2011 Award Winners Named By Iowa Farm Bureau

2011 Award Winners Named By Iowa Farm Bureau

At last week's 93rd annual meeting of Iowa Farm Bureau in Des Moines, a number of farmers were recognized for their accomplishments in farming, in their community and in the agriculture business in general.

More than 1,000 Iowa Farm Bureau Federation members from across the state gathered at the Polk County Convention Center in Des Moines last week to recognize achievements in agriculture, explore their role in producing food for a hungry world and discuss the 2012 Farm Bill during the organization's 93rd annual meeting.

A number of farmers were recognized for their accomplishments on their operations and within their communities and industry. Distinguished Service to Agriculture awards were given to central Iowa cattle and grain farmers Bill and Nancy Couser, agricultural engineer Stewart Melvin and recently-retired legislator and farmer Dolores Mertz.

Young farmers Justin and Jennifer Dammann, who raise cattle, corn, soybeans, alfalfa and rye on their Century Farm near Essex, won the IFBF Young Farmer Achievement Award and were recognized for their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to Farm Bureau and their community.

Jamie Busch-Upah, a farmer from Tama County, won the Young Farmer Discussion Meet contest. The discussion meet encourages dialogue about issues and challenges that affect agriculture. It tests young farmers' knowledge of ag-related issues and their ability to express their opinions. The Dammanns and Busch-Upah will compete in these contests at the national level next month during the American Farm Bureau annual meeting.

Former NBA player Walter Bond motivates, inspires during keynote

Keynote speaker Walter Bond, a former NBA player, offered a "slam dunk" presentation; encouraging farmers to reach out beyond their comfort zones to understand their customers and how others perceive them and their work.  "You have success right now, but don't you dare rest of your laurels. Don't you dare relax," he said. "You've had a great year, but your job is to get bigger, stronger and faster."

Cattle-raiser, ag engineer & legislator honored for distinguished service

Bill and Nancy Couser are cattle producers who constantly look ahead to the next opportunity to improve not only their operation, but their industry. Stewart Melvin is an engineer who specializes in agricultural water issues that help farmers best care for the environment. Dolores Mertz is an 11-term state representative for District 8 who champions Iowa agriculture. The efforts of these Iowans have furthered the cause of Iowa agriculture and rural communities over the past few decades, earning the Cousers, Melvin and Mertz the 2011 Iowa Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. All were recognized during the 2012 Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting in Des Moines December 7.

The award honors individuals who have played a significant role in the agricultural industry at the local, state and/or national level. This is the 34th year for the award. The three winners received plaques and will be added to a permanent display at IFBF headquarters in West Des Moines.

Bill and Nancy Couser: While Bill and Nancy Couser of Nevada are recognized leaders in Iowa agriculture, they're quick to point out that they are life-long learners; always ready to pursue new opportunities and technologies that can benefit their farm, industry and environment.

While the Cousers grew up in small towns with a love for agriculture and livestock, they both worked in other careers before starting the Couser Cattle Company 20 years ago. After a modest beginning with 24 cows, Couser Cattle Co. is now a second and third generation multi-faceted operation that annually feeds and finishes 5,000 to 6,000 head of cattle and farms 5,000 acres, producing both corn seed and soybean seed. Their son, Tim, works on the farm.

The Cousers rely on science-based research to help them run a farm that is economically stable and environmentally responsible. They have worked with a number of organizations and institutions including partnering with the Iowa Cattlemen's Association (ICA), USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa State University (ISU) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a better way to handle runoff from their cattle feedlot. The pilot project they've developed and now use replaces the effluent basin with a series of vegetative treatment areas and infiltration systems to treat feedlot runoff to an acceptable standard. They worked with the DNR and Iowa State to build a mono-slope style feeding building that directs rainfall away from a new pen and allows more feeding capacity without compromising the vegetative buffer system.

The Cousers have been instrumental in the development of Lincolnway Energy, a 50-million gallon local-investor owned ethanol plant which opened in 2006. Located seven miles from their feedlot, the plant offers an opportunity for them to demonstrate the concept of a sustainable cycle. Couser leads tours of the plant and his farm, explaining how he raises seed corn for ethanol, uses dried distillers' grains for cattle feed and then uses cattle manure to fertilize the next corn crop.

Farm Bureau has been a long-time source of information and opportunity for Bill and Nancy. They were honored as Outstanding Young Farmers from IFBF in 1981. Since then, the Cousers have been honored with a number of state and national awards for conservation and community service. Bill was named as one of 10 People Who Matter by Time magazine in 2006. He has been a director of the Story County Cattlemen's Association for 33 years, chair of ICA's business issues committee and a past vice chairman of National Cattlemen's Beef Association animal health committee. He is a former and current president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, a director of Iowa's Institute of Cooperatives and a director of the Nevada Economic Board. Bill and Nancy were named Iowa Master Farmers by Wallaces Farmer magazine in 2007.

Nancy has worked as a nurse for 30 years at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames and has served as a director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Story County 4-H board, Story County planning and zoning and was a governor-appointed member of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission.

