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 Excellence in Agriculture category.
The Excellence in Agriculture Award is designed to recognize young farmers for their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau. Applicants may apply as a couple or as individuals.
The 2022 state winner will 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.
The four finalists for MFB’s 2022 Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award are:
Marcia Cripps is an agronomist at Lennard Ag vegetable farm, growing tomatoes, seed corn and 10,000 acres of chipping potatoes.
The St. Joseph County Farm Bureau member also collaborates with a business partner to head up Agfluence LLC, an agriculture media marketing company serving agribusinesses clients nationwide. It’s in that arena where she cards some of her proudest achievements.
“Seeing the kids I mentor go off to accomplish their goals, personally and professionally,” she cites as among the rewards of her endeavors, as well as sharing her agricultural and agronomic knowledge with a global audience through social media.
“My mission is to connect people to science through agriculture,” Cripps said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there and my goal is to help everyone scientifically decipher information by using agriculture as the example.”
She credits Farm Bureau as a stabilizing constant in her life — a consistent focal point through several moves.
“I have built a nationwide network thanks to my involvement,” she said, “in addition to lifelong friends that have turned into family.”
Kent County fruit grower Allan Robinette farms with his father, brother and two uncles. His primary role is orchard manager on the operation, which consists of 15 acres of apples, six of sweet cherries and four acres of peaches.
“I’m most proud of completing ProFILE — Michigan Farm Bureau’s Institute for Leadership Education — and MFB’s Academy for Political Leadership,” he said, adding that his near-term priority list is topped by aspiring to “grow my business and advance the interests of agriculture.”
And he sees Farm Bureau as an effective, efficient means to that end.
“My Farm Bureau membership gives me the agency to look out for my interests as a farmer,” Robinette said. “Our organization allows farmers to have a strong, unified voice in representing our industry to the world.”
Down in St. Joseph County, Emily Swift and her parents farm 100 acres of pumpkins, zucchini, summer and winter squash, eggplant, cucumbers, various peppers, green beans, soybeans and corn. With that menu it’s no surprise there’s also an agritourism sideline opening the farm for autumnal fun, including a nine-acre corn maze and play area for children.
Swift is also a claims specialist with a crop insurance provider, adjusting multiple commodities for growers across the country. She makes a point of taking insights gained from Farm Bureau seminars and applying them back at her home farm and community.
“Attending Young Farmer Leaders Conference, Voice of Agriculture and Growing Together, I’ve been able to aid in expanding our farm from a just a roadside market to now feeding those in need through local and state food banks, including our customers in farm activities, and looking forward to growth in the coming years.”
She’s also a proud, active FFA alum who loves working with students on leadership and career contests, encouraging them to push outside their comfort zones and better appreciate the industry pushing toward a brighter future.
“It’s also quite the accomplishment when you see students gain their confidence!” she said.
Her future plans include more Farm Bureau participation, growing the family farm and as an individual, “to best serve those in my community and promote farming and agriculture.”
She found in Farm Bureau a place to network with peers.
“The value of my membership has far exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I have found value in networking, seminars and conferences, support for our farm business and lifelong friendships. All are beneficial to self-improvement and strengthening our farm.”
Mark & Jamie Trowbridge
Mark and Jamie Trowbridge raise about 50 head 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 for providing them with opportunities to grow both personally and within their community, building vital leadership skills along the way.
Follow the MFB Facebook page this week for announcements of the remaining finalists — and the overall winners this Friday, April 8.