Honoring farmers is important. We had so many inspiring entries to our Farmer of the Year contest, we felt compelled to share our ten honorable mentions here.
Bob Sakata, Brighton, Colorado
Bob Sakata proves that you can overcome many obstacles. He and his family were sent to an internment camp in 1942. He was released only after his FFA (Future Farmers of America) teacher gave him a citizen’s endorsement. Since then, he has worked hard to be a successful and inspirational farmer. Bob is respected worldwide – he and his family hosted the Japanese Emperor Akihito during his visit to the US in 1994. “Bob Sakata has experienced poverty and imprisonment but did not let those difficult times define him. Bob’s story is a perfect example of the American spirit.”
Garrett Haskins, Braman, Oklahoma
At age 26, Garrett was one of our youngest nominees for Farmer of the Year. He is described as: “Embodying the true spirit of the American farmer through his hard work ethic, perseverance, optimism, faith, and a genuine love of agriculture.” At the age of 12, he starting running a combine for his great Uncle. At 18, Garrett obtained his first loan and purchased his uncle’s combine harvester to start his own custom cutting business, and Haskins’ Harvesting, was born.
Roy Bardole, Rippey Iowa
At 73, Roy is the “epitome of what the American farmer should be. A hard working, God-fearing, family oriented, community serving, forward looking, humble man.” Roy has farmed his entire life inheriting his love of it from his father. He “officially” started farming in 1965 joining the family operation, which consisted of a cow-calf herd, hogs, laying hens, corn, soybeans, oats, and hay. As the patriarch of his family, he has guided the farm toward innovation through the adoption of no-till in 1993, strip tilling and yield mapping in 1999, and autosteer in 2004. He and his work have been “displayed” in the National Air and Space Smithsonian in Washington D.C. for his innovative approach towards agriculture.
Melinda, Jay, & David Milburn, Elton, Maryland
Since 1902, the Milburns have been farming the fertile Maryland soil near the Chesapeake Bay. They have worked the farm since childhood and transformed it to meet today’s demands, so they can successfully pass it along to the fifth generation. The Milburns have implemented many advances in farming technology, such as Integrated Pest Management, promoting less chemical usage, and dwarf trees plantings, creating safer harvests with no ladders. This opened doors for “U-Pick Adventures” which provides “hands on” farming experiences, part of their agri-entertainment farm of which they were one of the first to implement. They also have a “Go Green” initiative, which includes wind mills and solar panels, to name a few.
Tom Dull, Thorntown, Indiana
Tom Dull is credited helping his family farm diversify. Upon graduating from college, Tom came back to the family’s farm where they raise hog, cattle, corn, soybeans, and wheat, and decided to further diversify by growing Christmas trees. Dull’s Tree Farm donates Christmas trees to active duty military soldiers and sailors. He and his family enthusiastically educate consumers about modern agriculture while respecting the heritage of their family farm that is over 100 years old. Tom’s spirit, service and sustainability make him a shining star!
Jeremy Franseen, Poplar Grove, Illinois
Jeremy has been milking goats for 20 years. His hard work and dedication is best summed up with this quote: “Because of his commitment to advocating for our rapidly growing industry, promoting the industry and making others aware of the availability and benefits of goat milk, as well as sharing his best practices for total herd health and production, I feel he deserves the title of Farmer of the Year. I don’t feel Jeremy realizes how his hard work and commitment both on the farm and off have made an impact on our industry.”
Loren Pilcher, Farina, Illinois
At 86 years young, Loren had an impressive nomination that caught our attention and awe. “Loren is a true leader in agriculture because he exemplifies decades of sustaining a high quality of endurance, patience, sharing skills with others, promotion of education, faith, embrace, and implementing changes while being a good steward of the land. He humbly considers himself an ordinary farmer, but his life depicts a much richer individual.”
Ross and Meaghan Nichols, Bristol, Maine
Ross and Meaghan Nichols are the fresh faces of the new farming generation. This young couple is making a big splash in their community by purchasing, restoring, and reviving an 1800s farmhouse and surrounding 120-acre working farm on Maine’s southern coast, selling farm stand goods to consumers and local restaurants providing the highest quality of meats to the public. They also offer farm tours to educate people on the proper way to raise healthy animals. Not only are the Nichols’ living their own dream, but they are also reviving a way of life in their rural Maine town and bringing “High Hopes” to the community and the future of farming.
Sarah and Ryan McCarthey, Sequim, Washington
Sarah and Ryan McCarthey currently run the Dungeness Valley Creamery, which specializes in raw Jersey milk. Together they have combined long-held farming wisdom with modern techniques and equipment to embrace the future of farming and protect the land and river that nurtures them. From solar energy to improved “lodging” for their cows, they continually learn, improve, educate and preserve.
John Paul Jones, Buffalo, Missouri
We’d like to honor John Paul posthumously. His nomination caught our judge’s attention for his century-long dedication to farming. Since choosing him as an honorable mention, we have learned of his passing in June of this year, a few months after his 100th birthday. He raised beef, pigs, sheep, and hay. In 2016 he was honored by the Cattlemen’s Association. His dedication to farming is something we all should honor and recognize.