Michael and Nora McCain of Washington County were honored as Kentucky Farm Bureau’s (KFB) 2011 “Outstanding Young Farm Family” during the organization’s 92nd annual meeting in Louisville.

KFB annually awards this distinction to a couple under age 35 who has exhibited the strongest farm management skills, most consistent financial growth and highest level of involvement in both Farm Bureau and their community.

In addition to receiving statewide recognition as the newest “Outstanding Young Farm Family,” the McCains won a Case IH Scout courtesy of KFB Insurance and Case IH, an Apple iPad2 from Republic Bank & Trust, $1,000 cash from Premier Crop Insurance, a $750 Dyno-Gro seed voucher from Crop Production Services, a $500 voucher from Southern States Cooperative, a portable handgun safe from Misty Morn Safe Company, and a voucher for 16 bags of seed corn from Pioneer Seed.

They also received an expense-paid trip to compete in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national young farmer contest next month in Hawaii.

Winners of the national contest will win their choice of either a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado or a 2012 GMC Sierra. Each of the four national runners up will receive a Case IH Farmall 65A tractor from CASE IH.

KFB’s second place distinction went to Joel and Carrie Cook of Simpson County. They received 250 hours free use of a Kubota tractor, an Apple iPad2 from Republic Bank & Trust, $750 cash from Premier Crop Insurance, a $500 Dyno-Gro seed voucher from Crop Production Services, a $300 voucher from Southern States Cooperative, and a voucher for 12 bags of seed corn from Pioneer Seed.

The third place winners were Jerry and Brandi Whitaker of Henry County. They won 100 hours free use of a New Holland tractor, an Apple iPad2 from Republic Bank & Trust, $500 cash from Premier Crop Insurance, a $250 Dyno-Gro seed voucher from Crop Production Services, and a $200 voucher from Southern States Cooperative, and a voucher for 8 bags of seed corn from Pioneer Seed.

(The Kentucky Farm Bureau presents many other awards during the annual meeting. Jim Sidebottom of Greensburg was one of those recipients as he took home the “Farmer of the year award. His story can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/jim-sidebottom-kentucky-farmer-year).

Michael and Nora McCain

The McCains are row-crop producers in Washington County, raising approximately 4,200 acres of corn and soybeans plus another 16 acres of burley tobacco. They own 190 acres and rent the remaining land they farm.

Raised on cattle, tobacco farm

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.

Offer custom hay service

Managing a beef cattle operation while raising corn, soybeans, wheat and tobacco keeps the Cook family busy, but they also offer custom hay rolling services and tobacco transplants to other local farmers.

Joel is additionally the current first vice-president of Simpson County Farm Bureau, the young farmer committee chair, a graduate of KFB’s LEAD program and a board member for both the Ag Development Board and the Ag Extension Board.

Carrie is the Simpson County Farm Bureau’s board secretary/treasurer, member of Business & Professional Women and a leader with numerous local civic and volunteer organizations.

Jerry and Brandi Whitaker

Third place finishers, Jerry and Brandi Whitaker, operate a 798-acre cattle and row-crop farm in Henry County. Purchasing 71 acres just a few years after they began farming tobacco and hay, the Whitakers have since grown their operation through land leases.

They now raise tobacco, corn, soybeans and grass hay in addition to managing a herd of Holstein steers. The Whitakers began custom hay baling when they first started farming to help generate cash and fund their targeted operations.

In addition to managing the day-to-day operations on the farm, Jerry also serves as a board member of the Henry County Farm Bureau.

With more than 500,000 member families statewide, Kentucky Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization.

Approximately 1,300 members attended KFB’s 92nd annual meeting, to recognize this year’s individual and organizational achievements as well

Overall it was a good year for the Kentucky Farm Bureau as the organization its 50th consecutive year of membership growth. That story can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/kentucky-farm-bureau-reaches-new-milestone.