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Young Farmer Achievement finalists announced

The Young Farmer Achievement Award recognizes successful young farmers who derive a majority of their income from an owned production agriculture enterprise and showcases their achievements in the business of farming.
Date Posted: April 4, 2022

Michigan Farm Bureau is honored to recognize the up-and-coming leaders of Michigan agriculture. All 16 finalists for MFB’s 2022 Young Farmer Awards have been notified, including four in the Achievement category.

The Young Farmer Achievement Award recognizes successful young farmers who derive a majority of their income from an owned production agriculture enterprise, and showcases their achievements in the business of farming. Applicants may apply as a couple or as individuals.

The 2022 state winner will receive 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.

The four finalists for MFB’s 2022 Young Farmer Achievement Award are:

Garret Bartholomew

Garret Bartholomew farms with his parents Travis and Tricia Bartholomew in Kalamazoo County, operating a 200-head dairy with 250 beef steers and 850 total acres of corn, wheat, hay and pasture.

Selected as a finalist in Michigan Milk Producers Association’s Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperator program, Garret is focused on continuing to adapt the farm toward increased sustainability while also growing as a leader in advocating for Michigan agriculture.

He credits Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer program for his progress in networking with peers and enriching his leadership skills as an agricultural advocate.

Matthew & Alisha Gibson

Matt and Alisha Gibson farm in Kalamazoo County, operating an 800-head hog-finishing facility and raising approximately 600 acres of corn and soybeans. As the farm’s sole proprietor, Matt is self-employed while Alisha works as an assurance manager at Plante Moran, an accounting firm providing audit, tax, consulting and wealth-management services.

Purchasing the hog-finishing business at just 18 years of age ranks as one of Matt’s proudest achievements, but they both look forward to applying their base of farming knowledge and experience toward growing the operation.

“In the future, we would like to grow our operation to a size where our children could join the business,” Matt said. “In addition, we would like to incorporate irrigation and build a farm shop.”

He credits Farm Bureau with helping him build a network of like-minded peers across the state and enriching his sense of community within his own county and across the southwestern Lower Peninsula.

Robyn Fogarasi

“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.

And that doesn’t happen by accident.

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

Next among those goals is an increased focus on environmental stewardship.

“I recently completed the MAEAP verification process and I am working with NRCS and the Conservation District on implementing many different avenues on my farm to ensure we are on the fast track toward being more environmentally friendly.”

The kind of heads-down, grinding-forward determination necessary for building a profitable farm operation can come at a cost, but Fogarasi credits Farm Bureau for providing the support that makes it possible.

“When things go wrong you can feel very alone,” she said. “Farm Bureau has always been there to provide advice and support, and to help establish a healthy environment.

“From community involvement to leadership skills, Farm Bureau has invested so much in me and countless Young Farmers like me — keeping our farming generation going.”

Katelyn Packard

Katelyn Packard is a Washtenaw County dairy farmer milking 400 head alongside her grandparents, parents, brother and husband. The crop side consists of 900 acres of corn and hay, some wheat for straw, soybeans for rotational purposes and some cover crops for spring forage.

“I’m very proud of the success of our monthly on-farm, agritourism events,” Packard said. “They’ve been a fun way to share our farm and agriculture with the general public, while being financially sustainable because of the increased sales in our farm shop.”

That shop launched in 2020 for direct marketing of dairy co-op cheese and home-grown beef and chicken.

“I hope to continue to grow this side of the business and growing our on-farm events,” Packard said. “I also hope to one day process our own milk into consumer products to be sold on our farm.”

She credits Farm Bureau in two key areas.

“First, it has allowed me to make connections with others involved in agriculture across the state. Second, the Promotion & Education committee has given me an outlet for my passion to promote and share about agriculture.”

 

Follow the MFB Facebook page this week for announcements of the remaining finalists — and the overall winners this Friday, April 8.

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