Contact: Jason Jaekel, 517-679-5444
LANSING — Eager to take their place alongside their elders, the next generation of Michigan farmers face off at Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) 2014 Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids. Thirteen young farmers, ages 18-35, will face off in four individual contest categories geared toward measuring their agricultural involvement, leadership and achievements.
Contestants vie in four award categories: Outstanding Young Farm Employee, Young Farmer Achievement, Outstanding Young Agricultural Leader, and Excellence in Agriculture.
All finalists will receive a prize package sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Prize information for winners of the individual award contests follows.
Contest winners will be announced at an awards banquet Dec. 2. State-level winners of the Achievement and Excellence awards are eligible to compete in national competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) 96th Convention and Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 10-14, 2015.
MFB's 2014 Annual Meeting takes place Dec. 2-4 at the Amway Grand Plaza and DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. MFB is Michigan's largest farm organization, representing the interests of more than 46,500 farmer members statewide.
NOTE: Individual contest descriptions and contestant information follow. Visit /annual for contest results and photos from the awards ceremony.
The Outstanding Young Farm Employee award recognizes a successful young farmer for outstanding leadership in farming as an employee. The winner receives a prize package including a lease on a skid steer, wheel loader or telehandler from Michigan CAT; $500 from GreenStone Farm Credit Services; and a trip to the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention and Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Kevin Thiel — Gratiot County Farm Bureau
Kevin Thiel, 32, has worked for eight years at DuPont Pioneer, first as a research associate and now as an account manager, directing sales across the central and northern Lower Peninsula. The St. Louis resident also provides agronomy services and mentors 25 sales professionals. He enjoys challenging sales and service opportunities, and looks forward to adding associates to improve his territory's agronomic, forage, precision ag and sales expertise. Once realized, these moves will help drive additional services and better satisfy growers' needs and expectations.
Thiel is currently third member of the Gratiot County Farm Bureau's board of directors. He's an active Young Farmer—previously chairing the committee—and involved as a membership recruiter, state annual meeting delegate and Project RED participant. Outside agriculture he enjoys golf, hunting, fishing and attending MSU athletic events with friends and family.
As account manager, Thiel strives to lead his staff and growers to maximize their efforts as he works toward increased managerial responsibilities. He plans to pursue graduate-level agronomy and business studies, and crop advisor certification.
In the coming years, Thiel sees three key issues affecting agriculture: improved education to combat misinformation and antagonism toward modern agriculture; increased ag research funding for both public and private institutions; and enhanced grower education efforts concerning current and future government regulations.
Andrew Bahrman — Hiawathaland Farm Bureau
Andrew David Bahrman, 19, recently graduated from Northern Michigan University's welding program and now works at Michigan State University's AgBio research station in Chatham, the Upper Peninsula Research Extension Center (UPREC). The facility tests different crop varieties for their suitability to the Upper Peninsula's unique soils and climate.
Bahrman's roles at the UPREC vary daily depending on weather conditions and crop development; they include preparing land for planting, seed organization, planting, documenting crop growth, harvesting, preparing for special functions, farm maintenance and soil testing. This year's experiments reflected increasing interest in malting barleys, cover crops, potatoes, oats, wheat, corn and field peas.
Bahrman has been involved with Farm Bureau since he was a child, attending meetings with his parents. He serves on Hiawathaland Farm Bureau's Young Farmer Committee and the board of directors in addition to his involvement in membership, Promotion and Education, and attending Young People's Citizenship Seminar.
Outside Farm Bureau Bahrman enjoys hunting and fishing, snowmobiling, and working in the woods with his grandfather when he isn't occupied on his family's farm, raising sugar beets, potatoes, hay, corn and beef. In his local community Bahrman is involved in fund-raising activities for his church and helps maintain the local cemetery.
In the future he hopes to obtain full-time employment at UPREC while continuing to work on his family's farm.
Nathan McGuire — Antrim County Farm Bureau
Nathan McGuire works Royal Farms Fresh Market and Winery, his family's diversified fruit-growing operation near Atwood in Antrim County. Begun in 1996 by his aunt and uncle, Sara and Patrick McGuire, the operation now has under cultivation 800 acres of sweet cherries, tart cherries, apples, peaches and corn. Three years ago the operation started brewing hard cider and launched a winery. The farm market offers the operation's fresh fruit and beverage products.
