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2023 Young Farmer Excellence finalists announced

Date Posted: March 31, 2023

Michigan Farm Bureau is honored to recognize the up-and-coming leaders of Michigan agriculture. All 16 finalists for MFB’s 2023 Young Farmer Awards have been announced, including four in the Excellence in Agriculture category.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award is designed to recognize young farmers for their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau (applicants may apply as a couple or an individual).

The 2023 state winner will receive a three-month lease of a Michigan CAT skid-steer; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Annual Meeting to compete in the national competition. 

The four finalists for MFB’s 2023 Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award are:

Marcia Cripps — St. Joseph

A female young farmer smiling at the camera while standing in a field of sunflowers.

St. Joseph County Farm Bureau member Marcia Cripps is an agronomist, science educator and ag advocate with enough tech savvy to provide IT services for client farms, including automation processes to help farms operate smarter and smoother.

“I’m also the co-owner of Agfluence LLC and work to deliver quality marketing and software to agribusiness clients with the latest technology available,” Cripps said, referring to the business she and partner Ashley Davenport launched in 2020.

That’s the work that inspires some of her foremost achievements: “Reaching thousands of people through the internet and sharing my message of connecting kids of all ages to science through agriculture.”

Looking toward the future, Cripps said continuing to build Agfluence and making science education accessible to everyone are on top of her to-do list. Greasing those tracks is her continued involvement in Farm Bureau, citing specifically “the peer network and the ability to get direct help with pursuing my goals. 

“The friendships and connections I’ve made have been the most significant value of my Farm Bureau membership,” Cripps said. “Without that membership I don't think I would've met the mentors, friends and influential people I work with today. 

“I was new to the area and Farm Bureau was a fantastic vehicle to get me involved with the local community.”

Darcy Lipskey — Sanilac

A female young farmer smiling at the camera while standing in front of a red tractor.

Darcy Lipskey’s family — dad, brother and grandpa — raises corn, wheat, dry beans and alfalfa hay to feed and bed their cow/calf Angus beef cattle operation. Near Minden City in northern Sanilac County, the farm also boasts a small herd of Boer meat goats.

By day Lipskey is a soil conservationist, helping farmers in Michigan’s Thumb implement environmental stewardship practices on their ground — helping maintain that ground in the best possible condition.

She’s knit tightly into her community, taking particular pride in helping establish its Freeze Out Hunger program and offering agricultural education opportunities to the region’s young people.

Advancing both her cattle and goat herds with new genetics is a top priority moving forward, Lipskey said. “I also hope to continue serving the community I live in, through my job, volunteering and other opportunities.”

The ethic of selfless service that permeates Lipskey’s farm and community life has strong parallels in her Farm Bureau membership.

“My membership has given me the opportunity to have a seat at the table,” she said. “I have a stronger voice and continually gain knowledge about the industry I’m so passionate about."

Allan Robinette — Kent

A male young farmer smiling at the camera while standing in front of a wooden apple crate in an apple orchard.

Kent County fruit grower Allan Robinette farms off the northeast corner of Grand Rapids with his father and a pair of uncles. His primary role is orchard manager on the operation, which consists of 15 acres of apples, six of sweet cherries and two acres of peaches.

“I’m most proud of completing ProFILE — Michigan Farm Bureau’s Institute for Leadership Education — and MFB’s Academy for Political Leadership,” he said.

Robinette’s near-term priorities include expanding his Farm Bureau involvement and perhaps serving in local government — goals inextricably linked together.

“I find that the highest value of Farm Bureau is giving farmers a strong, unified voice as we advocate for our industry,” he said. “Farm Bureau membership gives me the agency to look out for my interests as a farmer.”

Chris & Jackie Sanford — Jackson

A male and female young farmer smiling at the camera while holding each other in front of a wheat field.

Jackson County farmers Chris and Jackie Sanford operate Sanford Family Beef, raising beef cattle and pigs and selling meat cuts directly to customers from their on-farm store. Rounding out the family are sons Colt and Lane.

By day Chris works for AgriKing as a beef and dairy nutritionist; Jackie is a senior chattel appraiser for Greenstone Farm Credit Services.

Their proudest achievements as farmers and involved community members have come in advocating for key quality-of-life components.

“Having the voice to speak up and push for local higher-education options at an affordable cost and community-based curriculum,” they said. “Working to find the best version of ourselves as parents, spouses and farmers by changing our mindset in our physical and mental health.

The same uplifting ethic informs their ambitions moving forward.

“We will lead by example for the next generation of farmers to see that you can make farming a career of joy, calm and fulfillment,” they said. “It doesn't have to be a life full of anxiety, depression or burnout in order to succeed.”

Together they find much of the motivation behind these goals wired into their Farm Bureau membership.

“Farm Bureau has given us the platform to help guide and impact our sons’ futures — and future generations — to thrive in agriculture.”


Follow the MFB Facebook page this week for announcements of the remaining finalists — and the overall winners this Friday, April 7.