Dustin and Shana Johnson and their family with Laura Cunningham and Craig Hill Gary Fandel, IFBF
WINNERS: Gathering for the presentation are IFBF Young Farmer Chairwoman Laura Cunningham (left), award winners Dustin Johnson and wife Shana with their family, and Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill.

Young Farmer Achievement Award winner named

Starting off with 75 acres, Dustin Johnson now farms over 1,000 acres in Clinton County.

Dustin Johnson of Clinton was named the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s 2017 Young Farmer Achievement Award winner at the organization’s 99th annual meeting in Des Moines Dec. 5-6. This annual award honors Iowa farmers between the ages of 18 and 35 who show outstanding management ability in their farming operations and involvement in Farm Bureau and community activities.

Also at the annual meeting last week, another young farmer, Ben Klocke of Carroll County, was recognized for his commitment to innovation. Johnson and Klocke were the two finalists for the Young Farmer Achievement Award this year.

Farming in their DNA
Dustin Johnson and wife Shana started farming from scratch, and built their farming operation by adding more acres over the years. Growing up near both of his grandfathers, Dustin watched each find balance in farming, while staying involved with the community and making time for family. “Watching those men as I grew led me down the path I’m on today,” he says. “I knew I needed to work hard and save if I ever wanted to farm.”

Johnson went to school to study robotics and saved money after college by working at a factory. In 2007, he rented his first 75 acres of farm ground from his grandpa and bought seven steers. The Johnson family then bought sheep, which their two young daughters today show at the county fair. Johnson continues to find landowners to rent from, and now farms more than 1,000 acres, while also seeking other ways to be profitable. He direct-markets his growing beef herd and has gotten into custom farming, as well as growing seed for cover crops.

Covers and conservation
“I’m a huge believer in the benefits of cover crops and no-till,” Johnson says. “The cover crop seed sales have grown as neighbors observe what we are doing. I feel this could be a potential growth area: producing and selling cover crop seed.”

Johnson attributes his success in farming with his ability to use conservation practices. Always one to embrace collaborative projects, he worked with Iowa State University Extension to create a plan to improve a piece of ground suffering from erosion and nutrient deficiencies. Using a system of no-till, cover crops, data management and “a few prayers,” the farm went from 142 bushels of corn per acre to an average of 214 bushels per acre in five years.

Doing right thing for land
Johnson is confident that doing the right thing for the environment and the land takes hard work, grit and integrity, but the payoff is huge. “I will not abandon landowners who have taken a chance on me,” he says. “I’ll continue to farm a 10-acre field to the best of my ability just as I would the 100-acre field.”

Johnson has served as a board member for Clinton County Farm Bureau for more than 10 years and currently is president. He’s also been the young farmer chair, policy development chair, legislative committee chair, Ag in the Classroom chair, graduate of IFBF’s Ag Leaders Institute and a Discussion Meet winner. Of all his accolades and responsibilities, he says being a good father and husband is most important to him.

Shana Johnson is a teacher at Northeast Community School District in Goose Lake. The Johnsons have three children: Olivia, 10; Veranya, 7; and Dylan, 1.

Represents Iowa in national Young Farmer competition
As winner of the Young Farmer Achievement Award, Johnson receives a John Deere 590E Gator, a 90-day no payment, no interest John Deere Financial Certificate up to $5,000 and an all-expense paid trip to the 2018 Growmark annual meeting in Chicago. 

Next month, Johnson will represent Iowa in the National Young Farmer Achievement Award competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Nashville. The National Young Farmer Achievement Award winner will have his or her choice of a new Ford truck, sponsored by Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance, and a trip to the 2018 Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Nashville. 

Klocke takes 2nd in Iowa Young Farmer contest
Ben Klocke of Templeton is the second-place finalist for the 2017 IFBF Young Farmer Achievement Award, receiving parts on “Site Bin” (valued at $3,000), a 90-day John Deere Financial Certificate and a $500 Fast Stop gift card from Growmark.

Klocke is a fifth-generation farmer growing row crops and raising pigs in his own barn constructed with the environment, animals and his neighbors in mind.

Klocke also works for his parent’s sow farm, managing employees and making hiring decisions. The family has developed and patented several pieces of equipment to use in hog farming, which they manufacture and sell. Because of all his roles in agriculture, Klocke says no two days are ever the same.

This year, Klocke became a Carroll County Farm Bureau board member. He serves on the board for the Town Community Betterment Association and coaches a slow-pitch team. Future goals include running for a position on a local co-op board and investing in technology and education that can improve the land he farms and his day-to-day operations.

Source: Iowa Farm Bureau Federation

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