All in: New IFB director has passion for ag

Farming, family elevator and Farm Bureau allow Ken Cripe to give "120 percent" to agriculture.

Ken Cripe of Vandalia serves as Illinois Farm Bureau’s new District 14 director. His district includes Clay, Effingham, Fayette, Marion and Montgomery counties. He operates a family-owned elevator, Cripe Grain Co., and also grows corn, soybeans and wheat with his brother, son and two nephews. (Photos by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

Ken Cripe said he’s always given “120 percent” to agriculture. It’s the only way he knows how to be involved.

Cripe got his strong worth ethic from his father, Bob, a first-generation farmer who also founded the family’s elevator business, Cripe Grain Co.

“My dad never really did take much of a vacation,” Cripe recalled. “He was either driving a truck or hauling cattle or hauling grain. It’s just been our way. And it’s paid off. We’ve got a nice grain elevator operation that’s been going for 53 years now, and we’ve grown our farm.”

Cripe grew up on a farm in Vandalia. He remembers driving a tractor at age 10 and plowing with a four-bottom plow on the ground his dad leased. At the time, his dad ran a corn sheller and grain business.

The family later moved to Bluff City, which is 2 miles east of Vandalia. His parents started building an elevator there on land his dad grew up on.

Cripe graduated from high school in 1974 — but had no desire to go to college. He just wanted to farm and help at the elevator. His parents insisted, and so he went. He received his associate degree in agriculture business and applied science from Lakeland Community College in 1976.

“After college, I knew I was coming back here to work because that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “It was in my blood.”

Video: IFB Director Ken Cripe discusses the ins and outs of managing his family's grain elevator in Bluff City. 

Cripe married his high school sweetheart, Martha, and they’ve been together for 41 years. They have two grown children, Shawn Cripe and Sarah Hill, and four grandchildren.

Today, Cripe works with his brother, Brian, and son and nephews, Jake and Ben, in operating the family grain elevator. They also farm together, growing corn, wheat and soybeans. His daughter owns and operates a beauty salon in Vandalia.

Cripe’s involvement in Farm Bureau dates back decades. He served on the Fayette County Farm Bureau Board of Directors for 31 years — 16 of them as president.

He described himself as “fortunate” to be nominated and elected to a two-year term representing IFB members in Clay, Effingham, Fayette, Marion and Montgomery counties. Cripe said he plans to meet with farmers in his district in the next month.

“I want to make sure they know I’m here for them,” he said. “They voted me in. I want to represent them the best I can. If there is a policy that comes up, or a problem that comes up with something – and there will be, there always is – we’ll handle it and get them some help.”

Cripe is also a member of First Christian Church in Vandalia, the local Moose Lodge, Masonic Temperance Lodge No. 16 and Ainad Shriners.

He and his wife enjoy snowmobiling. For nearly 40 years, he and his wife, children — and now their grandchildren — head to Wisconsin the day after Christmas for a snowmobiling adventure around the Tomahawk area.

“We’ve met a lot of good people from northern Illinois and even into Wisconsin,” he said. “We always look forward to visiting and catching up with them each year.”

During the summer months, they enjoy boating on a small lake in Vandalia.

These days, Cripe continues to drive trucks for the elevator business. Family involvement in the elevator operation has freed up Cripe’s schedule for Farm Bureau and other experiences.

He tries to remember what his dad told him before he passed away in 1997 at the age of 62: “We worked hard all our lives. It’s OK to enjoy a little bit of life. You should go out and travel and experience different places.”