By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Five Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Young Farmers are eligible for national competition after winning state contests during the organization’s 93rd Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.
Alysa Sanford of Springport claimed the title of Young Farmer Discussion Meet state winner after four rounds of competition including 33 fellow young farmers from across the state. She is a nutrition education grant coordinator for Springport Public Schools and grew up on a cash crop farm in Lenawee County.
The annual Discussion Meet challenges MFB members, ages 18-35, on current agricultural issues. Guest judges evaluate contestants on their timed analysis of each topic, delivery and cooperative attitude. Participants were eligible to compete in the state contest after successfully advancing in district meets.
Rounding out the top four state finalists were Nathan Prill of Bad Axe, Jasper Cunningham of Ravenna and Michael Genovese of Oxford.
Sanford received a $500 cash prize from Ford, and the choice of a trip to the John Deere world headquarters and factory in Iowa or a $500 Cabela’s gift card from AIS Construction Equipment.
Shiawassee County crop farmer Jamie Zmitko-Somers took home the Excellence in Agriculture Award. The award recognizes young farmers, either individuals or married couples, who do not derive the majority of their income from a personally owned agricultural operation but who actively contribute to and grow through their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture.
Zmitko-Somers, 34, and her husband, Don, live near Henderson and together work a 2,000-acre cash crop farm alongside his brother. For the Michigan Department of Agriculture, she works with companies seeking export markets, navigating the maze of international ag trade and promoting Michigan food and farm products.
Her efforts impact food processors, agribusinesses and growers by generating increased demand for their products.
Zmitko-Somers is an active Farm Bureau member, taking part in the Young Farmer, communications, membership and Promotion and Education programs, and has served on her county board of directors. Outside the organization, she is involved in several business, commodity and community service groups.
Competing for the same award were Tony McCaul of Ottawa County, Calhoun County’s Andrea Boughton and Jeremy and Stevie Lynn Glaspie of Tuscola County.
Zmitko-Somers received a prize package from Burnips Equipment Co., $500 from Ford and a prize from the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee (MSPC).
Shiawassee County grain farmer and mill operator Jamie Demerly was awarded MFB’s Outstanding Young Agricultural Leader Award for her outstanding leadership roles in Farm Bureau, agriculture and her local community. Demerly, 35, lives near Owosso with her husband, Chris, and their three children, all of whom are already involved in the family business.
She has worked her family’s third-generation farm for 16 years, raising more than 2,000 acres of corn, soybean seed, wheat, alfalfa, sunflowers and oats. For almost eight years she’s also been a part of Corunna Mills Feed, where most grains and seeds are directly marketed and distributed statewide.
Her Farm Bureau involvement includes work in the communications, Promotion and Education, membership and Young Farmer programs. A graduate of the organization’s ProFILE leadership development program, Demerly served on her county board, as a state annual delegate and on the state Young Farmer Committee.
Also competing for the Outstanding Young Agricultural Leader Award were Jason Fleming of Oceana County, Montcalm County’s Cheryl Strautz and Richard Baker of St. Joseph County.
Demerly received a trip for two to Poipu, Hawaii, sponsored by Great Lakes Hybrids; $500 from GreenStone Farm Credit Services; a prize from the MSPC; and a trip to American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 2013 annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
Rob West of Clinton County earned MFB’s Outstanding Young Farm Employee Award. Employed for the past 12 years at Michigan State University’s Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center, he tends a herd of 180 lactating cows and 150 replacement heifers. West, 31, lives near St. Johns with his wife, Erin, and their four children.
The award recognizes young farmers for their contributions as employees to the success and long-term profitability of the operations where they are employed. West received a prize package courtesy of Michigan CAT, $500 from GreenStone Farm Credit Services, a prize from the MSPC and a trip to AFBF’s annual meeting.
Competing for the same award were Andrew Heinitz of Van Buren County, Gratiot County’s Kevin Thiel and Joseph Ott of Lenawee County.
Finally, Gratiot County farmers Joshua and Samantha Humm earned MFB’s Young Farmer Achievement Award. Joshua, 32, and, Samantha, 24, live near Ithaca with their daughter, Isabelle.
The third of four sons and a fourth-generation farmer, Joshua Humm grew up on the farm and now works it side-by-side with his father. Together they farm more than 2,400 acres, with Humm shouldering most day-to-day operations; only major purchases and financial decisions are shared between the two.
Humm has extensive leadership experience with his county Farm Bureau as a board member, president and finance committee member. He has also served on Michigan Farm Bureau’s Sugar Beet and Dry Bean Advisory Committee and its Legal Defense Fund Advisory Committee.
Competing for the same award this year were Kerry Tucker of Allegan County, Ionia County’s Kurt Tubergen and Tracy and Laura Slieff of Genesee County. The award recognizes a successful young Farm Bureau member or married couple for outstanding achievement in the business of farming and leadership in the agricultural community.
The Humms received a prize package courtesy of Kubota Tractor Corp., $500 from Ford and a prize from the MSPC.
All winners will advance to their respective contests during the AFBF Annual Meeting Jan. 13-16.