James Holz and Bill Frederick of Greene County, the entrepreneurs behind Iowa Cover Crop, took home $7,500 as the first-place winners of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) second annual Grow Your Future Award, held Jan. 30, during the 2021 virtual Young Farmer Conference. 

The Grow Your Future Award is designed to promote and highlight the innovations of young people in agriculture, ages 18-35, with businesses in niche markets, agritourism, ag services or specialty products; it provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their business and compete for cash prizes to expand their business.

Iowa Cover Crop offers farmers “conservation with convenience,” serving as a full-service cover crop business providing farmers consultation and the information needed to improve soil health and water quality on their farms.  Holz and Frederick have seen the environmental benefits of cover crops and help farmers choose the best cover crop options for their farm, sharing their experiences and conservation success stories along the way.      

“The Grow Your Future Award and IFBF’s Young Farmer program presented us a great opportunity to showcase our business and network with other young farmer entrepreneurs with the same passion for rural vitality,” Holz said.  “The experience and connections made were truly valuable, both personally and professionally, and I highly encourage other young farmers with a business vision to enter the competition next year.”

Delaware County Farm Bureau members Shae Pesek and Anna Hankins of Over the Moon Farm and Flowers took home a $5,000 second-place prize to grow their small business specializing in producing high quality flowers, meat, eggs and produce for their community.  In just its second year, Over the Moon Farm and Flowers continues to grow its customer list while sharing the story of agriculture with local consumers.  With the prize money from the contest, Pesek and Hankins aim to grow the business and the local economy, while proving an example for other young women farmers with an entrepreneurial spirit and vision. 

Ray Schmidt, a Story County Farm Bureau member and owner of Farm Story Meats, earned $2,500 for third place.  Schmidt’s direct-to-consumer meat business focuses on the growing consumer demand for convenience and transparency.  Schmidt’s customers select customized boxed bundles of meats delivered right to their front door, along with stories about the farmers who raised the food.  Farm Story Meats provides consumers the transparency and information they desire regarding how and where their food was raised. 

“Innovation and entrepreneurship play a huge role in agriculture, and these young farmer award winners reflect that through the diversity of their businesses,” says Amanda Van Steenwyk, IFBF farm business development manager. “Iowa Farm Bureau is proud to highlight those who seek alternative paths to growing our state’s agricultural heritage, and we hope these entrepreneurs can inspire others to try something new and capitalize on growing consumer trends.”

Last fall, young entrepreneurs submitted contest applications and a short video introducing themselves and their business, the impact of the business on the local community and future goals.  Ten finalists were selected from the applications and public voting during the IFBF Annual Meeting narrowed the field to six.  The top six entrepreneurs from the voting round competed in a virtual “pitch-off” during the IFBF Young Farmer Conference to showcase their innovative business vision.    

“Farmers have faced an in­credible amount of adversity this year with unforeseen challenges and hardship, but it hasn’t discouraged our will to find new ways to persevere,” said Craig Hill, IFBF president.  “This award elevates those young Iowa farmers who are innovating and seeking alternative paths in agriculture to provide for their families and offer their local communities something unique. All contestants should be extremely proud of their businesses and place within Iowa agriculture, and to show our pride in these young farmers, Iowa Farm Bureau has proudly provided the top three Grow Your Future award winners recognition and monetary awards to help elevate their brand and hard work.”

To learn more about the IFBF Young Farmer program and the Grow Your Future Award, go to www.iowafarmbureau.com/GrowYourFuture