoor market and launching a CSA. Coinciding with her life-long interest in social, political and economic justice,  she travelled Iowa for several months, talking with people about clean water issues and volunteered for two years with Iowa CCI as a citizen-lobbyist. These experiences have made Deborah a good fit for her work with Iowa Farmers Union.

[email protected]

Christina Dexter, Communications Director
Tommy Hexter, Rural Organizer and Educator

Tommy moved to Iowa after growing up on a 2-acre vegetable and egg farm in the mountains of Central Virginia. Since then, he has started his own semi-urban vegetable garden in Grinnell, become a commissioner of the Poweshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District, and owns an Iowa food market called Grinnell FarmToTable that sources products from 15-20 local farmers. Tommy understands the issues farmers face around conservation, markets, insurance, and more, and is passionate about farmers being leaders in political change. After being a member of the Iowa Farmers Union Board of Directors for 6 months, he is now the Union’s Rural Organizer and Educator. He loves to explore the small towns and backroads of Iowa with his 18-month old German Shepherd named Echo, and he goes gravel bike-riding in his free time. 

[email protected]