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Meet the best young farmers in AmericaMeet the best young farmers in America

The National Outstanding Young Farmers program has named winners for 2022 and 2021, including eight unique and exceptional young farmers.

February 15, 2022

4 Min Read
NOYF winners for 2022
2022: NOYF winners for 2022 are (from left) Richie and Sarah Heinrich of North Dakota, Matt and Jenna Kilgus of Illinois, Joe and Ashley Dudkiewicz of Wisconsin, and Hunter and Laura Grills of Tennessee.Photos courtesy of OFA

Matt and Jenna Kilgus, dairy farmers from Fairbury, Ill., have been named the 2022 National Outstanding Young Farmers, following a competition in South Carolina earlier this month by the Outstanding Farmers of America program.

The Kilgus family joins a roster of national winners in this program that dates back to 1955 and was originally administered by the Jaycees.

After COVID-19 postponed last year’s annual NOYF Awards Congress, organizers decided to combine the 2021 and 2022 event. This year eight were recognized for their contributions to agriculture, conservation and their community.

The top four national winners for 2022 include:

Matt and Jenna Kilgus, Fairbury, Ill. The Kilgus family operates a dairy farm, milking 150 Jersey cows. The milk is used in the farm’s creamery. They process and sell milk under the family’s private label and in an on-farm country store. The farm is diverse, including beef cattle, a farrow-to-finish hog operation, and a meat goat business, in addition to a row crop enterprise that includes corn, soybeans and wheat.

Richie and Sarah Heinrich, Medina, N.D. It is all about cash crops and cattle on the Heinrich family farm. Started in 1939 by Richie’s grandparents, today the farm incorporates Sarah’s family cattle business. The couple hold a joint production sale with Sarah’s parents each year to market registered bulls and bred heifers.

Hunter and Laura Grills, Newbern, Tenn. As ninth-generation row crop and beef cattle farmers, the Grills grow soybeans, corn, triticale and Angus beef cattle. The couple keep one goal top of mind: to be profitable and practical while maintaining a high level of professionalism to ensure every dollar invested is yielding a high return.

Joe and Ashley Dudkiewicz, Crivitz, Wis. The Dudkiewiczes farm close to the family’s original homestead, raising corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cattle. They sell products directly to the consumer, including direct marketing of beef, bagged corn for wildlife feed, and smaller bales of hay and straw. The couple credit these markets with increasing farm returns.

Other finalists for the 2022 award were Seth and Kaylee Hubert of Alabama, Suzie Flores of Connecticut, Clayton and Cassidy Waller of Georgia, Terry and Jody Page of Michigan, and Michael and Corey Beneduce of New Jersey.

Meet the 2021 winners

Winners for NOYF 2021 are Matt and Melissa Bottoms of Georgia, Hillary Barile of New Jersey, Joroen and Traci van der Ploeg of New Mexico, and Philip and Laura Finger of Wisconsin.


2021: NOYF winners for 2021 are (from left) Matt and Melissa Bottoms of Georgia, Jeff and Hillary Barile of New Jersey, Traci and Jeroen van der Ploeg of New Mexico, and Laura and Philip Finger of Wisconsin.

Matt and Melissa Bottoms, Concord, Ga. The Bottoms family operates both a nursery and a row crop farm. As a fifth-generation farmers, they’ve focused on increasing yields, improving plant quality, and marketing products while working closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Hillary Barile, Shiloh, N.J. Barile produces sod, wheat, barley and soybeans on Rabbit Hill Farms. Transitioning away from potato farming and into malthouse sales has expanded the business in a more profitable direction.

Jeroen and Traci van der Ploeg, Clovis, N.M. Jeroen and Traci raise wheat, corn and beef cattle along with their dairy operation. The van der Ploegs have diversified their farm by incorporating a milk and yogurt company as well as a specialty shop to direct market their products.

Philip and Laura Finger, Oconto, Wis. The Fingers operate a dairy and grow alfalfa, corn and soybeans. Concentrating on meeting milk production goals and improving soil quality have been top priorities for the Fingers.

Other finalists for the 2021 award were Allyson Angelini of Connecticut, Jarred and Shelby Moose of Iowa, Gary and Tina Schoenfeld of Minnesota, and John and Morgan Morrison of Washington.

The NOYF program is sponsored by John Deere, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America, and supported by the U.S. Jaycees, the National Association of Conservation Districts, and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Source: Outstanding Farmers of America, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.


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