The Gen-O Award has been created to recognize young farmers in CROPP Cooperative who have demonstrated their commitment to organic farming, and preserving the family farm and rural communities through leadership, stewardship and innovation. As we look to the future of farming, we feel it is vitally important to acknowledge the farmers of tomorrow who will ensure that delicious, local, and sustainable organic food choices exist for generations to come. The Gen-O Award goal is to identify and foster the development within our co-op of the next generation of leaders of the organic movement.
Garin and Sarah Smith own and operate a diversified organic farm in Skowhegan, Maine, where they live with their two young children. Garin grew up in Charlotte, N.C., in a house with a yard big enough for a greenhouse and a vegetable garden, which he worked with his dad. He was drawn to the physical sciences in high school, particularly ecology, which led to his attendance at nearby Warren Wilson College, where he majored in environmental studies with a concentration in sustainable agriculture. There, he also met his wife, Sarah. Even before college, Garin worked on vegetable farms near his home, drawing gratification from the meditative aspect of farming. Together, Garin and Sarah herd 40 cows, which thrive on rotationally grazed pastures, raise chickens, beef, and devote about six acres to vegetables and cut flowers, operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and sell at five nearby farmers’ markets, including one that they founded in their home town of Skowhegan. Garin is also a board member of Maine Organic Milling (MOM) and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).
Raised on one of the first hog farms in the U.S. to earn organic certification, James Frantzen of Elma, Iowa, has committed his professional and personal life to the success of responsible hog farming. At the young age of 23, James has become a “pork prodigy.” As a teenager, James partnered with his father to research, design and build a state-of-the-art gestational hoop building for sows. Individual feeding stalls, plenty of water, and deep bedded loafing pack ensured a comfortable and humane environment that promoted herd health and productive litters of piglets. For the past 2.5 years, James coordinated the production of the pork “pool” of Organic Prairie (the meat division of Organic Valley), and just last month, he made the leap to full-time farming at his recently purchased acreage in Northeast Iowa, where he maintains a farrowing house that he constructed. Closer to home, he is the President of the Alumni Chapter of his high school’s Future Farmers of America program, and he is involved in his community’s “Character Counts” task force, which promotes trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship throughout New Hampton and Chickasaw County, Iowa.
Ross Bansen, age 22, remembers feeding calves bottles in his family’s milking parlor as a six-year old boy living in Monmouth, Ore. He was raised in a family that is dedicated to what they call the “3Hs”—the Health, Happiness and Harmony—of cows. As a young man, his on-farm contributions focused on implementing sustainability systems that have helped his family’s operation conserve water and energy, and he is interested in wind power as an alternative energy source. As a student at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Ross led the fundraising efforts for the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. He also spent time in Arusha, Tanzania, helping schools build chicken pens and gardens to alleviate their community’s food shortage. Recently graduated in May with degrees in business and biology, Ross will be the fourth generation in his family to embrace the dairy business, a journey that will focus exclusively on organic farming. Later this year, Ross will further his experience and exposure to organic dairying practices through an apprenticeship in New Zealand.