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Oklahoma Agricultural Hall of Fame
Keith Kisling-2018

Giving up his position of four years as vocational-agriculture teacher at Burlington High School seemed like the right move at the time to a 28-year-old Keith Kisling. Many of the farmers in the area were approaching retirement, so land would likely be available for leasing. Kisling was surrendering a salaried position for a job with two paydays a year: one when the cattle come off wheat and the other when harvested wheat is sold. Still, it seemed like a good move. He believed in agriculture.

Now as full-time farmers and ranchers, Kisling and his wife Marlene have built a thriving agricultural operation growing wheat, wheat pasture, cattle, irrigated corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, grass hay and sorghum. The couple also operated a feedlot for stocker cattle. 

Kisling's operation employed three individuals, as well as himself, before he started transitioning his operation to his son Chad. The feedlot today is used to start the stocker cattle before they go on the winter wheat to graze and gain weight.

Kisling irrigated a field of alfalfa and corn silage and bought corn to feed the cattle when they came off the winter wheat in March, and then sold by June 1.

However in addition to his roles in production agriculture, Kisling, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, has and continues to champion the ag industry not only locally and statewide, but nationally and internationally.

Kisling has been a member of the Burlington Cooperative for more than 50 years. He served on the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and the U.S. Wheat Associates board, holding the positions of chairman, vice chairman and secretary on the latter. During that time, Kisling traveled to Cuba four times.

Representing the wheat-growing community as vice chairman of Value Added Products, the frozen dough plant in Alva, Kisling spoke to the U.S. House of Agriculture Committee on Closed Co-ops. VAP was created as a closed co-op with the goals of complete vertical integration, plant to plate, and creating product lines using Hard Red Winter wheat from the region. Kisling even traveled to Germany to purchase the specialized equipment necessary for the plant.

He has never hesitated to lend his time and voice to agriculture.

Kisling was one of the closing speakers at the World Trade Summit in Sharm EI Sheikh, which is located between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. The Summit hosted dignitaries from 20 Middle Eastern countries. In his time with U.S. Wheat Associates, the farm-raised Oklahoman traveled to 17 countries to help maintain old markets and open new markets to buy United States' produced wheat.

He has served on the Oklahoma Farm Bureau board of directors since 2014 and served for four years as Oklahoma’s representative on the American Farm Bureau Federation wheat committee. In 2006, the Kisling family was chosen as the OKFB Farm Family of the Year, and Keith received the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from OKFB the same year. 

In 2006, he received the Oklahoma Wheat Commission’s Staff of Life Award for Exceptional Leadership and Marketing, in 2008 he was presented with the "Mr. Wheat" Award from the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, in 2010 he was awarded OSU’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni award, and in 2014 he received the Triangle Insurance Lifetime Achievement Award. Kisling served as chairman of the Oklahoma FFA Foundation from 2014-2016 and now serves as past chairman. Kisling has served on the Oklahoma Agriculture Mediation Program board since 2014, and he is a past president of the Oklahoma Plains Grain board. Kisling was also appointed by then-USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to serve on the Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture Advisory Committee from 2010-2016. The committee examined the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA, and provided guidance to USDA. 

Keith and wife Marlene have been married 49 years, raising three children and now also enjoying eight grandchildren. For almost 50 years, Kisling has been a member and leader in the Driftwood Christian Church.