By Amelia Miller
LANSING — Michigan Farm Bureau has named Chad Fusilier of Washtenaw County, Blake Gordon of Sanilac County, Kristi Keilen of Clinton County and Kristin Kubiszak of Van Buren County as the 2018 Young Farmer Agriculture Leader Award finalists.
The Young Farmer Agriculture Leader Award recognizes young agriculturalists, ages 18-35, with at least partial ownership in a farming operation. Top candidates display outstanding leadership within the Farm Bureau organization, their own farms and the agricultural community. These individuals not only strive for success in their own farm businesses, they also are leaders within the agriculture industry.
Finalists will compete in an interview process on April 6 to select the statewide winner. Each finalist will receive a $400 cash prize and a jacket compliments of the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. The winner will receive a lease on a New Holland compact tractor with a loader or a New Holland rustler 4wd utility vehicle from Burnips Equipment, a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate and an expense paid trip to the 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation FUSION Conference.
Chad owns and operates a direct market produce and flower farm with a direct sales market located on a busy state road in Washtenaw County. Chad oversees all business and growing operations on the twenty-three acre farm. He raises and sells flowers, produce including winter squash, pumpkins, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery, melons, and other vegetables. In December, the farm market sells wreaths and pine garland. Chad uses social media to market his business, including a Facebook page with more than 6,000 followers. He currently serves as the president of the MSU Collegiate Farm Bureau. In this role, he has been instrumental in initiating a Career Workshop which has assisted nearly 80 students prepare for future job interviews or career fairs by organizing a panel of industry professionals to meet with these students. Chad plans to graduate from Michigan State University in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness management and horticulture.
Blake and his father raise red wheat, soybeans, corn and sugar beets on 1,050 acres in Sanilac County. Working together, the Gordons have added a grain drying facility, grain storage, and chemical storage. Blake has been the driving force to incorporate the use of precision technology including a John Deere 2630 monitor with auto-steer in the tractors and combine. He worked to help the farm earn Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verification in both the cropping and farmstead systems. Recently, Blake worked with his father to make the decision to incorporate the business, preparing for the future generational transition of the farm. Blake is also an associate salesman for Pioneer. He serves as the Young Farmer committee chairperson for Sanilac County Farm Bureau. Blake holds an agricultural industries certificate from Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology.
Kristi is a fourth generation dairy farmer milking approximately 450 cows three times per day on her family’s Clinton County farm. The farm also grows grains and hay as feed for the cattle. Kristi manages the dairy portion of the farm, taking care of the calves, scheduling employees, and managing the accounting. Serving as the farm’s nutritionist, Kristi has worked to increase milk butterfat and increase daily milk production. The farm holds MAEAP verifications in the cropping, homestead and livestock systems. Kristi has served in numerous roles within the Clinton County Farm Bureau, including currently holding the office of president. She initiated reviving the Project RED agricultural education event, hosting more than 300 students from just one school district alone. In dairy industry organizations, Kristi serves as a mentor to other young farmers. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and Agronomy from Michigan State University. Kristi and her husband, Matthew have one two year old son, Brody.
Kristin manages three farm market retail stores as a part of her family’s fifth generation blueberry farm. The family raises 400 acres of high bush blueberries as well as custom harvests an additional 500 acres for local growers. The farm is also part owner in another blueberry farm located in two western U.S. states. As manager of the farm markets, Kristin manages the u-pick customers, ten employees as well as inventory for all three locations. For Kristin, there is no off season, as the main retail store is open two days a week through the winter to provide customers with frozen blueberries and strawberries and the farm’s own specialty agricultural products. While managing the farm markets, Kristin also takes on the role of educator, teaching her customers how their fruit has been raised. As the oldest of the fourth generation, Kristin works to be a role model for her younger siblings, working to sustain the family farm for generations to come. Kristin serves as chairperson of the Van Buren County Farm Bureau promotion and education committee. In this position she has been able to secure grants to plan an educational tour for farmers in her community. Kristin and her husband, Tylor, have two children, Molly and Tucker.
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, November 26-29, 2018 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.