By TIM THORNBERRY
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky’s agricultural stars were shining bright at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual meeting, as Larue County’s Ryan and Misty Bivens received the Young Farmer & Rancher Achievement Award.
According to information from the Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB), “The award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.”
This is not the first time the couple has been recognized for their work in agriculture. They were named winners of KFB’s 2012 Outstanding Young Farm Family Award.
“We are ecstatic,” said Ryan Bivens. “It truly was humbling to stand before America’s best young farmers and ranchers and be chosen as the winner. At this level of competition, the best of the best are there, and we were proud to just win the state contest and be one of the top 10 in the nation. This has just reassured us that hard work and dedication does pay off.”
Misty Bivens, an agriculture teacher at Larue County High School, said it’s important to set goals for young farmers.
“If you don’t know where you want to be in five years, 10 years, et cetera, then it is hard to get there,” she said. “I would also say that if you are farming with your spouse as a single operation, without other family members, then make sure you work as a team.
“I am very proud of the fact that Ryan and I discuss the major management decisions together. I’m not there for the small day-to-day decisions, but for the major ones we always discuss them and determine what is right for our operation and for our family.”
The Bivens’ farming operation – which consists of 2,400 acres of corn, more than 1,900 acres of soybeans, nearly 1,200 acres of wheat, 250 acres of grass hay, 30 acres of alfalfa and 26 head of commercial beef cattle – began with 500 acres in 2002, after they married Dec. 26, 2001.
Ironically, Misty said was raised on a farm and swore she would never marry a farmer, “but obviously, Ryan changed that idea.” One common factor for both was their involvement in FFA.
“We both truly discovered our love for agriculture through FFA projects. I raised 34 acres of soybeans and a half-acre of tobacco as a high school sophomore, in partnership with my parents,” said Ryan. “My wife started a 4-H project of raising tobacco and beef cattle that she expanded upon joining FFA.”
He added they started their farming operation with nothing but a dream.
“We virtually started from scratch, with nothing more than a dream and business plan,” he said. “We succeeded in leasing ground for the 2002 crop year from an individual that responded to our initial ad in a local newspaper that read: ‘Ambitious young farmers looking for a start!’”
Today the couple work with more than 60 landlords they consider to be not only the lifeline of the business, but an extended family. Another thing that has been helpful to their success is involvement in the community, he said.
“We figured out quickly that if we were going to succeed, we needed to sell ourselves to the members of this new community,” Ryan said. “Our involvement through church, the county Farm Bureau, the school system and other community groups began to help our goal of becoming socially accepted in an area we now refer to as home.”
Neither grew up in Larue County, but moved there after she took a job following college. Today, the couple is raising two sons they hope will one day take over the farm.
“The best advice that I can give is to never, ever give up,” said Ryan. “No matter how lofty of a dream, goal or plan you may have, you have to work for it. You are going to hit bumps along the way, and it will not be an easy road to travel; however, in my own experience, I have found that we appreciate everything we have, because it has not been given to us. We have worked for it.”
The award comes with plenty of prestige and a few goodies. The Bivens will get their choice of either a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra, courtesy of General Motors, and a paid registration to the 2013 Young Farmer & Rancher Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 8-11.
KFB President Mark Haney said, “We are extremely proud of what Ryan and Misty have accomplished on their farm and at the Farm Bureau annual meeting. AFBF’s judges obviously saw what we already knew: they work hard, are passionate about agriculture and have developed a noteworthy plan for success.”
Ryan said, “We have had the goal of entering this competition for over 12 years, and by us winning this award, it proves that through hard work and dedication any goal can be achieved when you set your mind to it.”
For more information about the 94th American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting recently in Nashville, go to http://annualmeeting.fb.org