(Indianapolis) – August 8, 2022 – Finalists have been selected for Indiana Farm Bureau’s 2022 Young Farmers & Ag Professionals awards – the Excellence in Agriculture Award and the Achievement Award. These state award competitions are conducted as a part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Award competition.
The Excellence in Agriculture Award honors 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 members of INFB between the ages of 18 and 35.
Excellence in Agriculture Award winners will receive an $11,000 cash prize, courtesy of Farm Credit Mid-America and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, and an all-expenses paid trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico to compete at the 2023 American Farm Bureau convention in January. Runners-up receive a $1,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.
The three finalists are:
Rachel Hyde, Hamilton County
Rachel Hyde has a passion for advocating for agriculture. She is the seventh generation to help grow corn and soybeans on her family farm, as well as help support her uncle’s sheep operation. Rachel graduated from Purdue University with a degree in agricultural communication with a minor in agronomy. She now works at Beck’s Hybrids as a field sales marketing coordinator where she serves as a liaison between the field sales team and the marketing department. Her goal is to encourage, equip and educate the field sales team and dealers about marketing tools and tactics. Rachel is a member of the Hamilton County Farm Bureau board, a member of the local FFA Boosters leadership team, and an avid 4-H volunteer on the county level, while also judging sheep and goat shows across Indiana and neighboring states.
Carter and Abby Morgan, Vermillion County
Carter and Abby Morgan took different paths to find their love of agriculture. Carter’s started at a young age as the fourth generation on the family farm producing corn, soybeans and wheat. Abby got her start in agriculture by showing sheep as a first-generation member of 4-H. They both attended Purdue University earning degrees in agriculture. In addition to farming with his family, Carter serves as a soil health consultant at the local Soil and Water Conservation District where he promotes conservation practices such as no-till, cover crops and conservation management. Abby works as the 4-H Extension educator for Purdue Extension in Montgomery County. She serves over 600 youth from kindergarten through 12th grade and manages nearly 100 adult volunteers. In addition to their involvement in 4-H and their local church, the Morgans are active Farm Bureau members, with Carter having served as a member of the county’s board of directors since 2013. The Morgans also served on the Vermillion County Farm Bureau YF&AP Committee from 2013 to 2021.
Michael and Jentzi Lash, Orange County
Michael and Jentzi Lash both grew up with a love for raising cattle and judging livestock. They attended Southern Illinois University, where they graduated with degrees in agriculture, and now both work in the swine division of River View Farms. Michael is the marketing and logistics production manager where he manages and schedules all swine movements within the company. Jentzi is the sow farm manager, managing a 4,000-head sow farm and overseeing production at the 2,200-head gilt development site. The Lashes also work at home on their family farm where they raise a herd of Boer goats. They are excited to grow their livestock operation in the future, expanding to cattle and potentially sheep. Both Michael and Jentzi volunteer on the local 4-H goat and beef committee, and Jentzi currently serves as Orange County Farm Bureau president, spearheading various activities throughout the county.
The Achievement Award recognizes INFB members who earn the majority of their income from production agriculture and measures applicants on their leadership involvement and farm management techniques. Winners also must be members of INFB between the ages of 18 and 35.
The winner of the Achievement Award will receive an $11,000 cash prize, courtesy of Bane Welker Equipment and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, as well as an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the 2023 American Farm Bureau convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico in January. The winners also will be awarded the David L. Leising Memorial Award. Runners-up for the Achievement Award will receive a $1,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.
The three finalists are:
Whitney Nickless, Knox County
Whitney Nickless has worked on her family’s diversified farm, Melon Acres, since she was 12 years old. Melon Acres has been owned and operated by her family for three generations. The farm grows various produce including watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet corn, asparagus, tomatoes, strawberries and peaches. Melon Acres also boasts a farm market, The Big Peach, which sells the fresh produce grown on the farm to the local community. Whitney is a graduate of Purdue University where she earned a degree in disciplinary agriculture. In addition to her involvement in a variety of local, state and national melon associations, she is a current member of the Knox County Farm Bureau YF&AP Committee.
Johan and Déjanne de Groot, Huntington County
The de Groots own a diversified farm operation, which includes a large dairy farm of approximately 2,600 cows, as well as acreage for alfalfa and corn production. Both are natives of Holland. Johan moved to the U.S. in 2002 with his family to start the dairy farm. He graduated from Michigan State University where he studied dairy production. After completing internships in the U.S., Déjanne finished her studies in agricultural entrepreneurship in Holland and officially joined Johan to run the family operation in 2018. Johan manages the employees and multiple aspects of the farm, including a robotics facility. Johan also oversees the breeding program, manages crop rotations, and makes planting decisions. Déjanne is responsible for all the bookwork and payroll. She also oversees the heifer operation. The de Groots are active Farm Bureau members. Both chair the Huntington County Farm Bureau YF&AP Committee, and Déjanne also serves on the board as secretary and treasurer.
Brandon and Kayla Neibert, Newton County
Neibert Farms consists of a corn, soybean, wheat and hay operation. Both Brandon and Kayla grew up on family farms, which instilled their passion for agriculture. Brandon works on the farm full-time, managing day-to-day operations such as planting, spraying, and maintaining the equipment. Kayla, a Purdue University graduate with a degree in agriculture economics and a minor in agronomy, writes the fertilizer and planting prescriptions, manages the books, and works full-time for Integra Ag, a chemical and fertilizer retail company. Kayla served as Collegiate Farm Bureau president at Purdue University. The Neiberts also are active members of their church and local community.
The winners of both contests will be announced on the Indiana Farm Bureau Facebook page on Monday, Aug. 22.
About Indiana Farm Bureau: For more than 100 years, Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB) has promoted agriculture in Indiana through public education, member engagement, and by advocating for agricultural and rural needs. As the state’s largest general farm organization, INFB works diligently to ensure a farmer’s right to farm—protecting the livelihood, land, equipment, animals and crops of Hoosier farmers—because agriculture is vital to Indiana’s economy. Learn more at INFB.org.