Young farmers honored by Indiana Farm Bureau

Staff Writer

Finalists have been named in Indiana Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Achievement and Excellence in Agriculture contests. The winners will be announced at INFB’s convention, Dec. 12 and 13 in French Lick.
The Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation they own. Participants will be judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, and involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.
Young farmers who earn a majority of their income from their farms are recognized through the Young Farmer Achievement Award. They are judged on their achievements in their farming operation and on their leadership abilities.
This year’s YFAA finalists are:
Matt and Brianna Chapman, Henry County – Grain, hogs and hay are the foundation of Matt and Brianna Chapman’s farm. Matt farms around 375 acres on his own and also helps his father with 2,700 acres of row crops. Another major responsibility is overseeing his father’s swine operation, which includes two 4,000-head finishing barns. Brianna, who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, owns and operates a local florist shop. They also have a daughter, Grace, who was born this spring.
George and Carly Kakasuleff, Hamilton County – George Kakasuleff is the third generation to live and work on the grain farm started by his grandfather in the 1950s. They raise corn, seed corn and seed soybeans. It’s important to George and his wife, Carly, that their son Vince has the opportunity to be the fourth generation to work the farm.  Carly is responsible for the farm’s web and social media presence and has an off-farm job.
Nick and Beth Tharp, Putnam County – Alongside Beth’s family, and with the help of six employees, the Tharps care for 3,000 sows, wean nearly 77,000 pigs each year and farm more than 900 acres of corn, soybeans and hay. A large portion of their time is focused on animal care and soil improvement. According to the Tharps, their most important job is parenting their one-year-old daughter, Kate, who loves visiting the barns.
This year’s YFEA finalists are:
Mike & Sarah Hertsel, Elkhart County – Mike Hertsel didn’t grow up on a farm, but he has fond memories of his grandfather’s farm. That’s why he and his wife, Sarah, jumped at the chance for Mike to work for a 1,500-acre grain and livestock farm near Syracuse, Indiana, where he performs a variety of tasks. Sarah works part time as a cosmetologist and spends the majority of her time keeping house and caring for their kids, Elizabeth, George and Caroline.
Matt & Carla Schenk, Posey County – Farming and two ag-related businesses keep Matt and Carla Schenk on the go. Most of their income comes from ag technology business and an excavation business. Matt also works alongside his father, raising corn, wheat and soybeans. Carla, who used to work as a grain grader and merchandizer, now stays home with their two daughters, Ciara and Mattison, helps keep the books, runs two small businesses, and is the market master for the local farmers’ market.
Chris and Marah Steele, Adams County – Chris and Marah Steele’s farm is what’s known as an “agritourism venture.” Marah spearheads the agritourism venue, which features school tours, a corn maze, hayride, pumpkin patch, a farm store and an assortment of animals. They also sell freezer beef, pork and chicken. Chris sells seed for Pioneer. Their three children – Carter, Cooper and Mayah – are the sixth generation on Chris’s family’s homestead farm.
The state Achievement Award winners receive a $6,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance; 250 hours maximum free use of one M-Series tractor (and loader, if appropriate) courtesy of Kubota Tractor; the David L. Leising Memorial Award; and expenses paid to national convention to San Diego, Calif.
Indiana’s YFEA winner receives a John Deere Gator courtesy of Farm Credit Services; $3,000 cash prize from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance; and expenses paid to national convention in San Diego, Calif.
Runners up in both contests receive $1,000 cash prizes from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance.
Winners in these two contests, as well as INFB’s Young Farmer Discussion Meet (which will be held during the state convention next month), will advance to the national Young Farmer & Rancher contests, where they will compete against young farmers from across the country. National winners will receive their choice of a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra truck, courtesy of GM. The three national finalists in each competition will receive a Case IH Farmall tractor, courtesy of Case IH, as well as a $2,500 cash prize and $500 in Stihl merchandise.