Every October, the Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Awards are presented at the Florida Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. Judges look at a number of qualities and indicators to determine the winners, including the growth of their farming operations and the financial progress contestants have made over the course of the year. Leadership skills both within and outside of Farm Bureau are also taken into consideration to decide who best exemplifies the traits in each category.
Achievement in Agriculture Award
The Achievement in Agriculture Award recognizes participants in the Florida Farm Bureau’s YF&R program who go above and beyond in their agricultural involvement, leadership skills and participation in Farm Bureau and other service organizations. Qualified judges in this category perform on-site farm visits with the finalists to select the winner.
Michael and Brooke Hill of H&A Farms in Lake County received the 2020 Achievement in Agriculture Award. H&A Farms is a completely vertical agricultural operation, where the Hills farm their own assets as well as those of outside investors. H&A Farms packs and distributes fruit 52 weeks out of the year and is growing in every aspect of the operation.
“We were absolutely honored to win the Achievement in Agriculture Award,” says Michael Hill. “It was wonderful to be in the final three among other young farmers and ranchers, and we were surprised and excited to win.”
Hill says it’s a crucial time for more people to make their way in agriculture. “We need young, sharp minds to get involved in the industry, and they don’t have to be from farming families,” he says. “You used to have to be born into agriculture and inherit the family business, but that isn’t the case anymore. Young farmers and ranchers who are new to the industry can make a significant impact and be very successful.”
Excellence in Agriculture Award
The Excellence in Agriculture Award acknowledges young farmers and ranchers for their active participation and growth in agriculture and Farm Bureau service. Judges narrow down the list of entrants based on their leadership skills and involvement in agricultural activities and community service.
Matt Griffin of Lake County took home the prize for the 2020 Excellence in Agriculture Award. With ample experience as a farm manager and a Bachelor of Science in food and resource economics, he is no stranger to Florida Farm Bureau competitions. Griffin is a past member of the Florida Farm Bureau State YF&R Leadership Group as well.
“I’m pretty excited to receive the Excellence in Agriculture Award this year,” Griffin says. “I’ve been involved with the Farm Bureau, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, and other organizations and it’s nice to see how all that hard work has paid off.”
Griffin notes that even though agriculture is facing a few unique challenges this season, he has high hopes for the future. “There are all kinds of new opportunities for young people to get involved in agriculture right now, and I think that will continue to be the case moving forward.”
The Discussion Meet
The Discussion Meet offers a unique format to young agricultural enthusiasts. This competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting and judges the quality and exchange of ideas and knowledge on a previously announced topic. The winner is chosen based on everything from analyzing agricultural problems and solutions to providing constructive criticism.
Tyler Pittman of Alachua County won the 2020 Discussion Meet. Pittman is a Gilchrist County Extension agent who serves on the Alachua County YF&R Committee. He and his wife live on a farm where they enjoy the peace and quiet of the country lifestyle.
“I’m honored that I get to represent Florida on the national level and discuss topics that are not only important to me in my work but in my personal life,” Pittman says. “I know several people who are passionate about agriculture but apprehensive about competing in the Discussion Meet. But what do you have to lose? This division gives you the chance to sit down and talk about something you already love, so why not give it a try?”