If agriculture had an Academy Awards, three Michigan farmers would be in line to receive the equivalent of an Oscar for starring in outstanding farm management, innovation, conservation and leadership.
Each year for the last 14 years, Michigan Farmer has bestowed the prestigious Master Farmer award on three individuals who have demonstrated how to farm more effectively, efficiently, environmentally consciously and economically.
This year’s winners are M. Dean Haubenstricker of Frankenmuth, C. Bruce Noll of Sheridan and James Domagalski of Columbus.
The award acknowledges a lifetime of achievement rather than a single year. Master Farmers are nominated by peers and chosen by a committee of ag industry leaders. Winners will be honored Jan. 31 during an awards luncheon, held in conjunction with the 2019 Great Lakes Crop Summit at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, Mount Pleasant. The summit is made possible by sponsors Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, Michigan Wheat Program and Corn Marketing Program of Michigan.
The awards luncheon will include videos of the winners, produced by sponsor Brownfield Ag News.
Master Farmers receive a plaque from Michigan Farmer magazine and a Carhartt jacket, donated by Carhartt. They also receive a $1,000 check, made possible by sponsors Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Greenstone Farm Credit Services and a new sponsor this year, Wilbur-Ellis.
Here is a look at this year’s winners. Watch for more in-depth features on these farmers in the February issue of Michigan Farmer.
A fifth-generation farmer, Haubenstricker farms 2,000 acres of wheat, corn, soybeans, sugarbeets and dry beans.
The Saginaw County Farm Bureau Community Action Group nominated Haubenstricker for the Master Farmer award, noting the growth of his operation, farming practices and leadership. But most importantly, the committee cited his character, calling him honest, reliable, dedicated, hard-working, intelligent, innovative and friendly.
Haubenstricker has served in several leadership positions on the Frankenmuth Township Planning Commission and the Saginaw County Farm Bureau for more than 20 years. His farming practices were recognized early, as he garnered the title of Distinguished Young Farmer from the Saginaw County Farm Bureau in 1992, which was followed by several other accolades.
Noll bought the family farm in 1972 and started out raising edible beans, corn and wheat. As the farm evolved and no-till practices were implemented, edible beans were taken out of rotation. The farm, now 760 acres, has been 100% no-till for more than 30 years and includes corn, soybeans and wheat.
Noll has been active in many civic organizations, including his local soil conservation district, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and township, county and farm boards.
Nominator Phil Tuggle of Michigan Agricultural Commodities says, “Bruce was the definition of a sustainable farmer before sustainability was a topic of conversation. Throughout his many years farming, he has never strayed from focusing on the environment, economics and his community. Through innovation and dedication, there is no doubt that The Noll Farm is more productive and healthier than when Bruce’s grandfather settled it in 1901.”
Growing up on a dairy farm, Domagalski learned the value of hard work early on. He built his farming enterprise to 600 acres through a series of calculated steps, including working on weekends and weeknights after his full-time job at Consumers Energy. His plan to become a full-time farmer became a reality in 2007.
Domagalski looked at his off-farm retirement as an opportunity to increase his involvement in several church projects, board positions with St. Clair County Farm Bureau and St. Clair County Agricultural Preservation Board, and several cooperatives. He has been a voice for agriculture by serving on several national boards, including the U.S. Soy Export Council, National Biodiesel Board and others.
“His motto could be to serve with an open mind and common sense. He certainly has done this for Michigan’s soybean farmers for over 25 years now,” says nominator Gail Frahm, executive director of the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee. Frahm points to Domagalski’s service to the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee and the United Soybean Board as providing a link between the state and national programs.
“Jim is always up for a good laugh and has a very lighthearted personality that shines through in all he does,” Frahm adds. “Jim is loved by so many people from across the state and nation, as well as in many fields — not just his farm fields.”