Tanner Sanness, 26, of Reconnected Farms near Dorchester was named the first-place winner of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) “Grow Your Future” Award.

The award promotes young agriculturalists, ages 18-35, with a niche market, unique ag service or specialty business. Sanness was announced the winner during the 2023 IFBF Young Farmer Conference, held Jan. 27-28, and will take home $7,500 to grow his mushroom growing business.  

“I was in college when I heard a podcast about the health benefits of Lion’s Mane mushrooms,” says Sanness. “I wasn’t involved in farming at all at the time. When I couldn’t find them locally, I bought a grow kit.” 

Sanness now grows 300 to 500 pounds of mushrooms per week that can be found in local grocery stores and 20 area restaurants. With his winnings, he plans to purchase a delivery van and walk-in cooler. 

Matt Vermeersch of Mud Ridge Ranch in Pottawattamie County, where he raises and sells Scottish Highland cattle, was awarded the $5,000 second-place prize. In third place, Annie Palmer of H8R Acres LLC in Warren County, where she raises purebred Berkshire hogs and Navajo Churro Sheep, received $2,500.

“These top three finalists exemplify the opportunities agriculture has to offer for those willing to think outside of the box,” says Amanda Van Steenwyk, Iowa Farm Bureau farm business development manager. “From growing mushrooms to niche livestock opportunities, young farmers are finding ways to stay innovative and add value not just to their own farms—but to Iowa agriculture as a whole.”

The award process began with young entrepreneurs submitting an application and short video introducing their business, its community impact and future goals. Five applicants were then selected to participate in a public voting during Iowa Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting. This vote narrowed the contestant pool to these three entrepreneurs who competed in a live “pitch-off” in front of nearly 500 young farmers during the Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Conference. 

To learn more about the IFBF Grow Your Future Award for young farmers, visit www.iowafarmbureau.com/GrowYourFuture.