Ten agricultural start-ups have been chosen as finalists in the Iowa Farm Bureau’s 2021 Grow Your Future contest, which highlights the innovative spirit of young people in Iowa agriculture. 

This year’s finalists showcase div­­erse business of­­ferings ranging from row-crop production services, specialty crops, farm-raised meat and ag tourism.

“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 Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill. “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.”

The top three Grow Your Future winners for 2021 will receive cash prizes to grow their business, with first place taking home $7,500, second place $5,000 and third place $2,500.

Finalists for the 2021 Grow Your Future Award are:

• Farm Story Meats, Ames. Ray Schmidt created Farm Story to provide its customers with transparency regarding the farms and people that supply their food. Farm Story Meats sources its meat from the Schmidt Farm, which is certified as a high-health herd, and sells its pork to customers online and locally in the Ames community.

• Grand View Beef, Clarion. Knute and Amanda Severson raise 100% grass-fed beef for sale directly to consumers. They started the business after moving back to Knute’s Century family farm in 2017 and began purchasing Hereford steers to raise on pasture in a low-stress environment.

• Gravel Road Sunflowers, Rowley. Gravel Road Sunflowers offers an extensive sunflower patch to U-pick customers to cut stems or create their own bouquet. 

They also offer sunflower seeds and are a popular location for photo shoots.

• Iowa Cover Crop, Greene County. Iowa Cover Crop is a full-service cover crop business formed in 2014 by James Holz and Bill Frederick to take the stress out of seeding cover crops. 

In addition to helping farmers choose the best cover crop for their farm, Iowa Cover Crop coordinates the logistics for ground or aerial seeding, preparing seed blends and tendering the seed to the applicator.

• Josie’s Riding Experience, Walnut. Josie’s Riding Experience offers riding lessons for all ages and experience levels. The business also provides training and consultations for horse owners. 

• O’Brien County Ag Supply, Primghar. Owners Brennen Triplett and Joshua Rausch sell feed, seed, fertilizer and crop protection chemicals as well as providing agronomy and crop input application services.

• Over the Moon Farm and Flowers, Coggon. Shae Pesek and Anna Hankins founded Over the Moon Farm and Flowers in 2019 to bring fresh and local flowers to their customers. They offer Community Supported Ag­­riculture (CSA) flower shares from June to September and also have an online flower store. 

• Reconnected Farms, Dorchester. Reconnected Farms is a specialty producer of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. The farm also raises pasture-raised animals and vegetables.

• Van Manen Sweet Corn and Fresh Produce, Kellogg. Siblings Jacob Van Manen and Emily Larson specialize in sweet corn and have expanded to sell melons, tomatoes and other produce at locations in Sully, Newton and Grinnell every summer.

• Wanders Farms, Otley. Led by Julie Wanders, Wanders Farms offers corn-finished Black Angus beef for sale directly to consumers and also processes cattle and hogs. 

Public online voting

Online public voting will kick off during the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting Dec. 8 and continue through Dec. 17. The top six contestants with the most votes will compete in a pitch-off competition during the 2021 IFBF Young Farmer Conference on Jan. 30.

The Grow Your Future Award contest is open to Iowa Farm Bureau members between the ages of 18 and 35. 

Last year’s winner was Shelby Smith of Gym-N-Eat Crickets, an Ames-based cricket farm aiming to make insect protein more widely available. 

Lynn Bolin of New Day Dairy Bed and Breakfast finished second, and the third-place winners were Jake McGreal and Lara Mangialardi of McGreal Family Farms.