In retrospect, Randy Rubenacker probably had an unfair advantage over the competition when he was presented the “Outstanding Agricultural Student of the Year” Award by the Rend Lake College AAA Department faculty and staff in 1978.
On-the-job training had played a major role in the life of the then 20-year-old Hamilton County native since he was 8 or 9. The early lessons learned were provided by his father, master farmer Richard Rubenacker.
Now the Rend Lake College graduate and second “Outstanding Ag” honoree has come full circle. Already a member of the Applied Science Division’s Ag Advisory Committee, Randy Rubenacker has been named to succeed his late father on the RLC Foundation Board of Directors.
“We could not be more pleased Randy has agreed to join the Foundation Board. The Rubenacker name carries a lot of weight and is highly respected in Hamilton County and the Southern Illinois area,” commented Pat Mitchell, RLC Foundation Chief Executive Officer.
“While Randy brings a lot of the same qualities and assets to our organization his father did, he is his own person and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and business experience. We are looking forward to benefitting from that expertise he adds to our outstanding group of community leaders.”
Randy Rubenacker and his wife, Deborah, live in Dahlgren. They are the parents of three children – Ricky, a sophomore at the University of Illinois; Rachel, a junior at Hamilton County Senior High School, and Robert, a seventh-grader at Hamilton County Junior High School.
Rubenacker is Owner-Manager of Rubenacker Farms Partnership, a row crop farm operation since 1987 with 8,500 acres in production. He also serves as President of Prairie Tile Systems, Inc., a farm drainage installation corporation in existence since 2001, and Rubenacker Farms, Inc., an over-the-road and grain trucking corporation formed in 2000.
Following Richard Rubenacker's sudden death earlier this year, Randy Rubenacker also moved up from Secretary to become President in March of 4R Corporation, a farm implement dealership which dates to 1987.
Demands on his time do not stop with the every-day workload. Rubenacker has been a member of the Hamilton County Board since 1997, serving as its Vice Chair since 2000 (through 2006), and was selected to join the State Fair Advisory Board in 2003.
He likewise has been Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District Director since 1983, Haw Creek Drainage District Commissioner since 1996 and Southeastern Illinois Regional Planning and Development Commissioner since 1997. Previously, he served as Hamilton County Economic Development Commissioner, 1984-87.
Rubenacker is a Licensed Instrument Airplane Pilot as well.
The newest RLC Foundation Board member gives credit to his father for many things, including the work ethic and work habits ingrained at an early age.
“Particularly in the agriculture business and grain farming, it is as much an art as it is a science. It is something you learn as you go along, and the earlier you learn it the better off you are. Being a farmer is all I have ever wanted to do since I was 8 or 9.
“I think both of my brothers – Rodney and Terry – felt the same way. We all went to Rend Lake College, got our degrees in Ag Production and started farming. He (Richard) was always good about giving us advice but letting us help make decisions.”
When Richard started Hamilton County Equipment in 1987, he found it necessary to spend more and more time managing that operation and turn the farm over to his sons. Randy, now 46, is three years older than Rodney and seven years older than Terry, who followed in his oldest brother’s footsteps when he was named RLC “Outstanding Ag Student of the Year” in 1985.
“He basically left us in charge of a farm operation between 3,000 and 4,000 acres,“ Randy recalled. “There was a lot of the decision-making left up to us. He delegated a lot of authority to us, although he was always around if we needed his advice.”
Connections with Rend Lake College staff have benefitted the Rubenackers following graduation. That would include Rend Lake College President Mark S. Kern, who raises beef cattle and joined the college faculty in 1968 as an Agriculture Instructor before moving up through the ranks as a Department Chair for Ag, Automotive and Architecture; Dean of Community Service, and Dean of Instruction.
Kern is an ex-officio member of the Rend Lake College Foundation, which boasts 23 Directors.
“The college always has been a good resource for us whenever we have needed to hire new employees for the farm or the dealership,” Rubenacker added.
“Even though I have always said the best training comes from on the job, the all-around education the student gets at a school like Rend Lake College is very important. That is especially true for classes like marketing, economics, your basic science classes and soils and fertilizers, although in this day and age ag chemical classes become ‘dated’ pretty quickly with all of the changes.”
Like Randy and brother Terry, RLC faculty members Terry Wilkerson (1992) and Brian Greer (1995) are past winners of the “Outstanding Ag Student” achievement. Other notables among the group include inaugural winner Vince Mitchell (1977), the current Hamilton County School Superintendent, and Mt. Vernon Township High School’s award-winning Ag Teacher, John Kabat (1982).