At the AgVocacy Forum in New Orleans, Bayer recognized the 2016 Young Farmer Sustainability Award and Produce Innovation Award winners. The Young Farmer Sustainability Award was presented to Tyler Wegmeyer of Wegmeyer Farms, a commercial wholesale, u-pick and agritourism operation in northern Virginia. Amy Machamer and Hurd Orchards, a family-owned fruit farm in upstate New York, received the Produce Innovation Award.
“We are proud to recognize two farmers who are committed to modern, sustainable agriculture and focused on strengthening the public’s connection with agriculture,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP. “It’s an honor to work alongside people who are so passionate about their profession and dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others.”
Young Farmer Sustainability Award
Wegmeyer Farms, owned and operated by Tyler and Harriet Wegmeyer, grows strawberries, pumpkins and approximately 30 other specialty crops in addition to corn, soybeans and wheat. Growing up on a large-acre dairy farm in northern Michigan, Tyler chose the nontraditional route to becoming a farmer. Before buying his own farm, he began his journey working in Washington, D.C. for both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, where he saw firsthand how important “AgVocacy” is in effecting public policy.
One of Wegmeyer’s core business innovations involves a model of farm satellite locations for his u-pick operation. Developing several under-utilized pieces of land, he has found ways to increase overall yields by reducing weather risk while also engaging the local community in food production. Wegmeyer is completely transparent when it comes to sharing his farming practices and personal experiences of using modern agriculture technologies and the benefits they bring to his farm, the environment and his customers.
“We try to create an experience that is not only about the basics of agriculture like how a strawberry or pumpkin grows, but how a farmer works with and cares for the land and environment using science-based modern production methods to grow safe, nutritious food,” said Wegmeyer. “It is important for us to win in the court of public opinion because as farmers we need to have legislative policies and regulations that can sustain us into the future for generations to come.”
Amy Machamer, along with her mother, Susan Hurd Machamer, own and operate Hurd Orchards in Holley, New York. The sixth-and seventh-generation farmers grow apples, sweet and sour cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears and various other fresh fruits on the 200-year-old farm. The Machamer’s dedication to increasing the demand for produce through awareness of health benefits, and their efforts to increase accessibility to a larger group of people, made Hurd Orchards an ideal candidate for the Produce Innovation Award.
“It’s a privilege to work in an industry where people like Amy are doing so much to ensure that families in their community have access to safe and nutritious food,” said Rob Schrick, horticulture lead at Bayer. “Bayer is proud to support produce growers working to solve the challenges surrounding our nation’s health and nutrition through the use of fruits, vegetables and potatoes.”
Since dedicating themselves to the continuance of their farm in 1985, Amy and her mother have honed their focus on public outreach programs that align with their deeply-rooted reasons for farming. These programs include gourmet dinner events, luncheons and youth outreach that expand agricultural knowledge to nearly 5,000 guests each year.
“Our outreach programs are often a forum for us to share with guests the most important things about our farm, as well as our most thoughtful insights about agriculture and food. We hope that the creativity of each program will reach our guests and encourage them to think newly about the importance of agriculture to our community, and our world,” said Amy Machamer. “We want them to go home with an understanding that agriculture is a sophisticated enterprise, filled with beauty, taste, nutrition, spirit and meaning.”
Wegmeyer and his farm were chosen from a pool of applicants by a panel of three judges: Dennis Dimick, former executive editor for the environment at National Geographic Magazine; Andrew Fansler, CEO of Fansler Farms and 2015 Young Farmer Sustainability Award winner; and Judy Speas, vice president, development at Bayer. Wegmeyer will receive a new 360 SOILSCAN™ portable soil testing system and credit towards a professional development or training opportunity.
Machamer’s application was hand-picked by a panel of judges that included: Tom Stenzel, president, United Fresh Produce Association; Bryan Silbermann, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association; John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO, the National Potato Council; and Adrian Percy, global head of research and development at Bayer. Machamer will receive a $10,000 grant, which she plans to use for hosting an educational lecture series on agricultural production.
2016 marks the sixth time that Bayer has recognized a farmer 40 years old or younger with the Young Farmer Sustainability Award. The award was created to highlight young, talented farmers producing amazing and inspiring results through sustainable agriculture. Now in its second year, the Produce Innovation Award recognizes a produce grower whose innovative practices advance the industry and enhance the positive contributions of produce on individual lives, and society overall.
"Tyler has demonstrated impressive efforts beginning a farm, connecting with the community, and building strong relationships with customers," said Dennis Dimick, former executive editor for the environment at National Geographic Magazine. “Educating an urban public about farming is so important to building support for farmers, farming, and agriculture. Education is as important to the future of farming as using sustainable practices like building soil and conserving water."
“Hurd Orchards has taken a very innovative and thoughtful approach to addressing the issue of accessibility by inviting the community out to the farm in the hopes of creating impactful experiences with produce,” said Bryan Silberman, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association. “Their desire to create an agricultural lecture series to educate the public is a true example of the positive contributions to society this award sets out to honor.”
Visit Bayer's YouTube Channel to view videos profiling Wegmeyer Farms and Hurd Orchards.