Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner named Joliet Junior College alumnus and local farmer Philip Nelson as the new Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture in January. Nelson, who studied agriculture at JJC in the 1970s and received the 2012 JJC Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, began his first day of work on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
The newly appointed director owns a farm in Seneca and plans to keep the operations going as he works in Springfield.
“I think it’s important to live and breathe what our industry is all about,” Nelson said, adding that he has a great staff on the farm back home. He also plans to commute during certain times of the year.
As the new director, Nelson’s goals include establishing a better relationship with both Illinois consumers and farmers. Since agriculture is the top industry in the state with one million people in the field, Nelson believes the Illinois Department of Agriculture should play a role in strengthening and building the economy.
In the past, Nelson served as president of the Illinois Farm Bureau and has been active in community and agricultural organizations through his career.
In addition to his associate degree from JJC, Nelson earned an American FFA degree in 1978, graduated from the Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow Program in 1982, and completed the Illinois Ag Leadership Program in 1984.
Though it’s been a while since his days as a student in the agriculture program at JJC, Nelson said there are lessons he learned on campus that he still keeps with him today.
“I have a lot of fond memories of my time at JJC. It’s a great place to establish a good foundation in the agriculture industry and build a good work ethic,” he said.