Getting Personal: Kirk Builta

Getting Personal: Kirk Builta

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Kirk Builta of Mahomet, who graduated from the University of Illinois in 2007 with a degree in agricultural education and is now executive director of the Champaign County Farm Bureau Foundation, chats with The News-Gazette's Paul Wood.

You've achieved a lot in a variety of ag businesses.

I've served the Champaign County Farm Bureau Foundation as executive director since September 2015. Our foundation provides educational opportunities that impact the future of the food and agricultural community in Champaign County.

Our team raises funds to support and implement our Earth Partners Agriculture in the Classroom program, and our Foundation Scholars program. Each year, we educate thousands of elementary school students as to where their food comes from, all while extending over $60,000 in tuition assistance to Champaign County students pursuing degrees in agriculture.

Growing up on a farm outside Bellflower, what kind of values did you learn?

Being raised on a family grain and livestock farm you see, and learn, firsthand the value of hard work and dedication to your business. You learn to value the land and the opportunity that it gives you as a farmer, or in agribusiness, to help feed and fuel the world.

I also learned to value family; and through family I learned to serve others. I saw firsthand the importance of service and giving back to your community — both the larger agricultural community and our local community.

My parents and grandparents were all involved members of our community growing up, and I'd like to think I'm carrying that tradition on in my own way.

Do farmers have a strong commitment to the land they work?

Growing up in agriculture I've seen the special bond that farmers have with the land they work and the animals they raise. A farmer's commitment to land is one of the most important business relationships they have. They take pride in their work because farming is more than a job; it's their livelihood.

What skills did you learn at the University of Illinois?

As a small-town kid, the UI taught me a lot about the world, and about myself. Not only did my first class in Foellinger Hall have more students than my town had in total population, most of them came from different backgrounds and life experiences than I did.

Networking with diverse students allowed me to become more firm in my own beliefs and helped me to communicate with diverse audiences.

You were a member of FarmHouse fraternity. Did you make friends for life? Has that helped in your career?

FarmHouse fraternity has given me so much more than friends. In college, it was a place to call home with 40 other guys who shared similar values and backgrounds to my own. FarmHouse gave me a place to practice, and develop, my leadership skills and an environment where I learned a lot about myself.

Today, I still call the house at 809 W. Pennsylvania Ave. "home" and have friends across the country I communicate with regularly. Some on a weekly, or even daily, basis.

You also were in Alpha Tau Alpha professional fraternity, Collegiate FFA and ACES Student Council and chairman for the Student Advancement Committee and student representative for the ACES Alumni Association. How did you fit that into your schoolwork?

I feel as though my involvement in college prepared me for the hectic schedule I have now. Looking back, I'm sure that I could have spent more time focusing on schoolwork, but I wouldn't change a thing!

Tell us about your experience in the International Business Immersion Program in New Zealand.

I was able to travel to New Zealand over spring break as part of a combined class of students from the College of Business and the College of ACES. Throughout the class, and our trip abroad, we were immersed in the New Zealand Merino Wool Industry.

We were able to tour nearly every step of the wool process, including touring farms all the way to visiting with shop owners who sell high-end wool garments. While on New Zealand's South Island, we visited a local university, went whitewater rafting and even swam with dolphins — one of the best, and most terrifying, experiences of my life.

You say a Thomas Edison quote has always stuck with you. "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Have you lived that life?

I first learned this quote as a freshman at FarmHouse fraternity, and it's a mission that's stuck with me ever since. While I don't use this motto every day, it has come in handy many times in recent years.From addressing career changes to challenging others to see that opportunity is on the other side of disappointment or struggle, it's important to realize that anything worth achieving is worthy of extra effort.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

With winter coming, I'm ready to go anywhere warm!

What would you order for your last meal?

If I could order anything for my last meal, it would be my late grandmother's fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and her homemade noodles. Wash it all down with a smooth glass of bourbon (just don't tell Grandma).

Who are your favorite musicians, and why?

I'm a fan of music, especially country music. In my opinion, Garth Brooks is one of the best entertainers, storytellers and musicians of our time. However, my current playlist includes a little bit of everything from The Eagles to Reba McEntire, Eminem and a lot more!

What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?

I'm sure that my first job was working on my family's hog farm. I'm not sure that I got paid anything at the time ... but a few years later, it put me through college!

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Agriculture, People
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