‘It’s All About Relationships’ – Grace College Sustainable Agriculture
The sustainable agriculture and ag business degrees at Grace were created to help meet the needs of our state’s agricultural economy and to train the next generation of industry leaders that will feed the world. When it came to finding the right person to spearhead these programs — a Grace College MBA graduate with innumerable connections in the ag industry, Tobe Forshtay seemed like the perfect man for the job.
“We recognize that there are few things more important than relationships,” said Forshtay. “The success of this program hinges on developing healthy relationships. This begins within our community and spans across our nation and around the globe. But most importantly, it starts with rooting oneself firmly in Christ,” he said.
With eager eyes and a passionate heart, Forshtay is a professor that makes his students excited about learning and eager to jump into the agricultural field to put their sustainable agriculture or ag business degree to work! And it’s because of healthy relationships that Forshtay is able to connect students to professionals in the community, help them land jobs in the field, and equip them for a career infused with purpose.
Forshtay stepped into his role as a professor with a decade of experience in the agriculture industry, working for Silveus Insurance Group, the nation’s leading agricultural risk management agency. Over his ten years at Silveus, he worked in a variety of roles, including director of sales support and director of executive initiatives. These roles expanded Tobe’s ag network exponentially, introducing him to countless agricultural producers, ag professionals, and foundations that support the American farmer. Tobe actively collaborates with these area farm and business partnerships in order to identify sites for student internships – a key component of the ag business degree program.
As a result of his time at Silveus, Forshtay obtained a wealth of knowledge about agricultural policy. Additionally, he gained valuable experience with policy making while serving on the Agricultural Advisory Council to former U.S. Congressman Luke Messer. Forshtay also worked to represent the Silveus organization before lawmakers with the American Association of Crop Insurers.
“I loved my time with AACI. We would survey the impact of policy decisions on the farms throughout rural America, gather in Washington D.C. to discuss, and meet with members of the House and Senate, seeking to influence better policy for our growers. It was very rewarding work,” said Forshtay.
This has opened doors to host events with national agricultural leaders right here on campus.
As Forshtay worked to develop the Ag Finance course, he wanted his students to solve a real financial problem for a farm. In this process, Forshtay connected with his friend, Roger Smoker, who encouraged him to partner with Humanity & Hope United Foundation, a local nonprofit with ties in Honduras.
“Roger had worked with them on a few occasions over the years and had a heart for the organization. I was overjoyed to learn of their growing desire to establish a sustainable revenue stream in-country. So we received the charge to work on a business plan for a new cattle operation,” recalled Forshtay.
While the project was challenging, an impressive team of five agribusiness management students labored over and delivered a sustainable agriculture enterprise plan to assist underserved people groups in rural Honduras. Humanity & Hope received the plan and moved to launch the business later that summer. Through the experience, the students learned that agriculture is a universal language.
“We had planned on taking a group of students down to Honduras later this spring, as part of a Grace Go Encounter experience,” said Forshtay. Unfortunately, the plans to visit have been put on hold due to the pandemic, but Forshtay believes the connection with the organization will stand the test of time. “Perhaps we can look at that option in 2022,” he said. “They ought to have some pretty tasty beef by that time.”
And last but not least, Forshtay’s growing relationship with His Lord and Savior drives the core distinctive of the program. Forshtay grew up one of five boys in a loving Christian home. “We weren’t rich by the world’s standards, but we were rich in the Lord,” said Forshtay, whose parents faithfully showed him the value of a relationship with Christ.
Forshtay’s faith takes a front seat in every class he teaches. “I start each class in God’s word. Sometimes it’s a single verse, other times it’s a larger portion of Scripture. I truly believe that if we get our relationship with the Lord wrong, it really doesn’t matter what else we get right. I ask my students questions, like, ‘What does God think about you?’ and ‘What does He desire of you as you walk out this life here on earth?’ ‘What are you reading about God?’ and ‘What are you struggling to receive from Him?’ I share my own personal struggles and relate them to the journey my students are taking. My goal is not to just develop students who understand how to grow sustainable agriculture, but to develop students who know how to grow in their relationship with Christ.”
It’s Forshtay’s goal that in all aspects, his students Grow with Grace.
Learn more about sustainable agriculture and ag business degrees at Grace.