Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 37th annual Agri-Industry Banquet

The Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce held the 37th Annual Agri-Industry Banquet on March 10, 2016. This dinner is a celebration of agriculture and the businesses that support this vital industry. The Chamber recognizes the importance of a strong rural economy at this banquet each year.

The guest speaker was Gary Baise, principal of OFW Law in Washington D.C. Gary is a graduate of Triopia High School and Western Illinois University with a law degree from Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University. He maintains a family farm in Morgan County. Mr. Baise discussed “Present and Future Threats to U.S. Agriculture”.

The Agri-Industry Hall of Fame award was presented at the banquet. The Hall of Fame was created in 1995 to honor those men and women who have given a lifetime of service to the agricultural industry through personal and professional efforts. Keith Bradbury was inducted into the Ag Hall of Fame this year.

Keith Bradbury has served as an agricultural lender for a total of 32 years, most recently serving as CEO for Franklin Bank, later renamed Community State Bank in Franklin, Ill., for the past 22 years. As an active farmer for several years at his family farm in West Perry, Ill., Keith understood the challenges faced in the industry and could assist his customers with their varied financial and operational needs.

A graduate of Illinois College, Keith received their Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2009. Also an Active Kiwanian, Keith is a past President, Vice President and Board member. He was honored as the Distinguished Kiwanian of the Year in 2004, Kiwanian of the Year in 2005 and received the George F. Hixson Fellow Honor, the club’s highest award, in 2010.

Keith has also served as a Director on the board of the Illinois Bankers Association. He is a past Chairman of the Passavant Area Hospital Board of Directors, past Chairman of the Elm City Board of Directors, and past Chairman on the Lincoln Land Community College Advisory Council.

Civic organizations including the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and Tri-County Community Development Corporation have also benefitted from his leadership. Keith has served on the Agri-Industry Division of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce and served as the emcee of the Ag Banquet for a number of years. He has devoted many hours in preparation time to insure that those attending the Banquet have a meaningful and enjoyable evening. His past experience in theater productions in Jacksonville and Pittsfield makes him the perfect host. Next year, he will become the Board Chairman of the Chamber.

Keith has been an active member of the Masonic Lodge since age 18 and enjoys membership at First Presbyterian Church, where he has served as an elder. Keith and his wife Nancy have two sons and one grandchild. They reside in Jacksonville.

The Chamber also presented the Pioneer of Agriculture award. This award recognizes an individual who gave a lifetime of service to the agriculture industry in the 1800 to early 1900’s in Morgan County. This year’s recipient was John T. Alexander.

John T. Alexander made his first purchase of land in Morgan County in 1848 at a price of $3 per acre for 7,000 acres to grow corn and fatten his cattle. By 1857, he shipped 10,000 head of cattle via railroad from the town 10 miles east of Jacksonville that would later be named after him. During the Civil War, he shipped approximately 100,000 head of cattle each year for the Union troops. Mr. Alexander developed a systematic approach to preparing cattle for market by grazing them on abundant grasses in warm months and feeding them corn in cattle lots in the winter. As an industry leader, he recognized the industry shift to meat packing plants and began shipping cattle to Chicago and Kansas City. As competition increased, he brought Texas Longhorns to the Midwest and with them came ticks and disease that destroyed his local stock and a great portion of his business. J.T. Alexander’s legacy lives on in successful agricultural operations in Morgan County and the small town named after him.

Accepting the award was James D. Profitt, Assistant Professor of Program in Management and Organizational Leadership at Illinois College and the historian providing the nomination.

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