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Michigan Farm Bureau recognizes outstanding young farmers

Awards honor agricultural involvement, leadership and achievements.

December 7, 2022

5 Min Read
soybean fields
YOUNG FARMER WINNERS: Robyn Fogarasi, Chad Geoit, Sarah Zastrow, and Mark and Jamie Trowbridge were all winners in this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer competitions. Timothy Hearsum/Getty Images

Every year, Michigan’s best young farmers ages 18-35 face off in categories geared toward measuring their agricultural involvement, leadership and achievements. 

Four talented young farmers who competed with 12 other contestants in four categories received their awards Nov. 29 at Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) 103rd State Annual Meeting. They are Robyn Fogarasi, Chad Geoit, Sarah Zastrow, and Mark and Jamie Trowbridge.

Agriculture Achievement Award: Robyn Fogarasi

The Young Farmer Achievement Award recognizes successful young farmers — individuals or couples — who derive most of their income from an owned production agriculture enterprise and showcases their achievements in the business of farming.

They started from the ground up, and in 10 short years, Robyn Fogarasi and her husband Byron’s Arenac County beef farm has grown from fewer than 100 to almost 400 head of beef cattle, and their cropland has quadrupled to 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and hay.

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“I’ve worked hard to establish the trust and respect of local farmers who have provided us with many expansion opportunities,” Fogarasi said. “A determined mindset keeps us both working hard to achieve our goals.”

As the state winner, Fogarasi receives a lease on a Kubota tractor; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business or estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual meeting to compete in the national competition, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

Agriculture Employee Award: Chad Geoit

The Young Agriculture Employee Award recognizes farm employees and ag professionals for their contributions to the success of their workplace, and their leadership involvement in Farm Bureau, agriculture and the local community.

Chad Geoit is a sales agronomist for Wilbur-Ellis in Three Rivers, using his OnMark certification to provide growers with efficient auditing of organic cropping and humane livestock practices.

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He’s lived in Kalamazoo County for five years, but he still supports youth programs back home in Lapeer County, where he sponsors the Harold Gass Memorial Scholarship and serves on the selection committee for Lapeer County FFA’s Anthony Herbert Memorial Scholarship.

“Farm Bureau lets me be involved in and make an impact on the agricultural community,” he says. “It’s allowed me to network professionally and build relationships when I moved to a different part of the state.”

As the state winner, Geoit receives $5,000 off the first payment of a lease or installment on a 100-hp or larger tractor from GreenMark Equipment; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business or estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Fusion Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

Young Agriculture Leader Award: Sarah Zastrow

The Young Agriculture Leader Award honors successful young agriculturalists who earn most of their income from a farm operation for their outstanding leadership in Farm Bureau, farming and throughout the agricultural community.

Sarah Zastrow and her family produce corn, soybeans, vegetables, maple syrup, eggs and honey in Midland County. Off the farm, she’s made a name for herself as a farm-stress guru, reflecting a passion that’s become both her calling and her livelihood. Her business, Cultivate Balance, strives to combat mental health challenges in the agriculture community.

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“I teach farmers how to manage stress and build stronger relationships, so the hardships of agriculture don’t weigh so heavily,” Zastrow says. “In the next 10 years, I want to have 10,000 downloads on my farm stress podcast — Throwing Wrenches Mending Fences.”

Other accomplishments include representing Michigan earlier this year in the national Young Farmer & Rancher Discussion Meet. As a Farm Bureau member, she said, her “leadership, networking and growth opportunities are endless.”

As the state winner, Zastrow receives a lease on a New Holland compact tractor or utility vehicle from Burnips Equipment; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business or estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Fusion Conference, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

Excellence in Agriculture Award: Mark and Jamie Trowbridge

The Excellence in Agriculture Award is designed to recognize young farmers — individuals or couples — for their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau.

Winners Mark and Jamie Trowbridge raise a small herd of registered Angus cattle at their cow-calf operation in St. Joseph County, plus about 100 acres of hay. Both work as flock supervisors for a large, vertically integrated poultry company that raises, processes and markets about 45 million chickens annually.

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Their cattle farm is all their own, however, and begun from scratch as first-generation farmers.

“Our goal is to continue to grow our farm so one day it can be self-sustaining and allow us to both work there full time and live off it,” they say. “We plan to continue to be part of Farm Bureau and increase our involvement in the organization, and our county fair.”

They credit Farm Bureau with providing them opportunities to grow both personally and within their community, building vital leadership skills along the way.

As the state winner, Mark and Jamie receive a three-month lease of a Michigan CAT skid steer; a $1,000 AgroLiquid gift certificate; up to $1,000 of business or estate consultation from Clark Hill; and an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF annual meeting to compete in the national competition, sponsored by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture.

Source: MFB

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