Josh Bierbaum of Cass County, Matthew Burt of Marshall County and Ryan Gibbs of Delaware County have been named Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Leadership Award recipients.

The award, created in honor of former Iowa Farm Bureau President Bob Joslin, recognizes farmers under the age of 35 who contribute to and demonstrate leadership within their communities and agriculture. 

Each winner is given a $2,000 grant to designate to a non-profit of their choice, an expense paid trip to the 2024 AFBF Annual Convention or Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference, an expense paid trip to the 2024 IFBF Young Farmer Conference, $500 gift certificate from Grainger and $1500 cash from GROWMARK.

Josh Bierbaum, Griswold

Josh Bierbaum of Griswold grows corn and soybeans with his brother and dad on their Heritage family farm—a designation for farms held within the same family for 150 years. 

Bierbaum, who serves as the Cass County Farm Bureau vice president, is an Iowa Farm Bureau Ag Leaders Institute graduate and has attended Farm Bureau policy trips to Washington D.C. to share day-to-day farming challenges with lawmakers. 

As a member of the Griswold Ag Boosters Association, Bierbaum volunteers at the local county fair, soil judging competitions and serves as a mentor for the Griswold FFA corn test plot. 

“I went to school here. I have friends and family here; I wanted to be an active member,” says Bierbaum of the Griswold community. “I think it’s an important part of what I was raised to do.”

His passion for engaging youth in agriculture inspired him to grant his award money to the Cass County 4-H Vision Endowment to help sponsor youth afford day camps, programs and membership fees.

“It was important to us being former 4-H members, and my wife, Logan, worked for extension at one time as a county youth coordinator, so 4-H is very near and dear to our hearts,” he says.

Bierbaum recognizes service to his community also means implementing on-farm conservation. To promote water quality, his family farm uses terraces, headlands, grassed waterways, stream buffer strips, cover crops and no-till practices to reduce soil and nutrient losses. 

Matthew Burt, Marshalltown

Matthew Burt of Marshalltown is the sixth generation on his family farm. He grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs and cattle with his parents, wife, Karen, and one-year-old daughter, Rachel. 

Burt is an Ag Leaders Institute graduate and currently serves as the Marshall County Farm Bureau president. In this role, he enjoys presenting to elementary students on farm life, tractor safety and career opportunities in agriculture. Because of the relationships he’s made through Farm Bureau’s young farmer events, Burt’s felt strongly about awarding his grant will go to Seeds of Hope Foundation, an organization that assists young farm families struggling with long-term, life-threatening illnesses. 

On the farm, Burt says he's always striving to do better. In addition to grassed waterways, Conservation Reserve Program acres and the use of technology to apply precise fertilizer amounts, he’s looking to introduce other conservation practices. 

“We may have a record crop, but there’s always something in that process we can improve,” he says, adding that he’s experimenting with conservation tillage to reduce soil erosion.

Burt says he looks at pictures of the family farm throughout the years and can see how much it has changed and wants to continue that progress.

“It’s more than just a job—it's a family business that’s been handed down and taken care of on our farm for more than 150 years,” he says. “It can be overwhelming, but I can’t think of anything better than being able to pass down a legacy to the next generation.”

Ryan Gibbs, Hopkinton

Ryan Gibbs of Hopkinton farms with his wife, Kristy, and two young children, Kendrick and Kolette. He grows corn, soybeans, cereal rye and buckwheat and raises cattle, commercial pigs, pasture-raised pigs and chickens. 

He is also an Iowa Cover Crop dealer, an opportunity that emerged from connections he made at Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Conference. As a dealer, he grows cover crop seed and helps farmers successfully plant and manage cover crops to build soil health and reduce nutrient loss. 

On his own farmland, Gibbs uses no-till, cover crops, rotationally grazed cattle and vermicompost—an organic fertilizer derived from worms. He is known for his strong conservation mindset in the farming community. 

“If the neighbors don’t talk about what I’m doing, I’m not trying hard enough,” he says. 

Gibbs also has donated cover crop seed for Maquoketa Valley FFA’s 20-acre plot and mentored students on soil fertility recommendations. He then purchased the harvested seed from the students to sell to area farmers to plant.   

In addition to this partnership, Gibbs awarded his grant to the Maquoketa Valley FFA to support their hydroponics system which will provide fresh vegetables for local schools and businesses. 

“To be able to give back to the community, it feels good to be part of an organization that can do that,” says Gibbs of Delaware County Farm Bureau where he serves as secretary. “I look forward to growing with the Farm Bureau. Everyone I talk to about it—I express they should get involved because it really is a great organization.”