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3 Michigan Master Farmers honored

Joe Bryant, Dave Milligan and Louis Wierenga Jr. received awards during the Great Lakes Crop Summit.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

January 30, 2023

8 Slides

In front of more than 1,200 attendees of the Great Lakes Crop Summit in Mount Pleasant, Mich., three standout Michigan farmers received the highest honor in agriculture — the title of Michigan Master Farmer.

This year’s award winners are Joe Bryant of Shepherd, Dave Milligan of Cass City and Louis Wierenga Jr. of Hastings.

They were chosen from a statewide nomination process and selected by a committee of agriculture industry leaders. They received plaques and pins.

During the luncheon ceremony, honorees were introduced one by one with a short bio, followed by a video of each telling a history of their farm, farming practices, and community and agriculture leadership involvements.

This is the 19th year Michigan Farmer has presented this award, which honors producers who focus on farming more effectively, efficiently, environmentally and economically.

The revered Michigan Master Farmer award carries with it agriculture’s highest honor, recognizing outstanding farm management, innovation, conservation and leadership.

Individual stories on the 2023 winners highlighting their farming careers were featured online last week at MichiganFarmer.com. In print, the stories will appear in the February issue of American Agriculturist.

Bryant farms with his son, Ben, in Shepherd, growing 1,100 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, while Ben has an additional 650 acres. They share labor, facilities and equipment. They also raise a few Holsteins each year to be sold primarily for freezer beef.

The Bryants like to share their farm and have hosted numerous events, including Breakfast on the Farm and Project RED (Rural Education Day) to connect with the community.

Focused on proficiency and profitability, Dave Milligan has consistently grown his Cass City farming operation.

He’s also broadly extended his service to the ag industry through the years by leading several state and national commodity organizations.

After growing up on a 240-acre dairy operation, Milligan and his son, Michael, now farm 4,500 acres in Tuscola County.

Milligan has learned to adapt through changes in markets, weather, agronomic systems and environmental objectives.

Wierenga is not afraid to venture out of his comfort zone. He has an innate drive to learn, innovate and teach others.

He’s currently farming 960 acres at Maple Knoll Farms in Hastings, raising corn and soybeans, as well as alfalfa for his neighbor’s cattle.

He has expanded and changed the operation to meet market demands and ensure profitability, all while protecting natural resources.

The Great Lakes Crop Summit and the Master Farmer program is sponsored by the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, Michigan Wheat Program and Corn Marketing Program of Michigan. It is also supported by Brownfield Ag News, Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Greenstone Farm Credit Services and Wilbur-Ellis.

Read more about:

Master Farmers

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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