GRAND RAPIDS — Gratiot County Ben Chaffin has a special souvenir to take home from Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) 2013 Annual Meeting, taking place this week in Grand Rapids: the organization's coveted Young Farmer Achievement Award. The award recognizes a successful young member or married couple for outstanding achievement in the business of farming and leadership in the agricultural community. Applicants are judged on their farm management ability and involvement in Farm Bureau and other organizations.
Chaffin, 33, lives and farms near Ithaca, raising sugar beets, corn, soybeans, dry beans, cucumbers, peas and haylage along with many organic crops. Ben is a third-generation farmer and works alongside his father and uncle. Many of their forage crops are marketed to nearby dairy farms.
In 2005, Chaffin earned his master's degree in agricultural economics from MSU and returned home to begin expanding the family farm. He now oversees daily farm operations, including planting, irrigation and harvest. Over the winter he focuses on evaluating the past year and planning for the future.
Chaffin has served Gratiot County Farm Bureau for many years, taking part in the Washington Legislative Seminar and other events to meet with elected officials. He participated in Gratiot County's Breakfast on the Farm event, helping attendees better understand cucumber cultivation.
Chaffin also helps promote Michigan agriculture by serving on the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee for the past eight years, including a term as president in 2011. He currently sits on the Farm Produce Insurance Authority board. Most recently he attended meetings of the Humane Society of the United States and Sierra Club in defense of modern agricultural practices. He is also an active member of His House Christian Fellowship in Mount Pleasant.
In the future Ben sees his farm growing in size and crop diversity. His primary concerns include water use, environmental regulations, and public perception of agriculture being manipulated by rhetoric from environmental groups.
Competing for the same award this year were Michael Noll of Sanilac County, Randi Clark of Lapeer County, and Jeff and Lisa Russcher of Allegan County.
Altogether 16 young farmers, ages 18-35, faced off Dec. 4 in four separate contests; all finalists received a prize package sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee. As winner, Chaffin receives a prize package courtesy of Kubota Tractor Corp. and $500 from Ford. He also has the opportunity to compete for the national Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award at the AFBF 2014 annual in San Antonio, Texas.
National-level achievement award winners may choose between a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or 2014 GMC Sierra pickup, courtesy of General Motors. They will also have paid registration for American Farm Bureau Federation's 2014 YF&R Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., Feb. 7-10, 2014. Runners-up will receive a Case IH Farmall tractor, a $2,500 cash prize and $500 in STIHL merchandise.
NOTE: Click here for photos; contact Jason Jaekel at 517-679-5444 for more information after Dec. 5.