Stewart Melvin: While Stewart Melvin is an engineer by trade, he's described as a "farmer at heart," by the Davis County Farm Bureau which nominated him for the Distinguished Service to Ag Award. He grew up on a family farm near Bloomfield and still owns and manages farmland in Davis County. Stewart spent most of his career as a professor of agricultural engineering at Iowa State University. He received all of his degrees, including his Ph.D., from Iowa State. He has been a licensed engineer in Iowa since 1969. He also taught at Silsoe College in the United Kingdom from 1985-86.

Stew Melvin worked for 34 years as an ISU Extension ag engineer in Iowa--as a soil, water and waste management specialist prior to retiring from ISU in 2004.  He also served as head of the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department at ISU for eight years. Melvin served as the interim director for the Iowa State Water Resources Research Institute at ISU from 2002-04.

Upon his retirement from ISU, Melvin joined Curry-Wille & Associates an engineering firm in Ames to work on animal waste management issues, as well as other soil and water engineering projects. He has had international consulting experience in Europe, South America, Southeast Asia and Mexico. 

He's dedicated his professional life to working to improve ag waste management systems and drainage systems. From working with the environmental committee for the Iowa Cattlemen's Association to leading water quality projects in Poland and Russia, Melvin has served farmers in Iowa and beyond. He's been recognized for his achievements including receiving the Engineer of the Year award from the mid-central regional American Society of Agricultural Engineers in 1991 and 1992 and honored with the Iowa Master Farmer Exceptional Service Award in 2004.

Dolores Mertz: Agriculture has always been a central part of her life. Whether that meant working beside her husband, H.P. "Pete," on the family's Kossuth County farm for 32 years to representing Iowa farmers during her 22-year tenure in the Iowa House of Representatives, Mertz has dedicated her life to agriculture. In 2010 she retired from the Iowa House of Representatives after 11 terms.

She started as a farm wife and bank teller in Kossuth County and became the first woman to serve as a Kossuth County supervisor. She was appointed to the board of supervisors in 1983 when her husband passed away and his vacancy needed to be filled. Mertz won a special election in 1984 to complete the remaining two years of his term and in 1986 she was elected to a four-year term.

Mertz was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1988, representing House District 8 which includes Humboldt and Pocahontas counties, southern Kossuth County and northwestern Webster County.

Mertz used her practical knowledge of agriculture as she served on the House Ag Committee for 22 years. She was the first woman who was appointed chair of the House Ag Committee in 2007 and served as the senior Democrat on the Ag and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, with responsibilities for funding conservation and farm programs. She has also been recognized as an Iowa Farm Bureau "Friend of Agriculture" and has served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Council. She may be the first woman to proudly acknowledge her unofficial title as "Queen of Drainage," as she was extremely knowledgeable about the complex law involving Iowa drainage districts.

In its nomination of Mertz, the Kossuth County Farm Bureau wrote, "Coming from an agricultural background, Dolores took this knowledge to the Legislature. She made sure that Iowa stayed focused on agriculture…she fought hard for the ideas that were important to the Iowa Farm Bureau."

Mertz has also been a local 4-H leader for 25 years, in addition to a number of community activities and leadership roles.

Page County farmers receive IFBF young farmer achievement award

Page County farmers Justin and Jennifer Dammann were presented Iowa Farm Bureau Federation's (IFBF) 2011 Young Farmer Achievement Award on Dec. 8 at the organization's annual meeting in Des Moines. The annual contest honors young farmers who show outstanding management ability in their farming operations and involvement in Farm Bureau and community activities.

Receiving second place in the contest were Tom and Jessica Forbes of Monona County. Third place recipients were Mark and Stacy Boender of Mahaska County. The Dammanns raise cattle, corn, soybeans, alfalfa and rye on their Century Farm near Essex. In addition, they offer a number of diversified services including a seed business and custom farming, spraying and harvesting and grain hauling. Justin and his father also run a hay business.

Justin and Jennifer have both served Farm Bureau in various capacities at the local and state levels. Justin has held president, vice president, young farmer committee chair and policy development chair posts on the Page County board and has participated in the state resolution committee. Jennifer is a graduate of Farm Bureau's Ag Leaders Institute, and both have played active roles on the statewide young farmer advisory committee. The Dammanns volunteer for the county Cattlemen's Association, the Iowa Soybean Association, the county Extension Council, the county fair and the local Study and Service Club.

or their award, Justin and Jennifer received a plaque, the use of a John Deere tractor for one year/300 hours or a XT Gator and a 90-day NPNI farm Plan Certificate. They will also receive expense-paid trips to the 2012 American Farm Bureau annual convention in Honolulu (to represent Iowa in the National Young Farmer Achievement competition), the GROWMARK annual meeting in Chicago in August and the IFBF Young Farmer conference in February.

The Forbes started farming on their own in 1999, renting land and having the corn and soybean crops custom planted and harvested. They purchased equipment in 2001 and now offer a variety of custom farming services to area farmers. Tom has served as the Monona County Farm Bureau young farmer chairman and has also served on the political action committee and county board of directors. Jessica is also involved with the local chamber of commerce and community economic development committee. For placing second, they received a plaque, parts on Site Bin, a 90-day NPNI Farm Plan Certificate and a $500 gift certificate from GROWMARK.

