By Amelia Miller
LANSING — The finalists for MFB’s 2018 Young Farmer Achievement Award are Nathan and Shelly Allen (Shiawassee County), Michael and Casey Bozung (Van Buren), Bryan Heffron (Kent) and William Nofziger (St. Joseph).
The Young Farmer Achievement Award recognizes a successful young agriculturalist or couple, ages 18-35, who derives a majority of his or her income from an owned production agriculture enterprise. Recipients are recognized for outstanding achievement in the business of farming and leadership in the agricultural community. Finalists are hard working, intelligent planners whose savvy management skills have contributed to the success of their farm businesses.
The statewide winner will be chosen following interviews on April 6 to select the statewide winner. He or she will receive a Kubota tractor lease, $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate and an expense-paid trip to the 2019 AFBF Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La. to compete in the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award national contest, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
Nathan and Shelly Allen
Nathan and Shelly Allen were both raised in farm families, Nathan helping raise cattle and crops while Shelly was active in 4-H and helped on the family dairy. Both pursued off-farm employment, then set incremental goals to build their own farm businesses.
Today they raise beef cattle, calves and crops on more than 200 acres in Shiawassee County. They removed outdated buildings, modified existing barns to fit their livestock, implemented rotational grazing pastures and worked to maintain verification in the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).
Both Nathan and Shelly are active in the Shiawassee County Farm Bureau. Shelly serves on MFB’s State Young Farmer Committee.
They have two children, Audrey and Nolan.
Michael and Casey Bozung
The Bozung family raises beef cows, calves and crops on their 300-acre farm near Bangor in Van Buren County. Michael and Casey work together to feed and care for their 30 beef cows as well as to raise hay, corn, soybeans, rye and sorghum sudan grass. The couple began building their farm operation six years ago. Since then, they’ve updated buildings and equipment to build their business.
Michael and Casey are members of the Van Buren County Farm Bureau; Michael serves as the Young Farmer Committee chairperson. They havea three-year-old son, Miles.
Carrying on a family tradition, Bryan Heffron operates Heffron Farms and Heffron Farms Markets in Kent County in partnership with his father and brother. The business began with Bryan’s great-grandfather in 1921, then including livestock, crops a custom thrashing business and sawmill. Since then the operation has evolved to meet consumer demand, now raising grain-fed beef cattle and marketing that beef—as well as pork, turkey, chicken, fruits and vegetables—at four farm markets. The store has also ventured into an online retail market.
On the farm, Bryan manages employees and the cropping aspects of the operation. In the retail markets, he maintains all computer technology to support sales and inventory. He’s also passionate about giving tours of their farm and markets to show consumers how food is raised.
An active member of the Kent County Farm Bureau, Bryan and his wife Katie live near Ada with their children Tyler, Luke and Emma.
William Nofziger is carrying on his family legacy, a more than 150-acre farm raising broiler chickens and crops. He oversees the farm’s two full-time and two part-time employees who assist in day-to-day operations. William raises corn and soybeans in addition to more than 300,000 broiler chickens annually.
William’s involvement on the farm came alongside his father. Over time they added grain bins, a dryer and two additional poultry barns to the original farmstead. William assumed full control of the farm in 2014, when his father passed away. He is passionate about carrying on his father’s dedication to the poultry industry and has been committed to participating in poultry organizations and research to improve techniques.
William is a member of St. Joseph County Farm Bureau. He and his wife Jennifer have two daughters, Livie Rae and Lexi Jean.
Michigan Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Award program honors deserving individuals in the categories of Young Agriculture Leader, Achievement, Employee and Excellence in Agriculture. All finalists and award recipients will be recognized at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 99th Annual Meeting, Nov. 26-29, 2018 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.