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Michigan Young Farmers among top finishers at AFBF Convention

AUSTIN,  TX -- Michigan young farmers Richard Baker of St. Joseph County, Joe Ankley of Lapeer County, and Cora Okkema of Mecosta County were among the top finishers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 101st annual convention, where competitors from around the country competed for awards by demonstrating their knowledge of and achievement in agriculture.

Ankley, an agriscience educator and FFA advisor in Port Austin, finished runner-up in the Excellence in Agriculture competition. He will receive a Case IH Farmall 50A tractor, courtesy of Case IH.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive most of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

Baker, who raises hogs, cattle and grows row crops in Sturgis, finished third on Monday in the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award. He will receive a Case IH 40-inch Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH. In addition, Baker will take home $2,200 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise, courtesy of Stanley Black & Decker.

The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.

Okkema, from Mecosta County, made it to the Sweet 16 round of the Young Farmer Discussion Meet. Okkema’s roots are in Blanchard, where her family runs a dairy farm, milking 675 Holsteins. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in livestock behavior and welfare at Colorado State University with Dr. Temple Grandin. 

 The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.