Michael was raised on a beef cattle and tobacco farm and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in agricultural economics.

Nora’s family owns and operates a small grocery store in Meade County. She has a degree in marketing from Western Kentucky University and works part-time in the circuit clerk’s office.

Today, Michael is responsible for the daily operations and labor on the farm while Nora handles finances, recordkeeping and public relations.

“We have had to build this business from the ground up,” said Michael. “Our farming operation has been established by building an acreage base through rental arrangements. Basically, we started by renting the small tracts of land that were either difficult to access with large equipment, too small for established operations or had fertility issues. In other words, we tried to get our feet in the door by farming land that nobody else wanted.”

The McCains plan to continue growing the farm into a 6,000-acre operation.

“We have worked to increase production on these farms and have gradually been able to lease larger and better tracts of land,” added Michael. “We are still in an expansion mode.”

The couple has also launched a few secondary enterprises over the past several years — including the sale of greenhouse-raised tobacco transplants and subcontracting right-of-way mowing for the State Highway Department in two nearby counties — as ways to increase cash receipts and expand their farm acreage.

Additionally, the McCains have improved their marketing capabilities by gradually expanding their grain storage capacity to 285,000 bushels. They note that this is a dramatic increase from their humble beginnings 11 years ago when they had no on-farm grain storage, drying capabilities or in-house trucking.

Outside of life on the farm, Michael is a director for Washington County Farm Bureau and chairman of the young farmer committee. He also serves as the Secretary/Treasurer for both the Kentucky Small Grain Grower’s Association and the Kentucky Livestock Coalition, is an active member of numerous other civic and commodity organizations, and is a graduate of KFB’s Leadership Enhancement for Agricultural Development (LEAD) program.

Nora serves on the Washington County women’s committee, volunteers her time at an elementary school mentoring program and Relay for Life, and is also a member of several commodity-based organizations.

The McCains have two children, ages 3 and 18 months. They hope to eventually pass the farm on to them.

“We have a strong desire to raise our children on the farm in hopes of instilling in them a strong work ethic, closeness in family, strong ties to community, and the importance of stewardship and resource protection,” Michael explained.

“We intend to grow our business to a scale that will enable our children to have the opportunity to return to production agriculture if they so choose.”

Joel and Carrie Cook

Second place finishers, Joel and Carrie Cook, operate a 750-acre cattle and row-crop farm in Simpson County with Joel’s father. Joel purchased 100 acres from the estate of his grandparents and is the fifth generation of his family to farm the land; the balance of their farmland is rented.