LANSING — Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers (individuals or married couples), who do not derive the majority of their income from a personally owned agricultural operation but who actively contribute to and grow through their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture.
Kevin and Sarah Messing of Huron County are this year’s excellence winners. The newlyweds had a lot in common when they joined forces: dairy farm upbringings, deep involvement in 4-H and FFA, land-grant degrees on the technical side of the industry and a shared passion for farming.
Sarah works as a cattle and equine business manager for Zoetis, responsible for promoting the company’s animal health-care products at the farm and veterinarian level. She also coaches producers on proper vaccine protocols, herd record analysis and cost-saving opportunities.
Kevin provides agronomic and administrative consulting for Michigan Sugar Company, working directly with 80 grower-owners raising 15,000 acres of sugar beets annually. He also manages the personnel and operations of two beet-receiving locations to ensure sound, efficient over-winter storage.
Outside their day jobs, the Messings run a small crop farm, with a portion of the production dedicated to high-value, non-traditional crops for direct marketing to consumers and restaurants—niche production that’s both lucrative and conducive to broaching discussions about modern food production.
Both Kevin and Sarah are active participants in Farm Bureau programs, 4-H leadership and outreach efforts through their respective employers. Their common passion for uplifting agriculture’s public perception and informing everyday consumers about where their food comes from fuel their involvement in a wide range of activities aimed at bridging the gap of understanding separating agriculture from the overwhelming non-farm majority.
Their outreach efforts reflect their common priorities to combat misinformation skewing consumers’ perceptions of agricultural practices; advocate for immigration reform to secure an adequate, skilled and legal workforce; and minimize burdensome regulation stifling the industry’s growth potential.
The Excellence in Agriculture winner receives a Michigan CAT skid-steer lease, AgroLiquid gift certificate and a paid trip to the AFBF 99th Annual Meeting to compete in the YF&R Excellence in Agriculture Award national competition, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
The other Excellence in Agriculture finalists were Chad and Beth Gruden, Gratiot County; Becky Heim, Jackson County; and Claire White, Eaton County.