McGuire is in his junior year studying agribusiness management at Michigan State University, with a minor in agronomy. He works on the university farms on south campus, tending 1,100 acres of corn, wheat and alfalfa.
McGuire stays busy between school and both jobs. Responsibilities at the family farm are three and half hours north of East Lansing, but he tries to get home and work as much as possible. He's up north almost every fall weekend, and resumes a similar schedule about a month before the spring semester ends.
His wide variety of responsibilities on the farm includes everything from managing employees to doing field work. At MSU he performs a lot of equipment operation and maintenance.
After graduating from MSU in the fall of 2016, McGuire plans to return to his family's farm, where he's looking forward to opportunities to help grow the operation into a larger business and continue its success in fruit and cash crop cultivation.
Zach Stewart — Clinton County Farm Bureau
Zach Stewart lives near Bannister with his wife Sarah and their three children—Payton, Isabella and Lucy. He's an integral part of Stewart Farms LLC, a swine and cash crop farm where he's worked almost three years, with responsibilities ranging from nutrient application to planning and implementing herbicide management programs. Originally trained as an electrician, he returned home to the family farm to pursue his dream of raising a family on the land where he grew up.
Stewart Farms is a wean-to-finish operation marketing approximately I0,000 hogs annually, and raising com, soybeans and sugar beets. Stewart oversees equipment maintenance and works closely with the owner in observing livestock health. He handles most of the spring and fall manure applications, documenting the rates and location of applications—and the weather forecast to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. Winter months are spent cleaning driveways, thawing pipes and keeping a high-tech pig barn comfortable for its inhabitants.
After pigs go to market, Stewarts readies the building for a new batch of piglets by overseeing its cleaning, repair and sanitization. Springtime brings planting, putting a halt to most other non-critical operations. Stewart fits the fields, does any last-minute manure applications, and launches into planting and spraying, determining application rates for row-crop herbicides, scouting for field problems and applying fungicide later in the season.
Stewart is involved in the Young Farmer program, hopes to seek a board position when the time comes, and garnered additional experience at Boys State and through the Lansing Area Manufacturing Partnership.
Key issues ahead for Michigan agriculture, Stewart feels, include immigration reform, animal welfare and improving rural infrastructure: broadband Internet, three-phase power and natural gas.
The Outstanding Young Agricultural Leader award recognizes a young farmer who has demonstrated leadership in Farm Bureau, agriculture and their community, all while managing a successful farm operation. The winner receives a $5,000 seed voucher from Asgrow /DEKALB Seed; $500 from GreenStone Farm Credit Services; and a trip to the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention and Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Ashley Messing-Kennedy — Huron County Farm Bureau
Ashley Messing-Kennedy, 27, is the third generation on her family's 275-head dairy farm near Bad Axe. She is the herd manager and part owner with her parents Greg and Shelly; her husband Eric manages a 2,000-cow dairy near Deckerville. Messing-Kennedy and her parents handle all daily management, raising young stock, finishing beef animals and raising feed. They also raise 700 acres of hay, corn, wheat and dry beans.
As herd manager, Messing-Kennedy monitors all aspects of livestock well-being, from record keeping to business planning and daily herd-health tasks. In 2013 she and her parents installed four robotic milkers, then adapted the farm's management style accordingly. She and her husband are now working on their first building project—a new barn for 100 calves with robotic feeders.
Messing-Kennedy jumped into Farm Bureau after graduating from MSU, a natural progression toward involvement at the local, state and national level. As chair of Huron County Farm Bureau's Communication Committee, she has been instrumental in launching and maintaining its Facebook page. She won the MSU Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion Meet and represented Michigan at the National Collegiate Discussion Meet. Outside Farm Bureau, she serves on the Michigan Dairy Advisory Board.
