The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Where Are They Now

By: Becky Smith, The Quill

Melissa (Blythe) Rhode is a 1991 La Harpe High School graduate and was salutatorian of her class.

She and her brother, Lance, are the children of Greg and Dianne Blythe of La Harpe. They are also the grandchildren of Gladys and the late George Eppley and Keith and Mildred Blythe, both deceased of La Harpe.

Melissa and Lance were members of the Durham United Methodist Church, Durham Dukes and Duchesses 4-H Club and were active in the La Harpe FFA Chapter and sports throughout high school. They both enjoyed showing livestock at the county and state fair. Melissa represented Hancock County as the 1991 Illinois Pork Industry Queen and promoted the pork industry throughout the state.

After high school, Melissa attended Illinois State University and graduated with a double major in Agri Business and Art. She was active in the ISU Block and Bridle Club, Alpha Zeta honor society, Alpha Gamma Rho RhoMate and was a founding member of the ISU Ceres Chapter.

Melissa is currently living in Carlock, Illinois and she is a Marketing Director for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

She began her career with Farm Bureau as the Boone County Farm Bureau Manager in Belvidere in 1996 and transferred to the Illinois Farm Bureau in 1999 in Bloomington.

During her 22 years with the Farm Bureau, she has held various management positions throughout the Member Services and Public Relations Division. She has been involved with membership recruitment and retention and was a part of the team when IL Farm Bureau witnessed an all time high in membership numbers at 420,483 members.

Melissa has been involved with the Young Leader Program and enjoyed assisting state and national Young Farmer and Rancher Award winners and working with young farmers across the state as well as across the United States at conferences and Agriculture Industry Tours.

Melissa assisted with the launch of the Collegiate Farm Bureau program which is now on nine campuses throughout the state of Illinois. She has been instrumental in working with various companies and forming partnerships to provide tangible membership benefits to Farm Bureau members. Benefits include savings on new Ford and Lincoln vehicles, hotel discounts, Great Wolf Lodge, prescription discounts, John Deere, Case IH and Caterpillar and most recently launched a web based platform and an iPhone App for Farm Bureau members to access over 302,000 discounts.

In the fall of 2016, Melissa was promoted to Illinois Farm Bureau Marketing Director where she now leads the organization's marketing team. Her team provides various marketing initiatives to support the five internal Divisions of Illinois Farm Bureau and externally with the 95 county Farm Bureaus across the state of Illinois. Melissa was also the first female in Illinois Farm Bureau to achieve the CAE (Certified Association Executive) designation from the American Society of Association Executives.

Melissa and her husband, Tyler, live on a grain and livestock farm in Carlock. Along with their three boys, they enjoy raising Angus and Simmental cattle. They also enjoy showing cattle, pigs and sheep at various county, state and national shows throughout the year.

Tyler is a Farmer and District Sales Manager for NuTech Seed.

Their oldest son, Garrett, is 17 and will be a senior at Normal West. He plays football and track and is active in 4-H, FFA and livestock judging.

Preston, age 14, will be a freshman at Normal West. He plays football and basketball and is also active in 4-H and livestock judging.

Their youngest son, Travis, is 9 and will be in the 4th grade at Carlock Elementary. He plays football and basketball and is active in 4-H.

Melissa and Tyler keep active attending their boys' various sporting events as well as their FFA, 4-H and Livestock Judging activities.

When asked if she had a most influential person, Melissa says "At each stage of my life, I was fortunate to have been surrounded by great people. I have been blessed with numerous mentors throughout my life and would not be where I am today without all of their guidance, support, prayers and love."