Meet IFB's Excellence in Ag Award finalists

By Ashley Rice

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders based on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and involvement in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

The award winner will be announced on Facebook at noon Aug. 28. Follow Illinois Farm Bureau or Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders to watch the announcement.

The finalists, listed in alphabetical order, include:

Joe Goodman, Xenia, Clay County

If Joe Goodman can’t devote 100% to something, he’s just not going to do it. That’s how Goodman approaches his career, Farm Bureau involvement and devotion to his family.

As an AgriEdge Specialist for Syngenta, Joe helps farmers manage their data and get better returns on investments. His wife, Larissa, is the agriculture coordinator for Clay County Farm Bureau (CCFB).

In 2013, CCFB reinstated its Young Leader group, and Joe and Larissa were two of the first members. The group has since grown in numbers and responsibilities, including organizing county fair activities and community outreach opportunities.

On the state level, Joe has participated in the Young Leader discussion meet, and last year, he and Larissa attended the Young Leader Ag Industry Tour, a trip Joe described as eye opening.

Reflecting on the Excellence in Ag Award application process, Joe noted how it has been a beneficial experience.

“It allows you to step back and think: Am I growing? Where am I growing? Where do I need help,” asked Goodman. “Whether I’m selected as the finalist or not, it’s allowed me to step back and think, wow, look where I’ve started and look where I’m at today.”

From the application process to their small family farm, Goodman noted it’s a team effort and he couldn’t do it without support.

“I couldn’t do it without first and foremost, my wife and my son, Rhett. I also couldn’t do it without her parents or my parents.”

Joe Goodman, left, and Jonathan and Erin Lower, right.

Jonathon and Erin Lower, Mount Carroll, Carroll County

Jonathon and Erin Lower met while pursuing agriculture degrees at the University of Illinois, and the two have been immersed in farm life and Farm Bureau ever since.

Jonathon currently farms with his father, uncle and cousin, raising 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans, 7,000 hogs and 1,500 cattle annually. He also runs a Pioneer seed dealership and a Precision Planting dealership.

Erin now stays at home to raise their three young daughters, Norah, Elise and Corinne. She jumps at the chance to help on the farm, from working cattle to hopping in a tractor to help with harvest. She is also building an art business that includes acrylic paintings of rural and farm life.

Two of the Lower’s most memorable Farm Bureau experiences include hosting U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, on their farm and taking a calf to an event at Lake Carroll.

“We had the opportunity to bring our U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos out for a farm tour,” said Jonathon. “This was organized by the Carroll County Farm Bureau. We had great dialogue and questions from both sides. We all walked away with a better understanding of the other’s viewpoints.”

“Many of the people who live at Lake Carroll are actually from the Chicago suburbs and don’t have much experience with livestock,” explained Erin. “It was fun for them to see a calf up close and fun for us to be able to talk with them about farming. The calf was a great ice breaker to start a conversation.”

Jonathon and Erin expressed how honored they are to be named award finalists.

“We were encouraged to apply by our Farm Bureau manager and other members,” explained Jonathon. “We are honored to be named finalists. Farm Bureau is a great organization that educates, supports and gives back to the community as well as farmers. We are proud to be a part of that.”

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