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Gibsons Win Michigan Farm Bureau Award

Published: Friday, April 19, 2024

Matt and Alisha Gibson of Kalamazoo County are among the top winners of the Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer awards.

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

"Our Young Farmer Award winners and finalists embody the spirit of agricultural leadership, acti-

vely advocating for and advancing Michigan's farming community," said Katie Eisenberger, MFB's Young Farmer manager. "Their dedication and contributions significantly enhance Michigan agriculture, and we are immensely grateful for their enthusiasm and efforts."

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.

Matt and Alisha Gibson farm in Kalamazoo County, operating an 800-head hog-finishing facility and raising 1,100 acres of corn and soybeans. Matt and his uncle farm together under an LLC they created in 2023, while Alisha works as an assurance manager at Plante Moran.

Purchasing property and branching out to farm on their own rank as their proudest achievements. Matt bought the hog-finishing component when he was just 18. Together they aim to continue expanding their operation, building a sustainable future for their family while improving practices to gain efficiencies moving forward.

They credit Farm Bureau with helping them build a network of like-minded peers across the state and enriching their sense of community, both in their own neighborhood and across the southwestern Lower Peninsula.

The other three Achievement finalists were Nathan Engelhard of Tuscola County, Brayton Lehman of Ionia County and Zachary Wagner of Clinton County.

As the state winner, the Gibsons receive an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF annual meeting to compete in the national competition.

Other Young Farmer award winners in three categories—Leader, Employee and Excellence—are John Bowsky, Andrew Braun and Darcy Lipskey.

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

Fourth-generation farmer John Bowsky raises 500 acres of soybeans and red wheat outside Brown City in Sanilac County, working alongside his sisters Jessica and Jennifer. He also works full-time with the Blue Water Conservation District as a MAEAP technician, helping Sanilac County farmers achieve verification in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.

Growing his family's centennial farm so the next generation can prosper on it weighs heavily in Bowsky's ambitions for the future.

"I would like to continue growth on the farm, increasing our community involvement and continue the legacy we started four generations ago," he said, crediting Farm Bureau for helping equip him what he needs to get the job done.

The other three Leader Award finalists were Emily Boeve of Ottawa County, Kyle Rasch of Ottawa County and Allison Schafer of Clinton County.

As the state winner, Bowsky receives an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Fusion Conference.

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.

Clinton County native Andrew Braun manages 1,800 acres of potato ground near Cass City and Hemlock for Walther Farms. Back home in Clinton County, he helps his parents and wife Natalie farm 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat near Ovid.

For Walther, Braun is focused on developing the next generation of farm managers who can take on his role in time. Back home the goal is to increase profitability so it can sustain mom, dad and his growing family—without the need for a second job off the farm.

He appreciates the opportunities he's found through Farm Bureau membership.

"Just the ability to network with other farmers from around my county, state and to some extent the country," Braun said, has tremendous value.

The other three Employee finalists were Nathan Beyerlein of Tuscola County, Cameron Cook of Clinton County and Matt Kubowitsch of Kalamazoo County.

As the state winner, Braun receives an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF Fusion Conference.

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.

Sixth-generation farmer Darcy Lipskey raises corn, wheat, dry beans and alfalfa hay to feed and bed her family's cow/calf Angus operation near Minden City in Sanilac County. She also keeps a small herd of Boer goats.

"When I'm not on the farm I work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, helping landowners enhance conservation efforts by identifying resource concerns," she said.

A passionate community supporter, Lipskey helped establish Freeze Out Hunger, a two-pronged attack on food insecurity that supplies protein to several area food pantries—and the vital freezer space needed to store it—all while supporting local agriculture, since that protein comes from animals purchased at the county fair.

The ethic of selfless service permeating Lipskey's farm and community life has strong parallels in her Farm Bureau membership. Another goal sees her bridging the gap between Farm Bureau and youth organizations like 4-H and FFA.

The other three Excellence finalists were Julia Chamberlain of Ingham County, Erica Drake of Washtenaw County and Allan Robinette of Kent County.

As the state winner, Lipskey will receive an all-expense paid trip to the AFBF annual meeting to compete in the national competition.

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