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Meet Young Farmer Excellence award winners Mark and Jamie Trowbridge

St. Joseph County Young Farmers Mark and Jamie Trowbridge are just how Farm Bureau likes ’em: young and ambitious. Image credit: Megan Sprague, Michigan Farm Bureau
Date Posted: November 9, 2022

File this under ‘Better Late Than Never,’ because it took the better part of a century for Mark and Jamie Trowbridge’s piece of St. Joseph County to actually become a farm. More to the point, that ongoing transformation also required Mark and Jamie Trowbridge themselves, and the passion and drive they bring to their 80 acres of Leonidas Township.

Mark’s great-grandfather purchased the land in the 1940s but ended up working factory jobs in town instead of tilling the soil. Even so the parcel stayed with the family until a much later generation finally caught the farming bug.

That’s got its own story, too, because it was a something of an accident that led Mark back to the land.

“My high school was big on career-technical education,” Mark explained. “I wanted to take the building trades course but it was full so I ended up in ag tech instead.”

It was enough to set him onto a path to the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology at nearby Glen Oaks Community College, where he took up with the Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter, even serving as its advisor for a time.

With years of involvement in 4-H and FFA, Jamie grew up with a little more dirt in her veins. When the two of them joined forces a dozen years ago, their Farm Bureau involvement began and has been going strong ever since; both are still deeply involved in St. Joseph County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer program.

Mark is also a member of the current cohort navigating ProFILE, MFB’s advanced leadership development program, and is a regular fixture at county and state annual meetings, District 1 Young Farmer events and St. Joseph’s policy-development deliberations.

Today both work as flock supervisors for Miller Poultry, a large, vertically integrated poultry company based in Indiana that raises, processes and markets approximately 45 million chickens annually.

Their own farm consists of 50 head of registered Angus cattle and a growing custom-hay business primarily serving the surrounding Amish community.

“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.”

As the 2022 winners of MFB’s Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award, Mark and Jamie Trowbridge embody the kind forward-thinking ambition and leadership the program was created to recognize.

One form that leadership takes is in an assertive approach to membership recruitment. Asked how they pitch the value of Farm Bureau membership to prospects, Mark morphs smoothly into as seasoned salesman:

“What I say is, ‘Come and let us show you,’ I’ll give ’em a free membership so new members can take a risk-free test drive and let the organization sell itself.

“We paid for all our graduating seniors, then follow up and personally invite them to events over the following year,” Mark said with an air of no-brainer confidence that also informs the approach he’s bringing to service as a county-level leader.

Both he and Jamie credit Farm Bureau with providing them opportunities to grow personally and within their community. To that end they’ve been part of St. Joseph County Farm Bureau’s focusing on events aiming to engage community members outside the usual farm crowd.

An ice cream social at Burr Oak and AgCiting Days at the county fair — educational outreach for fourth-graders, similar to a Project RED — are proving to be enduring means of raising the county Farm Bureau’s profile.

“We want to do a movie night and dinner at the fair as well,” Mark said. “Those are on our to-do list.”

MFB’s 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.

As the state winners, 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.

This year’s other state-level Young Farmer award winners are Robyn Fogarasi of Arenac County (Achievement), Kalamazoo County’s Chad Geoit (Employee) and Sarah Zastrow of Midland County (Leader).

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