STERLING — There’s the John Deere 5425 she didn’t know how to drive, the FFA acronym she didn’t know the meaning of, and oh, yeah, the farm boy she was dating.
A lot can happen in six years.
And a lot did for Robyn Fogarasi, winner of the 2022 Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer Achievement Award.
Fogarasi and now husband Byron operate a 350-head beef farm in Arenac County that includes 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and hay. The operation’s grown three sizes in a few years, partly due to Robyn shedding her higher-education cloak for one containing Muck Boot insignia and green-and-yellow graphics.
In the rolling hills of Sterling, roughly 22 miles from Saginaw Bay, the 34-year-old shows Michigan Farm News around her farm, over her hills, and to guests that, yes, she now knows how to drive a tractor.
“I grew up in Flint, so there was no dominant agriculture whatsoever in my school or even within the surrounding areas,” Robyn said. “I never knew what 4-H was. I never knew what FFA was until I married my husband and came up to Arenac County. It's been a big cultural shock going from the city to here.”
On a cloudy morning in September, Fogarasi scoops feed for cattle and shovels poop.
“My husband's a great teacher,” said the Arenac County Farm Bureau member. “Now I even run the combine during harvests and take care of cattle — something I never would have dreamed of. I worked in the corporate world for 10 years before trading in my polished heels for some Muck Boots. Now, here I am.”
Here she is, said Byron, 36, who’s watched his wife evolve from working as a college financial aid director to planning the installation of on-farm solar panels.
“Before we met, I don’t know if she ever drove by a farm,” Byron told Michigan Farm News. “But now she’s always interested in it. She’s not really worried about getting out and getting dirty. She wanted to try new things, and she’s learned quickly.”
Robyn’s day-to-day farm activities include feeding livestock, cleaning barns and wellness checks for all the cattle. She also manages the farm’s custom-beef shop.
“Robyn’s got a different idea for things than I do,” Byron said.
“It gives you a different perspective on different things, like our beef shop, for example. I mean, it's an obvious thing. You grow it so why not sell it directly to consumers and make a little bit more money? Yet you've got to have somebody who’s got that vision and those people skills, and she's got that.”
YF winner’s future farm plans
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.
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 2023 AFBF Annual Meeting in Puerto Rico.
The farm plans to sell more direct beef via its Hartwick Land and Cattle shop. They also plan to move into a new building that can house about 700 head of cattle.
“We’re getting ready to put up a new barn next year, and we're going to have it all run by solar panels,” said Robyn, noting the new facility will contain manure dry-stack facilities.
Robyn stands on a pasture and smiles in between photos like she’s ready for the New York runway.
She’s surrounded by her children, Rose and Ryder, who hang onto their grandma for dear life while catcalling, well, their cats.
“And that’s why you wear your boots,” Robyn said to Ryder who maneuvers past some manure.
Robyn’s non-ag years are now a blur.
“I never will go back after being involved with agriculture and seeing the different aspects of agriculture,” she said.
“Had I probably grown up on a farm, my life would have been completely different compared to what it is now.”