The ingenuity and drive of young people in Iowa agriculture have always amazed me.

Over the years, I’ve met dozens of young people working against the odds and trying to build their place in agriculture. Some are raising non-traditional crops and livestock and marketing directly to consumers. Others are developing value-added opportunities in everything from bacon to beer. And many are working to use newer technologies — the internet, drones, big data and more — to help other farmers improve efficiency and protect the environment.

That ingenuity was on full display recently at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s Grow Your Future award program during our organization’s wildly popular young farmer conference, which drew 500-plus attendees to Altoona Jan. 31-Feb 1. The Grow Your Future award, in its first year, celebrated young farmers in Iowa who develop opportunities to add value to their farms or seek out non-traditional avenues in agriculture.

The inaugural contest’s top finishers had unique business plans. One is raising crickets for protein; another offers visitors a chance to stay and dine at a working dairy farm; and a third specializes in raising grass-fed beef and also markets vegetables, herbs, maple syrup, fruit preserves and handmade jewelry.

That’s quite a range in just three businesses; and it’s a great indication of just how much ag entrepreneurship and innovation we’re seeing in Iowa today.

I can’t wait until the next group of Grow Your Future entries and winners. It’s a safe bet I’ll again be blown away.