In her spare time Messing-Kennedy blogs at www.messykennedy.com, combining ag and non-ag topics to reach a broad audience. She helps plan Huron County's Project RED, is active in the Ubly FFA Alumni and coaches Ubly FFA Dairy Judging. When she isn't working or writing, she and her husband are busy remodeling their century-old farmhouse; they also hope to start a family soon.
Messing-Kennedy wants to remain a strong voice for agriculture and stay involved in Farm Bureau at every level. Her concerns for the industry's future include better defining sustainability, convincing farmers to tell their story and bringing future generations back to the farm.
Paul Pyle — Ottawa County Farm Bureau
Paul Pyle, 32, helps operate Pyle Dairy Farm near Zeeland, alongside his father David and brother Nathan; grandfather Bertus still helps with calves. He and his wife Nancy have five children. Pyle and his brother represent the farm's sixth generation, working land that's been in the family for 166 years. They milk 140 Holsteins, raise their own replacement heifers, and raise 265 acres of corn¸ alfalfa and wheat.
Pyle's role centers on nutrition and herd health; daily responsibilities include feeding cows and heifers, scraping alleys, breeding and diagnosing sick animals. Everyone helps with field work, maintenance and planning for the future. An expanded dairy facility built 10 years ago enabled the farm to double its herd and increase per-cow production by more than 30 percent. They've won numerous quality awards from Michigan Milk Producers Association.
In his fourth year on the Ottawa County Farm Bureau board of directors, Pyle is active in policy development, membership and communications. He has attended several legislative seminars, leadership trainings, legislative breakfasts, and served as a state annual meeting delegate .
Off the farm, Pyle is involved at Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church, where he has served as a deacon and now as treasurer. He also enjoys softball and all the other things families with kids do—playing outside, biking, swimming and gardening. He is part of the Young Progressive Dairy Group that meets at different farms throughout western Michigan for educational tours and networking.
Pyle's goal is to serve wherever he's called by his God, his family, his farm and his community. He strives for balance among them all while still producing high-quality products and growing the operation.
Ed McBroom — Iron Range Farm Bureau
Ed McBroom lives and works on the dairy farm where he was born and raised, near Waucedah in Dickinson County. He farms with his parents, his wife Sarah and their four children, and his brother Carl and his family. Together they farm 700 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat, and milk 110 cows.
Ed and Carl comprise the fourth generation of the family farm, begun by their great-grandfather in 1917. They currently milk in a double-eight parallel parlor and are in the process of expanding their 170-cow free stall barn to add freshening pens and stalls for dry cow and springing heifers. The expansion is leading toward their plan to install robotic milkers in the near future.
McBroom studied music education and social studies education at Northern Michigan University. While working on the farm and substitute teaching, he got involved in Farm Bureau, initially through the organization's Young Farmer program. In 2007, he was appointed to MFB's state-level Young Farmer committee and the state policy development committee. At Iron Range Farm Bureau's 2009 annual meeting, he was formally approached by Friend of Agriculture Rep. Tom Casperson to run for the Michigan State House of Representatives. He was elected in 2010 and has served two terms there, focusing his efforts on issues related to education and agriculture.
Beyond farming and government, McBroom and his family are very involved in their local church, where he teaches Sunday school and leads music. He directs the Norway City Band, and serves as livestock chairman and milk house superintendent at the Upper Peninsula State Fair.
The Young Farmer Achievement award acknowledges a young farmer who has made significant progress in the growth of their operation since they began farming, with emphasis on their dedication, progressive management, long-term vision and plans for managing resources. The winner receives a prize package including a lease on an M-Series tractor courtesy of Kubota Tractor Corp.; $500 from Ford; and the opportunity to compete for the national Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award at the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention and Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Jeramie Ziola — Saginaw County Farm Bureau
Jeramie Ziola, 33, lives near Chesaning with his wife Leslie and their two children. He and his father raise 50 head of feeder cattle and grow 900 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, milo, sunflowers, oats and hay. On his own the fifth-generation farmer raises 100 acres of non-GMO corn and soybeans. For the past three years, the father-and-son duo has also operated a small field-tiling company.
Ziola came home to farm in 2006 after working on a custom harvest crew out of state. He now manages the farm's data, tracking trends from year to year, mapping tiling projects and running the tile plow.
