Award Year

Philip Nelson was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm in LaSalle County. That’s where friends say Nelson learned the importance of hard work, dedication, and commitment to his family and community.

Nelson and his five siblings were all members of the Miller Township 4-H Club. Nelson served as president of the club and was County Federation president. He was a member of the 4-H Livestock Judging Team and a regular participant at the state fair.

Phil has been an outstanding spokesman and advocate for farmers in his local community, throughout the state of Illinois, and nationally through a variety of leadership roles. His knowledge of agricultural issues is highly respected, and his leadership has guided the agricultural industry through many tough issues facing farmers. He has helped bring together Illinois’s food and agricultural industries on many initiatives, including the food versus fuel debate surrounding ethanol production, genetically modified foods, and globalization and marketing challenges.

Nelson’s early 4-H experiences provided him with valuable leadership skills and laid the foundation for his life of service to the agriculture industry. He served as vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) from 1999 to 2003 and as president from 2003 to 2013. Nelson has used his leadership roles within the IFB to serve as a tireless advocate for 4-H.

Nelson has also made numerous contributions to his community and his profession through service on a variety of boards. Nelson was president of the LaSalle County Farm Bureau from 1993 to 1999; president of the Illinois Soybean Association from 1989 to 1991; vice president of the American Soybean Association from 1993 to 1994; director of the American Farm Bureau Federation from 2004 to 2013; and chairman of the American Farm Bureau Federation Trade Advisory Committee from 2009 to 2011.

Nelson has won many awards in his career, including FFA Star Farmer of Illinois in 1977; American Farm Bureau Federation’s National Outstanding Young Farmer in 1984; Jaycees of the United States Outstanding Young Farmer in 1991; and Joliet Junior College Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2012. In 2013, an Illinois House Resolution was presented to Nelson for his exemplary service to the state of Illinois as president of the IFB.

Today Nelson is the fourth-generation owner and operator of the grain and livestock farm where he grew up. He and his wife Carmen grow corn, soybeans, and alfalfa, and run a cow-calf operation.