INDIANAPOLIS — Finalists have been selected for Indiana Farm Bureau’s 2021 Young Farmers & Ag Professionals awards – the Excellence in Agriculture Award and the Achievement Award. These state awards are conducted as a part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Award competition.
The Excellence in Agriculture Award honors Farm Bureau members who do not derive the majority of their income from an owned, production agriculture operation, but who actively contribute and grow their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture. Winners must be members of INFB between the ages of 18 and 35.
Excellence in Agriculture Award winners will receive a John Deere Gator (courtesy of Farm Credit Services), a $3,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and an all-expenses paid trip to Atlanta, Georgia to compete at the American Farm Bureau annual convention in January, pending COVID-19 restrictions. Runners-up receive a $1,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.
The three finalists are:
Ryan and Marie Hilton, Jasper County
The Hiltons have been around agriculture their whole lives. Marie grew up on her family’s seed corn farm, and Ryan grew up helping friends work on their family farms. Ryan works for Belstra Milling Company, a feed mill and transport company that deals primarily with hogs. He has worked at the company for 15 years on the maintenance crew, delivering feed to farms, and currently as the livestock transport driver and logistics coordinator. He wears many hats and is responsible for all communication in preparation for hogs to be picked up and delivered across the country. Marie holds a bachelor’s degree in education. For over six years, she has provided daycare for friends and neighbors in the farming community, as well as taking care of the Hiltons’ own children. Marie recently accepted a teaching position at Covenant Christian High School teaching ag science. Ryan and Marie are members of the Jasper County Farm Bureau board. They both served as YF&AP State Committee representatives from 2017 to 2019.
John Hawley, Dearborn County
John Hawley’s passion for agriculture started as a young boy walking through his grandmother’s vegetable garden, visiting family farms and joining FFA at the age of 13. He combined his passion for agriculture with an interest in journalism, earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University and a master’s degree in agricultural extension and education from Utah State University. John currently works for Purdue Extension as an educator for agriculture, natural resources and community development, providing research-based resources to clients through educational programming. John is a member of the Dearborn County Farm Bureau board and is involved in state FFA, his county Soil and Water Conservation District and the National Farm to School Network, where he coordinates statewide farm to school programs.
Isaac and Kyla Schroeder, Perry County
As owners of a registered Angus cattle farm, the Schroeders divide their time and energy between their farm operation and full-time jobs in the community. Isaac works in agronomy sales for Superior Ag where he builds relationships with farmers and advises them on their planting decisions, including seed inputs and crop nutrition. Kyla works for Domtar Paper Company, a local pulp and paper mill, as a production analyst where she plans production runs for the pulp and paper machines and manages finished goods inventory. The Schroeders attended Western Kentucky University where they each earned bachelor’s degrees in agriculture. In addition to involvement in their local 4-H program and county Soil and Water board, they’re active Farm Bureau members, with Isaac having served as a member of the county’s board of directors since 2018. The Schroeders also are newly appointed representatives for the YF&AP State Committee and begin their term in December 2021.
The Achievement Award recognizes INFB members who earn the majority of their income from production agriculture and measures applicants on their leadership involvement and farm management techniques. Winners also must be members of INFB between the ages of 18 and 35.
Achievement Award winners will receive a $6,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, 250 hours free use of an M-Series tractor (courtesy of Kubota Tractor), as well as an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the American Farm Bureau annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia in January, pending COVID-19 restrictions. The winners also will be awarded the David L. Leising Memorial Award. Runners-up for the Achievement Award will receive a $1,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.
The three finalists are:
Kevin and Kimberly Burton, Fulton County
The Burtons co-own a diversified farm operation which includes corn, soybeans, hay and beef cattle, while providing several custom services for other farmers in the north central part of the state. Kevin has a degree in agriculture business management and crop production and is the vice president and general manager of the family farm, coordinating many of the daily operations. He plants all the row crops and does the majority of harvesting in the fall. A large part of their business, poultry litter spreading, covers 14 counties across the northern part of Indiana. Kimberly works part-time on the family farm, managing all the financials and pulling farm equipment. She also has a degree in early childhood education and serves as director of the nursery at the Burtons’ church. The Burtons are active Farm Bureau members, having served as YF&AP co-chairs for Fulton County Farm Bureau since 2015.
Scott and Jenna Burton, Kosciusko County
Scott and Jenna Burton co-own and operate their family farm operation with Scott’s father and brother. The Burtons’ operation consists of corn, soybeans, hay, beef cattle and a successful chicken litter manure business. Scott has a degree in agricultural production and technology. He oversees the marketing for the farm’s commodities and serves as the principle operator of the sprayer and manages any hired hands on the farm. Jenna has a master’s degree in special education and is a high school special education teacher at Tippecanoe High School, where she is heavily involved in unified high school sports and events. She also helps out on the farm by providing meals and transportation. Scott and Jenna have been members of the Kosciusko County Farm Bureau board since 2012 and served as YF&AP State Committee representatives from 2018 to 2020.
Jacob and Jill Smoker, LaPorte County
The Smokers’ family farm consists of a row crop and cattle operation. Jacob manages the day-to-day tasks at Smoker Farms, including crop contracting and overseeing feed truck deliveries, loader operator, pen processing and medical crews. Along with the support of Jake’s father, Jill also helps out by scouting, picking up parts and running equipment. Jill has a full-time job as an art teacher at Chesterton High School, teaching digital design, drawing and jewelry. Jacob and Jill met as high schoolers in 4-H and both attended Purdue University where Jacob earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and horticultural production & marketing. Jill received her bachelor’s degree in visual art education and earned a master’s degree in education. Jacob and Jill are heavily involved with Farm Bureau. Jacob is the current vice-president of his county board, and both Jacob and Jill served as YF&AP State Committee representatives from 2017 to 2019, with Jacob serving as chair of the committee in 2019.
The winners of both contests will be announced on the Indiana Farm Bureau Facebook page on Thursday, Aug. 26.
— Indiana Farm Bureau
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