In 2008 he launched his non-GMO sideline, renting land in exchange for tiling work. His operation is verified in MEAEP's cropping system, and he's working toward both farmstead and cropping verifications for the operation he shares with his father.
The ProFile graduate served a year on Saginaw County Farm Bureau's executive committee. He's also in his sixth year chairing the county's Young Farmer program, which he and his wife resurrected following years of dormancy.
Off the farm, Ziola keeps busy with the Saginaw County Conservation District, helping with the annual tree sale. At home he and his wife maintain a substantial vegetable garden and greenhouse. They love camping with their children, who are already learning about farm operations, equipment and safety.
Ziola plans to tile all of his and his father's ground, expand his non-GMO acreage, and grow their cattle herd by adding pasture. His goal is to expand the farm enough to support his children if they choose to become a part of the operation in the future.
Michael Noll — Sanilac County Farm Bureau
Michael Noll, 35, and his wife Jordan are the fourth generation operating a 2,000-acre crop and dairy farm near Croswell. Together they're raising four children—Jacob, Joey, Rece and Riley—in addition to corn, soybeans, sugar beets, navy beans, wheat and alfalfa. They milk 310 cows and keep 150-200 head of beef cattle. He credits much of the farm's success to the diversity of its production.
Noll oversees the crop operation and shares livestock responsibilities with his brother. Since he began farming full time in 1998, the dairy herd has quadrupled and their crop acreage has doubled. That means a lot more work, but it's also enabled them to hire full-time employees.
Noll is in his fifth year on the Sanilac County Farm Bureau board of directors, currently serving as president. He's taken part in MFB's Washington Legislative Seminar, sits on a state-level committee tasked with examining immigration reform, and is currently taking part in ProFile.
Outside Farm Bureau, Noll puts a high priority on family time. He and his wife are actively involved in showing beef cattle with their children. He enjoys attending their children's sporting events and coaching youth basketball.
Noll hopes to see his sons and nephews merge into active roles on the farm and see that fifth generation take on increasing responsibility. Making that dream a reality, he feels, will require continued commitment to expanding the operation.
The Excellence in Agriculture award recognizes a young farmer who contributes and grows as a leader through their involvement in Farm Bureau, agriculture and their local community. The winner receives a prize package including a lease on a New Holland tractor or utility vehicle from Burnips Equipment Co.; $500 from Ford; and the opportunity to compete for the national Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture award at the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention and Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Melissa Humphrey — Clinton County Farm Bureau
Melissa Humphrey, 32, and her husband Josh have two boys, Ethan and Drew, and agriculture plays a key role in the family's livelihood. She is a senior financial service officer with GreenStone Farm Credit Services; he is a herdsman at a 1,500-head dairy.
Humphrey's experience is rooted in her dairy-farm upbringing and a string of agribusiness internships while attending MSU, with United Agri-Products, Michigan Agricultural Statistic Service and Monsanto Dairy Business. She also served as president of the National Agri-Marketing Association. Her work with GreenStone centers around helping farmers and other rural residents secure financing for farm improvements, home building and land acquisition.
With the Clinton County Farm Bureau, Humphrey assists with the Family Fun at the Farm event, helping non-farmers better understand agriculture. She volunteers at the county fair to help educate young people about Michigan crops and livestock, and furthers those efforts as a member of MFB's state Promotion and Education committee.
Outside Farm Bureau she enjoys golf, family time at the lake and volunteering for Clinton County 4-H and the Fowler Eagles PTA. She is a member of the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Lansing Association of Realtors and the Greater Lansing Home Builders Association.
Humphrey hopes to continue in leadership roles at GreenStone and as a community leader, farm advocate and ag volunteer. Consumer education, farm transition planning and water quality are the priority issues she feels will impact agriculture's near future.
Joel & Janna Fritz — Huron County Farm Bureau
Janna and Joel Fritz live near Bad Axe with their boys Wesley and Zachary. She grew up in suburban Chicago, riding and training American Quarter Horses; he's from a four-generation family farm near Pigeon.
