ZEELAND, MI -- Cliff Meeuwsen, president of Zeeland Farm Services, Inc., has earned the Leaders and Legends Award from the Michigan Agri-Business Association, honoring individuals who have led the growth in Michigan's agricultural industry and acted as sparkplugs for innovation and creativity.
Meeuwsen has led ZFS, a 65-year-old agri-services business based in Zeeland, MI, through tremendous growth and transformation that has forever altered the face of agriculture in Michigan.
Meeuwsen and his two brothers, Arlen and Robb, are co-owners of Zeeland Farm Services, which in 1996 opened Michigan's only soybean processing facility in a move to keep Michigan's increasing soybean crop from leaving the state, thereby reducing transportation costs for farmers. The result has been a more than 25 percent increase in the acres of soybeans grown in Michigan in just 20 years.
Meeuwsen is credited with growing and diversifying ZFS' businesses, creating new uses for Michigan-grown soybeans and establishing the company as a national leader in grain handling, food products, ingredients, biofuels and more.
"Cliff Meeuwsen has exemplified innovation and tremendous optimism during the course of his career," said Ron Brown, board chairman of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. "His work has boosted Michigan's agricultural economy and resulted in solutions to our unique infrastructure challenges. His determination when facing challenges is an example we all can benefit from."
Zeeland Farm Services was founded by Cliff's father Robert, as Meeuwsen Produce and Grain in 1950, and later rebranded as ZFS in 1977. In 1992, Cliff, Arlen and Robb, purchased the company from their father.
In recent years, the company created new uses for its soybean processing plant, including food-grade cooking oils and biobased industrial products made from soybeans, and seized unique marketing opportunities for these products around the world. The company also expanded into ethanol and biodiesel production in Nebraska and Pennsylvania.
Cliff Meeuwsen was also recognized for his commitment to creating an environmentally sustainable company. In addition to building LEED-certified administration facilities, ZFS uses landfill gas to power itsfacilities, and sells the excess energy to Consumers Energy to power homes and businesses in West Michigan. The company is also involved in farmland preservation efforts in West Michigan.
"Cliff has the unique ability to see an opportunity, seize that moment and pursue new opportunities in agriculture to continue growing his business for the future," said Jim Byrum, president of MABA. "His work to expand and grow ZFS has set a benchmark for innovation in Michigan agriculture and grown the economy across our state. All of us in agribusiness respect Cliff and admire his perseverance, vision and his contributions to our industry."
Meeuwsen accepted the award on behalf of all ZFS employees.
"I accepted the award on behalf of our ZFS family, of which you all are a part, and without you all, of this would not be possible. THANK YOU ALL," Meeuwsen wrote to his employees after accepting the award at the MABA Fall Outlook Conference on Mackinac Island.
Meeuwsen was joined in the 2015 class of Leaders and Legends recipients by Cliff Vennix, former owner of Auburn Bean and Grain. Previous winners of the award are Don Slachta, Theodore (Ted) Leipprandt, Dick Krafft and Herm Geers.