Osborn Barr Paramore (OBP), a full-service agency serving the agriculture and rural industry for more than three decades, recognizes winners of its second annual Rural Spirit Awards, which aims to give back to those who build, serve and inspire rural communities across the U.S. Split into three categories, the winners are as follows:
- Next Generation Leadership Award: Bryan Kasten of Troy, MO
- Rural Advocacy Award: Matt Schaller of Lapeer, MI
- Community Service Award: Martina Leforce of Berea, KY
“Our mission when we launched the Rural Spirit Awards was to honor the hard work of individuals throughout Rural America who are making a difference in their communities,” said OBP President, Rhonda Ries. “This awards program is unlike any in the U.S., and I’m pleased with this year’s winners. We look forward to naming three more next year.”
Bryan Kasten is the recipient of the Next Generation Rural Spirit Award. At age 11, Kasten founded a youth organization in 2015 called Kids that K.A.R.E. (Kindness Always, Respect Everyone). The organization recently changed its name to Youth Empowered Service Team, and its purpose remains the same: create a positive difference in the lives of others. Kasten’s efforts have impacted community members throughout the greater St. Louis region, including students at his school. Kasten has led fundraisers for families in need, organized events and initiatives to support organizations, and inspired his peers to make a difference in the world.
Matt Schaller is the recipient of the Rural Advocacy Rural Spirit Award. He is the President of Michigan-based non-profit organization Ag Community Relief, often referred to as the “Red Cross for Farmers.” Ag Community Relief’s goal is to bring relief to active farmers/ranchers who experience devastation across the United States by assembling volunteers and donations to help mitigate their suffering. The organization helps them get back to where they were before their disaster struck. Since its inception in 2017, Ag Community Relief has raised more than $750,000 in cash and valued supplies—including hay, feed, fencing, veterinary supplies, etc.—to help farms throughout the country.
Martina Leforce is the recipient of the Community Service Rural Spirit Award. Five years ago, Leforce established the summer feeding program Berea Kids Eat located in Berea, Kentucky. It has since been her mission to grow the program so that food is made available to children throughout the Appalachia region. Through established partnerships, Berea Kids Eat now feeds 22 local sites. Leforce also helped organize community gardens and a junior farmers market program, growing the intergenerational bonds between volunteers, farmers and Berea’s youth.
Each Rural Spirit Awards winner will receive $2,000 to donate to a non-profit organization of their choice––with donations made in the winners’ names. Additionally, each winner received an all-expenses paid trip to St. Louis, where they were publicly recognized during an awards celebration at OBP’s St. Louis office on Dec. 5.