Indiana Farm Bureau names 2017 Young Farmer Award finalists

Molly Zentz

– July 18, 2017 – Finalists have been selected for two of Indiana Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer awards, the Excellence in Agriculture Award and the Achievement Award. These state awards are conducted as a part of the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Award competition.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes outstanding young Farm Bureau members who do not derive the majority of their income from an owned, production-agriculture operation, but who actively contribute and grow their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture. Winners must be voting members of Indiana Farm Bureau between the ages of 18 and 35.

Winners of the Excellence in Agriculture award receive a John Deere Gator, a $3,000 cash prize and an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the national contest, held during the American Farm Bureau annual convention. Runners-up receive a $1,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.

The three finalists are:

Jeff Demerly – Wolcott, IN

Jeff grew up working on his family’s row crop farm and was actively engaged with FFA and 4-H. After graduating from college, he became removed from the agriculture industry, but a few years later, Jeff felt the pull to join the ag industry. With the help of his wife, he created his own agricultural retail business. Their business sells, markets and promotes seed inputs and crop insurance risk management and provides general profit consulting.

Jonathan and Derika Spaetti – Richland, IN

Jonathan and Derika each grew up on family farms and have always been passionate about agriculture. Jonathan is a fourth generation farmer who purchased his own farm at 20 years old and now works alongside his dad and uncle. Derika currently works full time as a high school math teacher and focuses much of her time away from her job helping to grow the family’s farm operations. They’re passionate about advocating for agriculture to people of all ages, especially children.

Ben and Casey Shireman – Lexington, IN

Casey grew up on a small family-owned produce farm, and Ben’s family established a small hatchery, selling chicks, ducks and turkeys, while he was young. After several years out of the agriculture industry, the couple decided to start a small garden that later evolved into 20 acres of crops and produce. Casey works at a local community bank and is a crop insurance agent for one of the bank’s subsidiary companies. Ben works for a diesel engine remanufacturing firm where he is the warehouse manager.

The Achievement Award recognizes and rewards outstanding young Farm Bureau members whose farm management techniques and commitment to their communities set a positive example for others involved in production agriculture. Winners must be voting members of Indiana Farm Bureau between the ages of 18 and 35 and earn the majority of their income from production agriculture.

The winners of the Achievement Award receive a $6,000 cash prize, 250 hours’ free use of one M-Series tractor and an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the American Farm Bureau annual convention. The winners will also be awarded the David L. Leising Memorial Award. Runners-up receive a $1,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.

The three finalists are:

Matthew and Brianna Chapman – Springport, IN

Matthew Chapman is a third generation farmer. He and his family manage farmland and two 4,000-head swine barns all while owning a commercial trucking company. Matthew works full time on the farm while Brianna operates two retail flower shops. Matthew and Brianna both majored in agriculture in college and have been able to excel in many aspects of the agriculture industry.

Brent and Ashley Reed – Nappanee, IN

The Reeds are no strangers to agriculture. Brent and Ashley both come from fourth generation family farms and have been involved in farming from a young age. They now operate their own farm while also being seed dealers. Brent and Ashley are always looking for new ways to expand and grow their farm.

Neal and Lydia Wolheter – Kendallville, IN

The Wolheters have been farming since childhood. Neal grew up on a grain farm and Lydia grew up on a small cattle and horse farm. The couple met and began dating just before high school, attended college together and moved back home where Neal joined his family farm full time and Lydia started a career outside of agriculture. Today, the Wolheters farm together on their own land and go above and beyond to make sure their farm is as successful as possible.

The winners of both contests will be announced on the Indiana Farm Bureau Facebook page on Tuesday, August 8. All finalists will be recognized at the INFB state convention in December.


About Indiana Farm Bureau: Since 1919, Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) has protected the livelihood, land, equipment, animals and crops of Hoosier farmers. It is the state’s largest general farm organization and a farmer’s strongest advocate. INFB works diligently to ensure a farmer’s very right to farm, because agriculture is so vital to Indiana’s economy.  Learn more at