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 Ag Employee category.
The Young Agriculture Employee Award recognizes farm employees and ag professionals for their contributions to the success and long-term profitability of their workplace. Nominees are also judged on their leadership involvement in Farm Bureau, agriculture and the local community.
The 2022 state winner will receive $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.
The four finalists for MFB’s 2022 Young Farmer Agriculture Employee Award are:
Chelsea Smith raises beef cattle, lambs, chickens, horses and honeybees in Missaukee County, plus 100 acres of hay for forage. Off the farm she works as a dairy herd information specialist for CentralStar Cooperative, helping dairies enhance profitability through improved recordkeeping, testing and artificial insemination services.
“My husband and I farm alongside my parents and sister — and our three amazing children help on the farm as well,” Smith said.
“One of my proudest accomplishments has to be all the kids I’ve helped through 4-H over the years. Teaching and being able to watch them grow into young adults is truly rewarding.”
Continuing down that teaching path is among her primary goals for the future, showing younger generations how agriculture can benefit their own lives. She also looks forward to learning more herself and putting that knowledge to use back home on the farm, with continued help from the organization she credits for part of her success to date.
“Gaining new friendships and having people to turn to when there’s a question, the value of Farm Bureau has played a huge part in my life.”
Chat Geoit works as a sales agronomist for Wilbur-Ellis in Three Rivers, working with seed corn, green bean, potato and row-crop growers on plans to maximize their efficiency, sustainability and returns on investment.
His OnMark certification through the company ensures clients an efficient farm-audit process as Geoit inspects organic cropping and humane livestock practices for poultry producers across the upper Midwest.
Originally from Lapeer County, where his parents Bill and Debbie remain, Geoit and his dog Finn have been in Kalamazoo County for five years now. Even from several counties away, he still prioritizes giving back to youth programs back home.
“I’m a sponsor of the Harold Gass Memorial Scholarship and serve on the selection committee for the Anthony Herbert Memorial Scholarship for Lapeer County FFA,” he said.
At work he looks forward to helping grow OnMark into 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 as a whole,” Geoit said. “It’s allowed me to network professionally and build relationships when I moved to a different part of the state.”
Andrew Heinitz works for Rhoda Farms, a 3,500-acre seed corn and soybean farm where he played a key role in updating the design of the operation’s grain-storage facility and is integral to management and equipment decisions.
“I’m a human Swiss army knife,” said Heinitz, a member of the Van Buren County Farm Bureau. “I work on the farm and do a little bit of everything from maintenance, equipment operations, spraying, planting and truck driving.”
A graduate of MFB’s elite ProFILE leadership development program, Heinitz has a deep resume of Farm Bureau involvement, from Promotion & Education to membership campaigns, legislative seminars and service on his county Farm Bureau’s board of directors.
In 2019 he took part in MFB and GreenStone Farm Credit Services’ joint Agricultural Leadership Exchange trip, visiting industry sites in Argentina.
“In the future I see myself continuing to be involved in my county Farm Bureau and striving to produce the best crops,” he said, crediting the organization with enriching his industry experience to date.
“I’ve had opportunities through Farm Bureau I wouldn’t have had without being involved — opportunities that have taken me places and introduced me to people throughout the ag community and given me new perspectives on agriculture.”
Kyle Rasch manages a 240-acre apple orchard with his parents in Ottawa County, where he noticed early a language barrier impairing worker relations and cutting into the farm’s efficiencies.
“Being able to speak Spanish is key to our farm’s success,” he said. “It’s something I’m especially proud of since I will be the first family member in six generations to bridge the gap separating us from our workers. I’ve worked hard on it and it’s paying huge dividends.”
His perspective includes a deep appreciation for the dedication his predecessors invested in the business.
“I take great pride in being the sixth generation,” he said, pledging to continue rounding out his experience and taking on challenging discussions, including the bigger-picture conversations Farm Bureau joins on behalf of its members.
“Being a Farm Bureau member means having my voice represented both legislatively in congress and in the public eye to better inform consumers.”
Follow the MFB Facebook page this week for announcements of the remaining finalists — and the overall winners this Friday, April 8.