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2022 Young Farmer Award winners announced

2022 Young Farmer Award winners (clockwise, from top left): Robyn Fogarasi, Chad Geoit, Sarah Zastrow, and Mark and Jamie Trowbridge.
Date Posted: April 15, 2022

Four outstanding Young Farmers who competed with 12 other contestants in four categories – Achievement, Employee, Leader and Excellence – have been announced as winners of Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) 2022 Young Farmer Awards: Robyn Fogarasi, Chad Geoit, Sarah Zastrow, and Mark and Jamie Trowbridge.

Every year Michigan’s best young farmers, ages 18-35, face off in categories geared toward measuring their agricultural involvement, leadership and achievements. 

“Michigan Farm Bureau is blessed to have such a dedicated and talented group of Young Farmers who are working to improve their communities and better Michigan agriculture,” said Megan Sprague, MFB’s Young Farmer program specialist. “These winners exemplify the hardworking, committed, passionate character of Michigan agriculture.”

ACHIEVEMENT: Robyn Fogarasi

The Young Farmer Achievement Award recognizes successful young farmers — individuals or couples — who derive most of their income from an owned production agriculture enterprise and showcases their achievements in the business of farming.

“We started from the ground up,” and in ten short years Robyn Fogarasi and her husband Byron’s Arenac County beef farm has grown from fewer than 100 to almost 400 head of beef cattle, and their cropland has quadrupled to 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and hay.

“I’ve worked hard to establish the trust and respect of local farmers who have provided us with many expansion opportunities,” Fogarasi said. “A determined mindset keeps us both working hard to achieve our goals.”

That determination can come at a cost, but Fogarasi credits Farm Bureau for providing the support that makes it possible.

“Farm Bureau has always been there to provide advice and support, and to help establish a healthy environment,” she said. “Farm Bureau has invested so much in me and countless Young Farmers like me — keeping our farming generation going.”

The other three Achievement finalists were Garret Bartholomew (Kalamazoo County), Matthew and Alisha Gibson (Kalamazoo) and Katelyn Packard (Washtenaw).

As the state winner, Fogarasi receives a lease on a Kubota tractor; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business/estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Annual Meeting to compete in the national competition, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

EMPLOYEE: Chad Geoit

The Young Agriculture Employee Award recognizes farm employees and ag professionals for their contributions to the success of their workplace, and their leadership involvement in Farm Bureau, agriculture and the local community.

Chad Geoit is a sales agronomist for Wilbur-Ellis in Three Rivers, using his OnMark certification to provide growers with efficient auditing of organic cropping and humane livestock practices.

He’s lived in Kalamazoo County five years but still supports youth programs back home in Lapeer County, where he sponsors the Harold Gass Memorial Scholarship and serves on the selection committee for Lapeer County FFA’s Anthony Herbert Memorial Scholarship.

Geoit wants to help OnMark become a major player in the certification game nationwide, and credits Farm Bureau for helping prepare him to contribute no matter where he’s stationed.

“Farm Bureau lets me be involved in and make an impact on the agricultural community,” he said. “It’s allowed me to network professionally and build relationships when I moved to a different part of the state.”

The other three Employee finalists were Andrew Heinitz (Van Buren County), Kyle Rasch (Ottawa) and Chelsea Smith (Missaukee).

As the state winner, Geoit receives $5,000 off the first payment of a lease or installment on a 100-horsepower or larger tractor from GreenMark Equipment; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business/estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF FUSION Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

LEADER: Sarah Zastrow

The Young Agriculture Leader Award honors successful young agriculturalists who earn the majority of their income from a farm operation for their outstanding leadership in Farm Bureau, farming and throughout the agricultural community.

Sarah Zastrow and her family produce corn, soybeans, vegetables, maple syrup, eggs and honey in Midland County. Off the farm she’s made a name for herself as a farm-stress guru, reflecting a passion that’s become both her calling and her livelihood. Her business, Cultivate Balance, strives to combat mental health challenges in the agriculture community.

“I teach farmers how to manage stress and build stronger relationships so the hardships of agriculture don’t weigh so heavily,” Zastrow said. “In the next 10 years I want to have 10,000 downloads on my farm stress podcast — ‘Throwing Wrenches Mending Fences.’”

Other accomplishments include representing Michigan earlier this year in the national-level Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet. As a Farm Bureau member, she said, her “leadership, networking and growth opportunities are endless.”

The other three Leader Award finalists were Emily Boeve (Ottawa County), Rita Herford (Huron) and Elaine Palm (Ogemaw).

As the state winner, Zastrow receives a lease on a New Holland compact tractor or utility vehicle from Burnips Equipment; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business/estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF FUSION Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

EXCELLENCE: Mark & Jamie Trowbridge

The Excellence in Agriculture Award is designed to recognize young farmers — individuals or couples — for their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau.

Winners Mark and Jamie Trowbridge raise a small herd of registered Angus cattle at their cow-calf operation in St. Joseph County, plus approximately 100 acres of hay. Both work as flock supervisors for a large, vertically integrated poultry company that raises, processes and markets approximately 45 million chickens annually.

Their cattle farm is all their own, however, and begun from scratch as first-generation farmers.

“Our goal is to continue to grow our farm so one day it can be self-sustaining and allow us to both work there full-time and live off it,” they said. “We plan to continue to be part of Farm Bureau and increase our involvement in the organization, and our county fair.”

They credit Farm Bureau with providing them opportunities to grow both personally and within their community, building vital leadership skills along the way.

The other three Excellence finalists were Marcia Cripps (St. Joseph County), Allan Robinette (Kent) and Emily Swift (St. Joseph).

As the state winner, Mark and Jamie receive a three-month lease of a Michigan CAT skid-steer; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business/estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Annual Meeting to compete in the national competition, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

 

Media Contacts
Megan Sprague headshot

Megan Sprague

Young Farmer Programs Specialist
517-679-5658 [email protected]
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