ArizonaAgriculture’s Geldmacher Receives Teacher of the Year Award

By Angela Askey, Director of Marketing at Central Arizona College with contributions by Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: Karen Geldmacher, Professor of Agriculture at Central Arizona College was recently named Post-Secondary Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association. She was recognized for her efforts in making a positive difference in the lives of agriculture students both at Central Arizona College and throughout the state of Arizona.

“I admire and appreciate the outstanding Arizona high school agricultural educators who have championed our program throughout the years,” said Geldmacher upon receiving the award.

Karen Geldmacher receives Post-Secondary Teacher of the Year Award from Davida Nash, president Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association (far right). President Central Arizona College Doris Helmich (Left) joined them. 

Her kids, perhaps, explain best why Geldmacher is so suited for this recognition. “This may be the DNA talking, but she is a pretty awesome teacher,” said Geldmacher’s daughter, Robyn Ollerton Lawson, field technology specialist for Wilbur-Ellis Company.  “Mom is just a big kid when it comes to teaching - I mean a kid going to Disneyland for the first time. She lights up when there is a new soil or plant discovery, and practically shakes with excitement when there is something new to share with students to educate them in plants and/or soils science. To say she is passionate about agriculture and education is an understatement. I could go on forever. Her students all love her and that respect from them is invaluable.”

Geldmacher’s son suggests something similar. “What makes mom a great teacher is her passion for agriculture and her desire to teach,” explains Byron Ollerton. “She is always looking for new things to learn and she brings it to the classroom to share with her students. She truly goes above and beyond when teaching agriculture.”

Byron is earning a degree in Agriculture Technology Management with an emphasis in crop production from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He plans to become a pest control advisor, a field technology specialist or seed production. Robyn is working with farmers on Precision agriculture technologies.

A Passion for Agriculture

Geldmacher grew up in Mesa, AZ with her siblings, Kurt Geldmacher and Kris Johnson, during the 1960’s when Dobson south of Baseline was a dirt road. Her father was a dentist and her mother, a homemaker.

In 1964 the family purchased the Holy Joe Ranch in Aravaipa Canyon, north of Tucson. Geldmacher recalls spending weekends and summers at the ranch, where together as a family they raised cross-bred Brangus cattle. They built a ranch house and developed a sustainable operation consisting of working corrals, barbed-wire fenced and irrigated pastures, livestock/wildlife water tanks, rotational grazing systems, and citrus and pecan orchards.

It was a love of animals, plants and the great-outdoors that inspired Geldmacher’s passion for agriculture. After graduating high school she attended the University of Arizona and in 1980 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. This led to her first job with the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Coolidge, AZ designing irrigation systems for farmers.

During the construction boom of the 1980’s, Geldmacher worked as a sales representative for A&G Sod Farms covering the golf and landscape industry in Arizona. She was instrumental in working on the golf course project at Red Mountain Ranch in east Mesa, AZ.

A decade later, Custom Farm Service of Arizona hired Geldmacher as a customer service representative. She enjoyed creating their monthly newsletter and organizing various education events for local farmers. During this same time and for a total of 25 years, Karen was a partner in Tierra Verde and Bar U7 Farms. They grew upland and Pima cotton, durum wheat, alfalfa, pecans, pistachios and watermelons.

For nearly the past twenty years, Geldmacher has been teaching others about agriculture at CAC. She began her career at the college teaching plant science and soil science courses part time following the passing of Professor Dean Merrell in 1996. One year later she was hired as faculty at the Signal Peak Campus to develop multi-media plant science and soil science courses for CAC through a United States Department of Agriculture Grant and in 1999, Karen transitioned to a permanent faculty position with CAC.

While educating others, Geldmacher continued her own education and earned a Master’s Degree in Agriculture from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2001.

Currently, Geldmacher teaches multiple courses at CAC such as Natural Resources and Conservation, Plant Science, Soil Science, Agriculture Leadership Development, and Basic Surveying and Grade Staking. She has also served as a member of the college’s curriculum committee, Sheldon University Building Committee, Personal Development Committee and as a Faculty Advisor.

When asked about highlights to her career, Geldmacher stated, “During my career I’ve experienced many advancements in agriculture including seed genetics, precision equipment engineering, irrigation water conservation techniques and integrated pest management systems. I include this new technology in my classroom for our students.” She added, “I look at my responsibilities as an agricultural educator as an opportunity to meet great students and contribute to their personal growth and career success. I seek to inspire a passion for agriculture and our natural resources in every student. My favorite memories include student graduation ceremonies, observing personal achievements of our students and the realization of successful agricultural careers for our graduates.”

Geldmacher is a champion for agriculture in the state of Arizona and is proud of the number of CAC graduates working in professional agriculture professions throughout Arizona.

Geldmacher currently resides in Casa Grande, AZ with her husband, Mitch Laudal.

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