Christine Tew leads the communications team at the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Growing up in a rural community and with the support of outstanding 4-H and FFA advisors and mentors led her to study agricultural journalism and agrtiourism at the University of Missouri (Go Tigers!) and eventually into the opportunity to work with the team at MDA.
While she's still developing cooking skills that don't involve takeout or a microwave, Christine usually has a stash of Missouri blueberries, lettuces, peppers and tomatoes in her kitchen - a great side effect of her love for U-pick operations, farm stores and farmers' markets. One of her favorites is Beggs Family Farm near her southeastern Missouri hometown.
Cliff Dolbeare is a communications specialist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Cliff grew up on a row-crop farm in west-central Illinois. His love of food (and a desire to outdo his older sister) led him to the FFA. Cliff developed a deep appreciation for agriculture on his family farm and in the FFA and decided to combine those with his “gift of gab” for a degree in Agriculture Education-Communications at Iowa State University (go Cyclones!).
After spending time in the United States Army, Cliff and his family longed for Midwestern agricultural life. Cliff is excited to work in the George Washington Carver Building because his favorite food is peanut butter. When he’s not spreading the good news of Missouri agriculture, Cliff enjoys eating both peanut butter and non-peanut butter related-foods, as well as taking photos. He also likes to run and hike in central Missouri’s hilly terrain with his family and dog.
Karen Ratay is owned by three teenagers and two dogs. So it was no surprise to anyone when she started gardening for therapy. This year she’s tending a healthy and fruitful tomato bed, a strawberry patch and a shade garden around the front of her house. She also has a passion for African Violets.
As a former newspaper editor, photographer and a farmers' market founder, she enjoys traveling the state to visit and photograph the bounty of Missouri farms and the creations of local artisans. Her mission…helping ag business grow by spreading the good word about Missouri agriculture through the AgriMissouri program.
Karen enjoys long-table meals with family and good friends, trying new recipes with her kids and the occasional but all-to-rare good cup of coffee with her grandmother.
She never met an apple she didn’t like.
Charlie Hopper is a marketing specialist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Originally from Maryville, he grew up in the garden and kitchen with his father. Charlie spent seventeen years in Kansas City as a landscape designer and working in community development. He also spent seven years in Appalachia working in rural development and sustainable land use where he had an organic vegetable operation on the side.
Now you can find Charlie promoting both rural and urban agriculture throughout the state. When not working directly with farmers and community groups, you can often find him street preaching the gospel of local food at farmers' markets and workshops. In his travels he has also become an adept stalker of organic, heirloom and local food vendors.
Jenny Brooks is a marketing specialist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture's Ag Business Development team. She was born and raised in mid-Missouri (a Columbia native) and attended Hickman High School and the University of Missouri-Columbia . Her connection with agriculture comes originally from her father who farmed in Ashland, MO all his life.
She lived for two years in Tennessee working as an account manager for Kellwood Company, an apparel manufacturer, before returning to Columbia. There she began working for MBS Direct, a textbook and course materials provider, as a Client Services Representative and finished her tenure as a Marketing Specialist for the K-12 Schools Division. Within the 12 years that she worked for MBS, Jennifer received her MBA from William Woods University as an evening student, ran two and half marathons (in Chicago and Nashville), and Co-Chaired the Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink fundraising events for two years, and began gardening with her mother. Jenny enjoys running when she has spare time, gardening and visiting farmers’ markets, and spending time with her family (husband, two sons, a daughter, two Cairn Terriers and a parakeet).
Laura Tucker works as the Business Development Program manager for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. She was raised on a small horse and cattle ranch in Southwest Missouri where she spent her time team roping, team penning and barrel racing, as well as brush hogging, hauling hay and cleaning stalls-loving nearly every minute of all of it.
After spending her first couple of years in college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, she returned to Missouri and received her BA in English from University of Missouri-Columbia. Since graduation Laura has spent her time traveling to various places and moving around from one spot to another, but Missouri has always been home. Laura believes that no matter who you are there is something in agriculture for you, and she wants to help you find your place.
Now you’ll find Laura participating in seemingly competitive gardening with her neighbors, all the while blaming her failed crop solely on the runaway squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood. Her only children are six jade plants, and a big, sweet, slobbering chocolate lab. Laura still enjoys riding horses and makes it home to see her family as much as possible, but these days she tries to skip the whole stall cleaning thing.
Sami Jo Freeman
Proudly raised in rural Lincoln County, Mo., Sami Jo Freeman put her interests in agriculture, photography and writing to work while studying agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri. From there, she found her first “big kid job” with the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, as the director of communications and membership for a group of passionate cattlemen and women – a position that ultimately led her to the communications team at the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Outside the office, Sami Jo’s most exhilarating moment came during a trip to New Zealand where she bungee jumped from 134 meters in the air and jumped from a plane at 12,000 ft in the air within a single 24-hour period.
Sami Jo is also a proud owner of a rescued lab & terrier mix named Lucy, who occasionally prefers the name Goose.