Together they own and operate JDF Farms—900 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans and dry beans. Joel handles farm management and does custom planting, spraying and combining. Janna is a district sales manager for Monsanto's DeKalb and Asgrow brands in the eastern Thumb, responsible for sales, supply and distribution, marketing and customer relations.
Since the family farm transition two years ago, Joel has earned verification in MAEAP's cropping and farmstead systems. He increased on-farm grain storage and implemented precision planting and advanced weather monitoring. He hopes to continue expanding the farm by improving management efficiencies to increase yields.
Joel and Janna have more than 12 years of Farm Bureau involvement, participating in Young Farmer events and both state and county annual meetings. Janna is involved in Promotion and Education, public policy and communication programs, and currently serves on the Tuscola County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Janna serves on the Michigan Corn Growers Association Board of Directors. Closer to home she's involved locally with the Thumbs-Up 4H Club and St. John's Lutheran Women's Society. Joel has served on the Cooperative Elevator Company Board of Directors and is current president of both the St. John's Lutheran School Board and the Home and School Society.
Joel, Janna and their boys are avid Disney fans and enjoy camping, running and visiting family. Janna plans continued development in her off-farm work and leadership advancement in both Farm Bureau and Corn Growers. Joel aims to further his leadership at Cooperative Elevator and maintain involvement in Farm Bureau.
Abbey Dorr — Van Buren County Farm Bureau
Abbey Dorr, 33, and her husband Andrew Nesbitt live and farm near Lawton, comprising the third generation of a family farm producing 600 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and grapes. They also maintain a small dairy and raise 11 acres of vegetables for fresh-market sale at a roadside stand.
For almost eight years Dorr has served the Cass County Conservation District as its MAEAP technician, helping producers evaluate and mitigate potential on-farm pollution risks. In addition to helping farms achieve MAEAP verification, she also helps educate surrounding communities about agriculture and modern farm-management practices. Dorr also serves as MAEAP's livestock specialist in southwestern Michigan, assisting producers with manure management and right-to-farm issues.
Her Farm Bureau involvement includes work in the organization's communication, Promotion and Education, membership and policy development programs. A graduate of ProFile and the Great Lakes Leadership Academy, Dorr has served on MFB's state Young Farmer committee and took part in the organization's 2013 international study mission to Ukraine. She helped create Van Buren County Farm Bureau's Facebook page and 'AgVenture' exhibit, helped plan Young Farmer picnics and represented both the Young Farmer and Promotion and Education programs on the county board.
Outside Farm Bureau, Dorr is active with her local FFA Chapter as an advisory committee member and contest judge. She is also active in 4-H as well as with a local antique tractor club.
From her perspective, the three key issues facing agriculture in the near future are immigration reform, energy and ag education for consumers.
Jeremy and Stevie Glaspie — Tuscola County Farm Bureau
Jeremy and Stevie Lynn Glaspie, both 31, are raising daughters Violet and Monroe near Munger in Tuscola County. Jeremy is the agriscience instructor and FFA advisor at Tuscola Technology Center in Caro, offering students real-world experience through a working livestock facility, two greenhouses and a land laboratory. Stevie is an inspector in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division, focusing on feed/food safety in six counties.
Stevie's work helps protect the food supply by safeguarding farms against invasive plant pests. She provides regional support for field-level technology and assists with identifying insects. Jeremy is growing agriscience at the Tuscola Technology Center; the low-enrollment program when he started with now has a waiting list. More than $85,000 in grants for facility construction and equipment help him teach the relevant skills students need for a future in agriculture. His resources include a hydroponic lettuce and tomato greenhouse, a 40-by-80-foot animal facility and a four-acre rotational grazing pasture.
Stevie serves on the Tuscola County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and is involved in membership, communication and Young Farmer programs. Jeremy is active in Promotion and Education, Project RED, policy development, candidate evaluation and Young Farmers.
At home the couple maintains a large garden and laying hens. Jeremy serves as a regional representative on the Michigan Association of Agriscience Educators' Board of Directors.
Their future goals include purchasing a small farm and continuing to pursue Farm Bureau leadership roles. Stevie wants to continue working in agriculture as a civil servant. Together they hope to help streamline young people's entry into Michigan agriculture.