LANSING — Michigan Farm Bureau has announced the winners of the 2018 Young Farmer Awards, in the categories of Achievement, Excellence in Agriculture, Agriculture Leader and Agriculture Employee.
Achievement Award - Bryan Heffron
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.
“I have many goals for myself as well as our operation over the next few years,” said Bryan. “Career wise, I’d like to raise all of our farm yield averages even more then we have in the past few years. I would like to see a farm average of 200 bushels per acre on corn, 65 bushels per acre on soybeans and 100 bushels per acre on wheat. I think these yields are achievable given my education on crop production, increases in management techniques and modern technologies that are becoming available.
“On a personal level I would like to run for a township office. We live in an area that is affected by urban sprawl, and I would like to be able to help give a farm perspective to what happens in my township.”
An active member of the Kent County Farm Bureau, Bryan and his wife, Katie, live near Ada with their children, Tyler, Luke and Emma.
Bryan receives 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 contest, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
Excellence in Agriculture Award - Theresa Sisung
Theresa works as the advocacy and outreach director for the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan. In this role, she relies upon her agricultural background to manage the organization’s outreach, livestock, water quality and production-related programs. She has implemented a new program to provide young farmer-aged corn growers tools and networking to be more successful within their own family farms. In addition, Theresa represents the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan on several industry-wide organizations including the Michigan Ag Council, Breakfast on the Farm Committee and the Great Lakes Crop Summit.
“In addition to my role working with farmers at the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan, I’m involved in my family’s farm and own some farmland in partnership with my parents,” said Theresa. “I also handle all of the photography, videography and graphic design for our cattle operation and attend cattle shows across the country with my family and our customers. I’m a member of the Michigan Shorthorn Breeders Association, Michigan Shorthorn Lassies and National Shorthorn Lassie Association. I serve as vice president of the county Farm Bureau board, am the membership chair, serve on multiple committees and attend events such as the annual meeting, Lansing Legislative Seminar, Project Rural Education Day and Voice of Agriculture Conference.”
Theresa receives a three month lease of a Michigan CAT skidsteer, a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate and an expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana to compete in the Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture Award competition sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
Agriculture Leader Award- Kristi Keilen
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 dailyproduction.
Kristi has served in numerous roles within the Clinton County Farm Bureau, including currently holding the office of president. She initiated reviving the Project Rural Education Day 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.
“My leadership goals for the next five years are to bring back more volunteers and involve more Farm Bureau members,” said Kristi. “I would love to figure out what makes the members tick and want to be involved in Farm Bureau for all of the different age groups. The future of Farm Bureau lies in the members and especially the future generation. I think making sure the young farmer program is growing and effective is key.
“I would also like to become more involved in the state level Farm Bureau and government events and speaking to my legislators. I need to be more confident about reaching out to them and inviting them out to my farm so they understand what I do.”
Keilen and her husband, Matthew have a 2-year-old son, Brody.
Kristi receives 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 sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
Agriculture Employee Award - Lyndsay Earl
Lyndsay is employed as a member representative with Michigan Milk Producers Association dairy cooperative. In her role, Lyndsay works with dairy farms ranging from 10 to 1,500 cows. Earl assists farmers in monitoring milk quality, delivers training on effective, healthy milking procedures and provides recommendations on overall cow herd health. Lyndsay also supervises an internship program offering a work-based experience for second-year veterinary medicine students.
“The motto of the century old milk marketing cooperative where I have been employed for nearly nine years is to market our members' milk to the greatest advantage possible,” said Lyndsay. “Our member-owned cooperative provides a milk market and a guaranteed milk check to all 1,100 of its members, regardless of the stability or volatility in the milk market. Services that we offer include Grade A compliance inspections, equipment evaluations, standard operating procedures development and milker training schools.
“With the struggling milk markets, and the ever-growing demands from customers purchasing our product, the necessity for high quality milk has never been greater. By providing farmers with training opportunities for both themselves and their employees, we can ensure the milk leaving their farms is excellent quality day after day.”
Earl is actively engaged in agricultural education efforts within Mason County and at the state level through Michigan Farm Bureau’s State Promotion and Education Committee. Lyndsay, her husband, Seth, and their two daughters, McKenzie and Madisyn, reside in Ludington.
Lyndsay receives $5,000 off the first lease payment on a 100-horsepower or larger tractor from GreenMark Equipment, $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate and an expense paid trip to the 2019 AFBF FUSION Conference sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.
Michigan Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Award program honors deserving individuals in the categories of Young Agriculture Leader, Achievement, Agriculture 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.