The Boenders raise corn and soybeans and also run an excavating business. Mark also works with his dad and brother, farming and running a custom farming business that offers a variety of services including planning, harvesting manure hauling, tillage work and more. For their third place honor, the Boenders receive a plaque, a gift certificate from Grainger, a 90-day NPNI Farm Plan certificate, a GPS unit from Farm Bureau Financial Services and a John Deere-branded Safe.

Vittetoe named 2011 'Woman In Agriculture' by Iowa Farm Bureau

Farm and family are two vital components in Heidi Vittetoe's life; as the general manager for her family-run farrow-to-finish sow operation, they have to be. Vittetoe works closely with her husband, Jerome, and their daughters, Amanda and Rachel; marketing more than 200,000 hogs annually.  Her dedication to her family and industry has earned her Iowa Farm Bureau's 2011 Woman in Agriculture honor, a yearly tribute that recognizes one woman who demonstrates outstanding leadership abilities in the promotion of agriculture. The announcement was made at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) annual meeting in Des Moines on December 7.

The award is another way for Vittetoe to show her daughters and other women interested in agriculture that farming is a smart and successful career move.

"Today, it has become much rarer for women to make farming their primary career, especially since many choose to work off the farm for economic reasons," says Vittetoe. "I feel blessed to have been shown that I could make farming and family the focus of my life and share that with others."

Vittetoe's family operation, J.W. Vittetoe Pork, is important to the hog industry and the local community, employing 45 people and working with 30 local farmers as contract growers. The operation was recently honored as Cargill Pork Supplier of the Year for the second year in a row.

Vittetoe is well-respected in her field and has been named an Iowa Master Pork Producer by the Iowa Pork Producers' Association and a Pork All-American. She has also been active with the Washington County Farm Bureau, serving as president and voting delegate.

In addition to running the business, Vittetoe is a vocal supporter of hog production and Iowa agriculture. She hosts journalists from around the world at the farm, discussing the benefits of modern agriculture and defending practices such as the judicious use of antibiotics for her livestock to keep them healthy. Vittetoe has also served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission.

She is also active with the Washington Community School Board and is a finance council member for St. James Parish.

Vittetoe's recognition includes a plaque, a $250 cash prize and up to $500 to cover expenses for an Iowa conference for women. 

Humboldt farmer earns 2011 Bob Joslin Excellence in Agriculture Award

Whether he's harvesting corn on his Humboldt County farm or visiting with trade leaders in Japan, Jay Lynch is a young farmer who contributes to his local community while keeping a global perspective. His multi-faceted approach to farming has earned the agricultural leader the 2011 Bob Joslin Excellence in Agriculture Award from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Lynch received the award at the IFBF annual meeting in Des Moines on December 7. The award honors a young farmer who demonstrates outstanding leadership qualities in Farm Bureau, agriculture and his/her community. Lynch grew up on a Century Farm near Gilmore City, working with parents, Robert and Linda. Today, he and his wife, Emily, run a family farm near Humboldt and also farm with his parents. The Lynches have two children: Alison, 6, and Nathan, 3.

"It's quite an honor, especially because I give Farm Bureau a lot of credit for getting me actively involved," Lynch says. "Hopefully, I'll have done enough good to offset some of what they've given to me." Lynch has been involved with the Humboldt County Farm Bureau, serving in a number of leadership and volunteer roles. He has been active with the county board of directors and served as president from 2009-2010. Lynch is a graduate of the Iowa Farm Bureau's Ag Leaders program and used those skills to visit with legislators in Des Moines and Washington, D.C. He's also been involved with Young Farmer activities and assisted with farm safety day camps for local elementary students.

Lynch is also involved in commodity organizations at the state and national levels. Currently, he's District 2 director for the Iowa Corn Growers Association, chairs ICGA's animal ag and environment committee, and serves as a voting delegate for the U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association.

Although he doesn't raise livestock, Lynch is a strong supporter of the livestock industry and the economic opportunities offered by increased market access and international trade. He's hosted foreign delegations from China, Korea, Mexico and Japan on his farm and has taken his talents overseas, as well. Lynch was recently elected as the grain representative for the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

"Who is our (grain farmers) number one customer? It's the livestock industry," says Lynch. "We need them to be successful. We're all in this together."

Lynch also focuses on the environment. As an employee of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, he has worked with hundreds of farmers to discuss and discover farming practices that are beneficial to the environment. He's also served as the Watershed Coordinator for Pocahontas County.

As the Joslin Award winner, Lynch receives a plaque, a $750 gift card from GROWMARK and expense-paid trips to the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in Honolulu, the GROWMARK annual meeting in Chicago and the IFBF Young Farmer conference. The Excellence in Ag Award is given in memory of Bob Joslin, who served as IFBF president from January 1986 to December 1987 and was known for his support and encouragement of young farmers.

About Iowa Farm Bureau: Iowa Farm Bureau is a statewide organization dedicated to enhancing the People, Progress and Pride of Iowa. More than 153,000 families in Iowa are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve farm and rural prosperity. For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture visit the online media center at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

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