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 Leader category.
The Young Farmer Agriculture Leader Award honors successful young agriculturalists who earn the majority of their income from a farm operation, for their outstanding leadership in Farm Bureau, farming and throughout the agricultural community.
The 2022 state winner will receive a lease on a New Holland compact tractor or utility vehicle from Burnips 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 Leader Award are:
Ottawa County’ Emily Boeve keeps a herd of almost 100 animals — Katahdin and Hampshire-cross sheep, and Dexter beef cattle — for breeding stock and club animals, but primarily to supply her business, Shamrock Meats.
“I sell retail pre-cut and packaged beef, pork, lamb, chicken and eggs — all from the farm,” she said, noting that the pig and poultry products come from other small farms nearby.
The farm is a family affair she works alongside her parents and brother; husband Matt and daughter Felicity help out when they can.
“Our new little one will spend plenty of time in the barns this summer,” she said. “Working with a young daughter and raising her to know where meat comes from — and teaching her why I do what I do — that’s a big accomplishment.”
Another tough goal achieved was sticking to the Shamrock plan even through pandemic uncertainty and related supply-chain issues.
“I hope to continue to be a leader for young people, just like I had as a kid. Sometimes they just need someone to show them the way, even if they don’t know it yet.”
Farm Bureau, she said, has helped her share her voice in agriculture throughout the state. Other benefits her membership has borne include program involvement, conference attendance, networking with peers and taking on leadership challenges.
Rita Herford farms in Huron County with her parents and brothers, raising more than 5,000 acres of sugar beets, corn, wheat, rye and black, navy and small red beans.
A seasoned Farm Bureau leader and ProFILE graduate, Herford in 2015 received the White House Champion of Change Women Empowering their Communities Award.
“In the future I wish to continue to be a voice for agriculture and to inspire young women striving to farm full time,” Herford said. “I remind myself daily that I am raising the future generation of our world and work to bring out the best leadership qualities of my daughters.”
She credits Farm Bureau for connecting her with countless farming peers across the state.
“We’ve shared our thoughts and ideas on how to better the farming community. Farm Bureau’s also been our voice when it comes to legislation and policy.”
Elaine Palm is a partner at Great Lakes Lamb LLC, her family’s Ogemaw County farm, comprised of raising sheep for breeding stock and meat, forage production and pasture maintenance. She also works as a community nutrition instructor for Michigan State University Extension.
A firm believer in leading from any seat, Palm feels people can influence the pulse of an organization from outside the official board of directors.
“It’s important to me to empower or cheer others in their journey toward personal or professional achievements,” she said, citing her experience in publishing others’ stories, supporting farm-friendly policies as a Farm Bureau and American Sheep Industry delegate, helping establish a national Promotion & Education committee, and encouraging appreciation and understanding between farmers and consumers.
She enjoys planning and executing Young Farmer events, including a financial seminar, comedy night and ag-business bus tours. Social media promotion and applying for supporting grant funds round out her event-planning acumen.
Her ambitions include completing an American Wool Assurance program to boost her flock’s marketing potential and the traceability of its wool. Palm is also combating food insecurity by exploring synergies between Harvest for All and Master Gardeners.
“Being a Farm Bureau member offers people a chance to gather with peers from other backgrounds,” she said. “That network can bring a business ahead when a person is actively involved in exploring the future.”
In Midland County Sarah Zastrow produces corn, soybeans, garden vegetables, maple syrup, eggs and honey alongside her husband and grandparents. But it’s off the farm where she’s made a name for herself as a certified exercise physiologist specializing in farm stress, reflecting a passion that’s become her calling and, increasingly, her livelihood.
“In the next 10 years I want to have 10,000 downloads on my farm stress podcast — ‘Throwing Wrenches Mending Fences’ — and smoothly carry out our farm succession plan,” she said.
Previously she launched her own business, Cultivate Balance, to help combat mental health challenges in the ag community.
“I teach farmers how to manage stress and build stronger relationships so the hardships of agriculture don’t weigh so heavily,” Zastrow said.
Other accomplishments include representing Michigan earlier this year in the national-level Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet.
As a Farm Bureau member, she said, her “leadership, networking and growth opportunities are endless.”
Follow the MFB Facebook page this week for announcements of the remaining finalists — and the overall winners this Friday, April 8.