The HSUS Nebraska Agriculture Advisory Council
Local farmers, producers and other agriculture professionals join with The HSUS to foster better animal welfare and environmental stewardship
Meet the members of the HSUS Nebraska Agriculture Advisory Council, part of our emerging system of state agriculture councils.
Kevin Fulton grew up working on the family farm in Sherman County, Nebraska, and helping his father in his veterinary practice. He got his start in the livestock business at a very young age, first with pigs and chickens, then soon after with his first heifer at the age of 10. It was then that he started to develop a real passion for farming and raising livestock.
Today, Kevin operates Fulton Farms, a 2,800-acre organic grazing operation, where he produces and markets grass-fed beef and does custom grazing. This diversified livestock farm includes cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs, and horses, along with wheat and hay enterprises. Around the year 2001, he began transitioning the operation away from conventional practices in an effort to increase sustainability and improve the environment. Fulton Farms has hosted numerous individuals and groups from around the world on their unique "eco-ag" tours. In addition, Fulton Farms has an internship program for future farmers who want to learn about organic, grass-based agriculture.
Dr. James Keen
Keen is a veterinarian and infectious disease ecologist-epidemiologist with 27 years of teaching, research and field experience in livestock health, food safety, veterinary public health and emerging and zoonotic infections. He is author of 69 peer-reviewed scientific publications. After enabling and supporting Big Ag livestock production for decades, Keen had a 2007 epiphany and converted to become a strong supporter of livestock protection. This culminated in his whistleblowing of abuse of research livestock at the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE in 2015. Keen strongly advocates improved welfare of both research and industrialized factory farm livestock.
Jim Knopik grew up on a farm near North Star, Nebraska, a village that no longer exists. In 1967, he married Carolyn and they rented their own farm, eventually becoming one of the larger conventional farmers in the area.
After twenty years, they realized they were farming more for large companies, and it wasn't something they would ask their children to do. They downsized, began farming organically, and formed a group called North Star Neighbors which they now manage by marketing and delivering meat raised by their members. Jim actively works with others trying to establish fair and new markets for small farmers.
Jim and Carolyn have four children and eleven grandchildren all living within 30 miles of their home. Family and neighbors are their most important resource.
Doug and Krista Dittman own and operate Branched Oak Farm, a certified organic dairy with an on-farm creamery. The milk from their 30-cow Jersey herd is processed into artisan, farmstead cheese that has won numerous national awards for quality and taste.
Doug has farmed in Nebraska for 20 years. He has a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas and a Production Agriculture degree from North Central Kansas Vocational Technical School. He also attended the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. He has worked on farms and ranches across the U.S. and Europe, and has served on the boards of Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and Cornhusker Bank.
Jon owns and operates Open Sky Farm in Otoe County, Nebraska. Open Sky Farm uses sustainable practices to raise cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Jon grew up on a family farm where they raised cattle, hogs, corn, and soybeans. He went off to college and moved away, but after a 13-year hiatus, he could no longer ignore his desire to work with the land. He and his wife moved out to an old farmstead in 2011 and have been hard at work ever since. Jon continues to work full-time as a project manager where he oversees the acquisition of land for projects such as wind and solar farms. The only thing more important than his farming is his family, and Jon spends as much time as he can with his beautiful wife, Jamie, and their daughter, Clara.
Ben Godfrey raises pigs on the pasture at Paradise in Progress Farms in Fort Calhoun, serving customers in the Omaha area. The first in three generations to return to farming, Ben teams with local businesses such as Infusion Brewing Co., Benson Brewery and the Omaha branch of Whole Foods Market to feed his animals and divert materials from the waste stream. He does not physically alter his pigs and focuses on permaculture, rotational grazing and the use of local processors to minimize transport.
A veteran of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Program, Ben has a degree in computer science from the University of California-San Diego. He is a graduate of the Farm Beginnings Nebraska program, a member of The Alternative Growers Group and a board member of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society.
The council works jointly with the Nebraska Farmers Union, the second oldest agricultural organization in the state, to pursue market opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose agricultural practices adhere to animal welfare standards, as well as facilitate a dialogue with individual farmers, ranchers and the organizations that represent them.