Outstanding Young Farmer Congress
Connecticut welcomed more than 200 members of the Outstanding Farmers of America (OFA) to the National Outstanding Young Farmers (NOYF) Congress from February 6-9 in Westbrook. Attendees included former NOYF alumni, sponsors and other agricultural professionals, as well as 10 finalists from across the nation. The organization gathered to honor the outstanding achievements of America’s young agriculturalists.
“It is an honor to have the National Outstanding Young Farmers Congress join us in Connecticut,” said Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “We are proud to showcase the diversity and breadth of agriculture here and celebrate the accomplishments of our producers who are alumni of this great organization.”
During Commissioner Hurlburt’s address on Thursday, February 6, he also presented a proclamation from Governor Lamont recognizing the OFA’s efforts to celebrate the diversity, productivity and efficiency of current and future agricultural professionals and declaring February 8, 2020 at Outstanding Young Farmer Day in the State of Connecticut.
Each year, the OFA accepts nominations for National Outstanding Young Farmers. Candidates must be between 21 and 40 years of age deriving two-thirds of their income from their farm business. “This is our 64th year recognizing outstanding young farmers since it started in 1955 making it the longest running program,” said OFA Coordinator Sharon Page. “Applicants are evaluated on the growth of their operation, community service and conservation practices.”
Ten finalists are honored at the annual NOYF Awards Congress, four national winners are selected, and all past nominees are inducted into the Outstanding Farmers of America. The four national winners for 2020 are Brandon and Ashley Bonk of Delaware; Will and Heather Cabe of Georgia; Michael and Mary Beth Jackson of Iowa; and Doug and Maria Bichler of North Dakota. They each received a savings bond from corporate sponsor John Deere and the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., during National Ag Week in 2021 to represent the NOYF program.
Past Connecticut nominees for the NOYF award were on hand to celebrate and welcome OFA members to the state, including Keith Bishop of Bishop’s Orchards (Class of 1990), Joey and Dawn Geremia of Geremia Greenhouse (Class of 2011), and Joe and Ida DeFrancesco of J. DeFrancesco & Son Inc. (Class of 2016). Page shared, “This year marks the first time the awards congress was held in Connecticut thanks in part to previous Connecticut nominees who were strong proponents for hosting and organizing the activities.”
As a former national finalist, Joe DeFrancesco welcomed the opportunity to share what he does with attendees. “We do a lot with a little [land] here compared to other parts of the country,” he said. “We don’t take agriculture for granted and attendees were impressed by the strong support we receive from the Commissioner of Agriculture and what we are able to accomplish.”
J. DeFrancesco & Son has been a family-owned business for more than 100 years with seven acres of greenhouses and 120 acres of field crops. The newest addition is an on-farm brewery, Stewards of the Land Brewery, LLC, which was well received by all.
Other tour stops included Geremia Greenhouse, a large wholesale greenhouse operation which ships product 52 weeks a year to more than 200 stores and family-owned retail operations and Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery, an award-winning winery, farm market and pick-your-own fruits.
For more information on the Outstanding Farmers of America, please visit www.ofafraternity.org.