Farm Credit Illinois Announces FreshRoots Directors Cup Honorees
Six young and beginning farmers or farmer couples throughout central and southern Illinois were named the inaugural FreshRoots Directors Cup honorees this week.
The Directors Cup presented by the Farm Credit Illinois Board of Directors celebrates young and beginning farmers committed to continuous learning and intentional living for a brighter future for their farm family business and community. Honorees receive $5,000, a commemorative keepsake, and will share their innovative ideas with peers while serving as advocates for Farm Credit Illinois for one year.
Cooperative members were selected by a panel of five industry representatives– including one FCI Board member – based on a combination of each applicant’s unique farm beginnings, personal and business aspirations, and passion for building a brighter future for their farm business and community.
The Directors Cup award is part of the FreshRoots young and beginning farmers program, which provides lending assistance and learning incentives to farmers up to age 40 or in their first 10 years of farming.
“These young and beginning farmers are displaying resiliency, as they develop the ground-breaking skills and practices it takes to succeed in farming today,” says Eric Mosbey, FCI Board Chair. “The Board of Directors celebrates the proactive steps they are taking to invest in their future.”
“FCI is proud to provide cooperative value through learning workshops and support for young and beginning farmers as they prioritize personal growth and professional development,” says Tom Tracy, FCI President & CEO. “The Directors Cup is another tangible way FCI is Helping the Next Generation of Farm Families Succeed.”
The following beginning farmers were selected as 2019 Directors Cup honorees:
Levi Bailey of Louisville (Clay County) is a third generation corn and soybean farmer. Bailey, 27, began farming in 2013. He and his wife Amanda have three children. He is now the sole proprietor of his family farm and off the farm, runs SeedCo Inc. seed dealership and Outback Storage facilities and custom harvests, plants, and sprays.
“A person can get ahead and build a business with hard work and a willingness to try new things,” says Bailey. “We have to keep up with the ever-changing industry to create profit opportunities for our farm and family.”
Ben Briggs of Stonington (Christian County) is a sixth-generation corn and soybean farmer and custom operator. Briggs, 32, began farming in 2011 and is now the sole proprietor of his family farm. He and his wife Abby have one daughter.
“It’s impossible to know everything, so don’t try,” Briggs says. “Instead, surround yourself with trustworthy people who will have the answers you need. FCI learning workshops have instilled in me the strong importance of building working capital and living conservatively to insure future financial stability and happiness on and off the farm.”
Faith Kemme of Altamont (Effingham County) is a third-generation corn, soybean, and wheat farmer. Kemme, 24, began farming in 2016 and works with her father and brother-in-law. She and her husband Matt have one son. Kemme holds multiple part-time jobs as a University of Illinois research assistant, summer-time Bayer field engagement specialist, and substitute teacher.
"Success is no accident; there’s always something to learn and room for improvement,” says Kemme. “Focusing on improving the farmland and resources you already have is an opportunity for all farmers.”
Derek and Renee Martin of Mt. Pulaski (Logan County) are seventh generation corn and soybean farmers and farm with Derek’s brother Doug and his wife Erin. Derek, 38, began farming in 2013 and Renee, 38, joined the farm full-time in 2018 while raising their two sons. The Martins co-own Bluestem Agricultural Services, which provides analytical knowledge on soil health and biology, aggregate soil structure, biologicals, and cover crops.
“Embracing technology allows you to become more efficient and profitable and provides the next generation with opportunities,” Derek Martin says. “Sometimes even implementing old practices with new twists, like strip-till and no-till, can help you achieve your goals.”
Bob Schroeder of Mahomet (Champaign County) is a sixth-generation corn and soybean farmer. Schroeder, 28, began farming in 2011 and works with his father and brother-in-law. Schroeder and his wife Katelin have one daughter. He is an alumnus of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program. Schroeder grows seed corn for Bayer and Pioneer, seed soybean for Remington Seeds, non-GMO corn for Cargill, and yellow food grade corn for Anderson Grain.
“Annually looking at each farm’s results and challenges allows you to implement specific solutions,” Schroeder says. “Constantly testing new ideas lets you see how they can impact the business’ bottom line.”
Nathan Wentworth of Warrensburg (Macon County) is a sixth-generation corn and soybean farmer. Wentworth, 39, began farming in 2005 and works full-time with his father and cousin. They also partner with other cousins to increase efficiency. Wentworth and his wife Jessica have two children.
“Data collected from on-farm research drives future product and practice choices,” says Wentworth. “Understanding cost of production and projecting net farm income helps remove emotion from marketing and can improve working capital and ownership equity.”