The finalists in this year’s Indiana Farm Bureau Young Farmer Achievement Award and Excellence in Agriculture Award come from different parts of the state, have different operations and participate in farming in different ways, but they all represent outstanding achievement and leadership in agriculture.
The YFEA award gives recognition to young farmers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation they own but who are actively contributing and growing through their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture. Participants are judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.
This year’s YFEA finalists are Tom and Jamie Schilmiller, Floyd County; Chris and Marah Steele, Adams County; and Nick and Julie Wenning, Decatur County.
Young farmers who earn a majority of their income from their farms are recognized through the Young Farmer Achievement Award. They are judged on their achievements in their farming operation and on their leadership abilities.
The finalists for the Achievement Award are Craig and Mindy Fruechte, Adams County; George and Carly Kakasuleff, Hamilton County; and Matt and Kristen Schafer, LaPorte County.
YFAA finalists Craig and Mindy Fruechte, Adams County, farm around 1,800 acres, raising corn, soybeans and alfalfa. They also have a few show hogs. Both have off-farm jobs – Craig, who has a degree in agribusiness, works for AgriStats in Fort Wayne, while Mindy, who has a nursing degree, is a case manager at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. They have two children, 6-year-old Mason and 3-year-old Brielle.
YFAA finalists George and Carly Kakasuleff, Hamilton County, farm with George’s family, raising corn, seed corn and seed soybeans. They have a 2-year-old son, Vince. George holds a degree in agronomic business and marketing and is a certified commercial applicator. Carly’s degree in informatics is a good fit for the farm as technology plays an important role in the operation.
YFAA finalists Matt & Kristen Schafer, Laporte County, farm with Matt’s father, uncle and brother-in-law. In addition to corn and soybeans, the farm grows seed corn, cucumbers, green beans and some wheat, and includes a feedlot. They have a son, Lucas. Matt’s knowledge of the planting process, such as buying inputs and creating planting intention maps, came in particularly handy in 2007 after his father was incapacitated after in an ATV accident. Kristen is a teacher who currently stays home with the couple’s young son and is looking for more ways to be involved on the farm.
YFEA finalists Tom & Jamie Schilmiller, Floyd County, live near Floyds Knobs. Tom works at Koetter and Smith, a company that recycles wood waste. Jamie is a stay-at-home mom to Lacy, 4, and Evan, 2. Baby Schilmiller 3 is due in late November.
The Schilmillers help Tom’s family’s farm, which includes hay, corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle, pumpkins and potatoes. The family sells the produce at roadside stands in the fall.
YFEA finalists Chris & Marah Steele, Adams County, have turned their dream of farming into a diversified operation that, besides corn and soybeans, includes pumpkins; a corn maze; freezer meat; soy candles; a market; special activities and crafts; and a concession stand. Chris also works as a salesman for a multi-state tire distributor while Marah, who was a kindergarten teacher until their second child was born, now runs the household and manages the agri-tourism operation. Their children are Carter, 7; Cooper, 5; and Mayah, 3.
YFEA finalists Nick & Julie Wenning, Decatur County, have a traditional row crop operation with his father, brother and aunt, but with a twist: They also raise freshwater shrimp. Nicholas also owns Wenning Excavating and Drainage, a business that puts in roughly half a million feet of field tile every year, digs basements, installs septic systems, and builds ponds and erosion control structures.
The Indiana YFEA winner receives a John Deere Gator (cash value: $8,000) courtesy of Farm Credit Services; $3,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance; and expenses paid to the 2014 national convention in San Antonio, Texas.
The state YFAA winner receives a $6,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance; 250 hours maximum free use of one M-Series tractor (and loader, if appropriate) courtesy of Kubota Tractor Corporation; the David L. Leising Memorial Award; and expenses paid to the 2014 national convention.
Runners up in both contests receive $1,000 cash prizes from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.
Winners in these two contests, as well as IFB’s Young Farmer Discussion Meet, will advance to the national Young Farmer & Rancher contests, where they will compete against young farmers from across the country.