Three young Iowa farmers are recipients of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) Young Farmer Leadership Award for their inspiring ag and community work. The honors for Mike Dickinson, Brian Haeflinger and Sarah Rickelman were awarded during the IFBF annual meeting in Des Moines, Dec. 3-4. The Young Farmer Leadership Award, for farmers under the age of 35, is in honor of past IFBF President Bob Joslin who was well known for his support and encouragement of young farmers.

“Recognizing that leaders and role models come in many forms and are involved in many different activities, our young farmer advisory committee updated the award so three recipients can be honored,” says Mary Foley Balvanz, IFBF leadership training manager. “Just like no two farms are the same, neither are the leadership opportunities for young people, and this year’s award recipients showcase a well-rounded variety of involvement within agriculture, their communities and their county Farm Bureaus.”



Dickinson, who raises corn, soybeans, cattle and broiler chickens on his family farm in Harrison County with his wife and three young children, holds many roles that support agriculture and rural vitality. As a Harrison County Farm Bureau member, Dickinson has served as board vice president and president, has helped promote the local farmers market and has advocated for ag policy at the Iowa Statehouse. He has helped bring urban youth into agriculture through the “Exploring Swine” project which allows kids who do not have a farm background to learn about animal care and show pigs at the county fair. He is a cover crop seed dealer and member of the county’s pest resistance management pilot project which helps other farmers learn more about these challenges. Dickinson also sits on his county’s rural economic and agriculture proportional board which helped bring in local opportunities to raise poultry and aquaculture. Additionally, he was appointed by Governor Reynolds to the state’s Rural Health and Primary Care Advisory Board.

Howard County farmer Haeflinger raises corn and soybeans with his wife and three young children. In partnership with other area farmers, he also runs the feed operations for a wean-to-finish hog farm. He’s been actively involved in his county Farm Bureau serving in a variety of roles, most recently treasurer, and is also the chair of the county young farmer program. In this role, he has planned outings for young farmers to learn about other segments of agriculture through visits to tree farms and fish hatcheries. Haeflinger helped his Farm Bureau board bring “Shower with the Pigs” to RAGBRAI, to provide riders with a hot shower and to talk about pork production in Iowa. He supports youth in his community through his church and local 4-H program. He and his wife organized and managed a 5K race to help their county 4-H raise money for member dues and enrichment projects and were honored as the county’s 4-H Alumni of the Year.

Rickelman resides in Grundy County with her husband and son and works as farm manager for the largest sow farm in the county. Passionate about pig farming, Rickelman has served a variety of roles promoting pork, both at the county level and nationally, and she aspires to be the first woman to receive the American Pig Farmer of the Year award. Working with her county Farm Bureau, she has been the leader of their Celebration of Grundy County Agriculture dinner which in its first year brought in 250 rural and urban guests and grew to 300 guests the following year. Through her involvement in Ag in the Classroom activities, she plans to host a two-day ag education workshop for second and third grade teachers in her area. Rickelman continues to share the story of agriculture with legislators and has even testified in front of the U.S. Congress on the state of the small family farm. Her guest editorials on the importance of agriculture have been published in some of the state’s largest newspapers, including the Des Moines Register and Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

As Young Farmer Leadership Award recipients, Dickinson, Haeflinger and Rickelman will each receive a $2,000 grant to give to a county organization of their choice, a Choice Hotels certificate valued at $500, a $500 gift card from GROWMARK to FAST STOP or their local FS Cooperative, an engraved award and a commemorative video of their family farm. They also receive expenses paid to the 2020 American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention in Austin, the 2020 IFBF Young Farmer Conference and the 2020 GROWMARK Annual Meeting in Chicago.