By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life
Each year, Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. recognizes outstanding young farm families for two awards: The Excellence in Ag Award and the Achievement Award. From all of the applications received, three finalists are selected for each award based on their personal accomplishments and community involvement. Meet this year’s final three for each of these prestigious awards:
Excellence in Ag Finalists
Mike and Sarah Hertsel
Mike and Sarah Hertsel live in Syracuse, Ind., along with their three children: Elizabeth, 7, George, 4, and Caroline who is nearly 2. Mike worked for 10 years as a livestock feed specialist. Then one day, one of Mike’s customers provided him with a chance to work on a grain and livestock farm. Sarah is a homemaker as well as a cosmetologist at a local salon.
During high school, Mike and Sarah were active in 4-H and FFA. Shortly after college, Mike became involved with Farm Bureau. Mike and Sarah are currently active with Ag in the Classroom farm tours, food checkout day, their county tractor parade group, and the Your Food at the Fair scavenger hunt.
Jeff and Jenna Demerly
Jeff and Jenna Demerly moved to his home county of White County nearly 4 years ago. They have three children: Adalynn, 5, Austin, 3, and Archer, 1. Jeff owns a business that sells Pioneer seed, crop insurance risk management, and general consulting. His job consists of working with farmers closely to help maximize their profitability through the growing and harvesting of corn, soybeans, and wheat. “I wake up each morning feeling blessed to have this opportunity, and I take it very seriously.”
Jeff has served as chairman of the Young Farmer Committee, board member, and vice president, then was elected as president in 2013. Not only is he involved with Farm Bureau, but he is also active with 4-H, FFA, and their church.
Jeremy and Lindsay Barron
Jeremy and Lindsay Barron of Noble County keep themselves busy by being involved in their community and Farm Bureau and by chasing their two boys around: Lane, 4, and Lawson, 19 months.
Jeremy graduated from American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Partners in Agricultural Leadership, is a member of AFBF’s grassroots GO Team and made it to the Final Four in the national discussion meet at last year’s AFBF convention in San Diego.
The financial services lead for Cargill Risk Management, Jeremy helps grain, livestock, and dairy farmers better manage their risk and increase their profitability.
Lindsay’s primary job is being a wife and mom as well as helping with farm finances. She also manages the Ole Milk House which is a repurposed milking parlor where she sells antiques and primitives.
Achievement Award Finalist
Jacob and Jennifer Walker
Jake and Jennifer Walker live in DeKalb County with their two children: Ryan, 2 ½, and Leann, 1 ½. Jake credits college, working in sales for a farm management software company, and owning a precision ag business for helping him better manage his farming partnership with his parents.
Jake came back to farm full-time in 2008. The Walkers raise 4,950 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. They also do custom straw baling, tiling, excavating and manage a Beck’s seed dealership. Jennifer is a district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Jake recently joined the board of directors for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and is the co-founder for a regional pro-ag group called Friends of Agriculture. They are also actively involved with their church and the Down Syndrome Association.
Mindy and Craig Fruechte
Craig Fruechte and his wife, Mindy, raise 24,000 turkeys and also farm 581 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa in Decatur, Ind. Craig and his dad also custom harvest about 700 acres for nearby farmers. They have two children, Mason and Brielle. The Fruechtes also raise four steers and 60 hogs that they market to their urban co-workers.
Craig and Mindy both have jobs off the farm; however, they each dream of working on the farm full-time.
Craig currently serves as Adams County Farm Bureau vice president and Mindy is the education and outreach coordinator for the county. They also each have a passion for 4-H, as Craig helps young showmen develop better techniques for the show ring and Mindy serves as Mini 4-H leader teaching 125 6- to 8-year-olds about agriculture.
Matt and Brianna Chapman
Matt and Brianna Chapman from Springport live on the family farm with their 1 ½ year old daughter, Grace. They met while at Purdue University where Matt earned an associate’s degree in agricultural economics and Brianna received a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences. Today they each have careers in agriculture. Brianna owns two retail flower shops in Middletown and New Castle and Matt farms about 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat with his younger brother, along with a custom hay-baling business that he started while in high school.
Matt’s father, Tim, retired from farming in 2013which allowed him to take over the operation. Matt and his younger brother are now partners of the operation, farming the ground their father owned and rented. Also, they have rented additional acres.
The Chapmans are very active in Farm Bureau, as well as the Henry County Farm Bureau Young Farmer program. Matt is currently serving as chairman and Brianna is secretary. Both are involved in various areas of the community as well, serving on their township park board and in their church.