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Source: National Outstanding Young Farmers news release

National Outstanding Young Farmers announced the 61st annual winners at its Awards Congress held Feb. 9-12 in Greenville, South Carolina.

Four national winners were selected from a group of 10 finalists for the award based on their progress in an agricultural career, extent of soil and water conservation practices, and contributions to the well-being of the community, state, and nation. Guest Master of Ceremonies, Orion Samuelson (WGN Radio and "This Week in AgriBusiness" on RFD-TV), announced the four national winners and interviewed them for his show that will air in the coming weeks. The three other national winners for 2017 are from Georgia, Illinois, and Mississippi. National winners received a savings bond from corporate sponsor John Deere and the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., during National Ag Week in 2018.

Mark and Angie Ulness are raising four children, Clarissa, Garrett, Whitney, and Walker, on their dairy farm, where their philosophy is simple: "We work hard every day in the interest of our strong faith, family, and farm." Mark and Angie both earned bachelor's degrees in dairy science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their focus on their dairy has been efficiency.

The milking system was updated to modern technology that allows them to monitor information on each cow and digitally adjust and calibrate the pulsation and vacuum settings. An injection toolbar is used to distribute manure on the fields from the 2 million gallon in-ground clay-lined manure pit that can hold almost two years of waste production. A new system also captures runoff form the barnyards and carries it to a concrete spreader that disperses the water over a vegetative treatment area.

Mark and Angie are active in many organizations including Foremost Farms USA, Eastern Wisconsin DHIA, youth sports, AGR fraternity, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin and US Holstein associations. Mark is the county Holstein Association president, and Angie is a graduate of the Young Dairy Leaders Institute. They serve as 4-H leaders and dairy judging coaches and are active as church volunteers.

Ben and Julie Anna Boyd of Sylvania, Georgia

As chair of the American Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, Ben Boyd testified before Congress to help shape agricultural policy. He doesn't take such a responsibility lightly, saying, "I have the opportunity to be a spokesman for agriculture from the fence row to a national stage, and I hope this works to ensure I am not the last generation on this farm."

Together with Julie Anna, a third generation farmer and an agricultural education teacher, he hopes to pass on a family legacy of hard work and sacrifice to their son, Matt.

Ben began his career raising cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, wheat, rye, oats, hay, and beef cattle after earning degrees in agriculture and business management. His 16 years in farming have been shaped by his ability to respond to disaster. Installing irrigation as quickly as possible was a priority since drought affected three of his first five years on the farm. In 2013, 68 inches of rain fell in just six months, requiring an entirely different set of management skills.

Low prices, tornadoes, livestock deaths, windstorms, and even a hurricane have tested Ben's adaptability, but with ingenuity and taking on custom work to stabilize his income, he has persevered and improved the farm's soil health and water quality in the process.

Chad and Deb Bremmer of Pearl City, Illinois

Chad Bremmer partners with his brother in a 750 head Holstein replacement heifer facility that raises calves from weaning until 30 days prior to calving. The farm also produces corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and winter wheat. Recognized as the county's conservation farm family of the year in 2009, the Bremmers have been proactive in implementing grid soil testing and a nutrient management plan for their farmland.

Chad has designed the infrastructure for new facilities on the farm including concrete manure storage and a calf building. The Bremmers are currently designing a new grain storage site to handle all the farm's grain production and to utilize natural gas in the drying process.

Chad's goals for his operation have changed as he and his wife Deb, a registered nurse, focus on raising sons Benjamin, Ethan, and Eli to be responsible young men who are appreciative of their agricultural background. Chad also aims to promote agriculture to an urban audience.

The farm hosts tours for legislators and their constituents from Chicago and others who have never been on a farm. Chad serves on the ag advisory board for his state representative and has served as the Farm Bureau's state young leader committee chair and a delegate to the AFBF.

Brad and Molly Judson of West Point, Mississippi

Brad Judson grew his first bumper crop of soybeans in his sandbox at age four. While his acreage has changed through the years, his devotion to farming has not. He produces cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat near West Point, Mississippi, where he prioritizes conservation and community involvement.

Brad has served on the county Soil and Water Conservation Board for 10 years, and he implements many soil and water resource management techniques on his farm. Brad has been involved in the Environmental Quality Improvement Program to help control erosion and water quality.

Brad worked for a local row crop farmer throughout high school and college, and when he graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in agribusiness, he started his own farm from the ground up. Although his wife, Molly, holds a degree in elementary education, she values her role as a full-time farm wife, where she considers her top priority to be raising their two children, Hamp and Howie.

Brad serves on the Farm Bureau board and is a trustee for their church. He is a founding member of the local cotton gin. Molly is active in garden club, youth sports, and is a Sunday School teacher and president of the PTO. They were named the CHS Farm Family of the Year for Mississippi.

About National Outstanding Young Farmers

The NOYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, selecting its first group of national winners in 1955. The program is sponsored by John Deere, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America (OFA), and supported by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and the U.S. Jaycees.

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