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 37th year for the award. The two winners received plaques honoring their achievements and will be added to a permanent display at IFBF headquarters in West Des Moines.
In 1965, at the age of 21, when most young adults are still trying carve out their path in life, Kinzenbaw took the $5 he had to his name and small loan from the local bank and started a company that would later become Kinze Manufacturing, Inc., a global leader in agricultural manufacturing. Today, five decades later, Kinze has acquired 49 U.S. patents, and Kinzenbaw is named as the inventor on 19 of those. Kinzenbaw’s biggest and most notable innovations have been credited with revolutionizing the planting industry. “I was gifted with the ability to make things faster, bigger, stronger,” Kinzenbaw said during his acceptance speech. “I listen to farmers’ needs and can envision a way to tinker and build something better.”
The small startup Kinzenbaw started in the 1960s now employs 750 people and is a global leader in the manufacturing of row crop planters and grain carts. Kinzenbaw still serves as President and CEO of Kinze in addition to farming their 6th generation Iowa County family farm with his son.
In addition to his innovative contributions to modern agriculture, Jon and his wife Marcia are strong supporters of youth agricultural programs and have received numerous awards and recognitions for their contributions. In 2009, the Kinzenbaws were inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame. They also provide scholarships for college-bound high school seniors and have formed the Jon and Marcia Kinzenbaw Endowed Scholarship in Agriculture at Iowa State University.
Jay Van Wert (pictured center) has long been a leader in the agricultural community, especially in Franklin County, where he has spent most of his life. While most easily recognized for founding J’s Hay Company, Van Wert has served on countless national and local advisory boards and committees. His leadership roles began early in life, serving as a member of the Iowa State University (ISU) Alumni Association and also worked to get youth involved in agriculture through his work as an extension youth agent.
Van Wert has been an active leader in the Franklin County Farm Bureau, serving more than a decade on the board in positions including county president and voting delegate. “I feel like I was born into Farm Bureau,” Van Wert explained while accepting his award. “My grandfather and father each served on the board, my mother was on the women’s board, and my son and I have served on advisory boards. It’s been a lifetime of Farm Bureau involvement for me, and it will continue to be that way.”
In addition to J’s Hay Company, Van Wert and his son raise corn, soybeans, and lambs. He has also served as chairman of the American Farm Bureau Sheep Advisory Committee and in numerous other advisory and leadership roles for organizations including NAMA, 4-H, Franklin County Extension and the ISU Alumni Association.