ISA Announces 20 Under 40 Recipients

Illinois Young Farmers Recognized for Contributions and Community Citizenship

In its second year, the Illinois Soybean Association recognizes Illinois farmers under the age of 40 for their excellence in farming operations as well as citizenship within their communities. (Logo courtesy of Illinois Soybean Association)

OMAHA (DTN) -- This week the Illinois Soybean Association announced its second class of Illinois Agriculture's 20 Under 40 award winners, including a former DTN View From the Cab participant, Chase Brown of Warrensburg.

Illinois Agriculture 20 Under 40 award recognizes the outstanding contributions and initiatives of young farmers aimed at improving both their farming operations and the well-being of their communities. Within the state, these young farmers exemplify citizenship within their communities and serve as an inspiration for their generation and the ones to come.

Among the 70 total nominations for this award, the following individuals were named Illinois Agriculture's 20 Under 40 and where they're from:

-- Adam Holste, Altamont

-- Austin O'Neall, Le Roy

-- Cassandra Schleich, Monmouth

-- Chase Brown, Warrensburg

-- Cody White, Clinton

-- Daniel Elmer Grebner, Metamora

-- Ellen Rahn, Mount Carroll

-- Erick Kane, Ottawa

-- Jake Perino, Deer Grove

-- Nik Jakobs, Sterling

-- Jeffery Landers, Mendota

-- Jarod Stock, Beardstown

-- Justin Rahn, Mount Carroll

-- Kate Huffman, Galva

-- Kayla Gallagher, Mansfield

-- Rosalie Trump, Clare

-- Seth Lambert, Maroa

-- Thomas Titus, Elkhart

-- Thomas Weger, Flat Rock

-- Bill McDonnell, Ottawa

"The main point of the program is to get out recognition, but this also allows our finalists to professionally network with other farmers who have won and are following the same paths," Lexi Hoffman, communications coordinator for ISA, said in an interview with DTN.


In 2016, Brown participated in DTN's View From the Cab feature, a diary-like series that reports each week through the growing season. In an interview with DTN, Brown stressed the importance of award programs like Illinois Agriculture's 20 Under 40 and how View From the Cab helped give his operation a voice.

"Agriculture is often slow to change. Just look at the average age of today's farmer. Programs like this recognize that there are new ideas coming to the industry. They offer a platform for the next generation to share and express their views and what they intend to contribute," he said.

"I liked doing (View From the Cab) as it was always somewhat surprising to look back and see how much we do on the farm daily. It documented our year in a way we don't often think of doing," Brown. "At the time, I also think it helped me see myself as a part of our operation with something meaningful to say."

Brown, who farms with his father, David, and uncle, Joe, sees differences in how this younger generation prioritizes life balance with farming. "The previous generation was more focused on economy of scale and trying to grow by adding acreage," he said. "Instead, I've pushed to keep the operation the same size, but added value by downsizing the horsepower requirements and fuel consumption through cover crop and reducing tillage.

This year, the farm added 160-acres of organic grain production. "We've made more changes in the last five years than we did in the first 10 after I returned to the farm," he said.

Still, there have been some life lessons in the mix, too. Over time, he has discontinued a haying business and selling local meats at the farmers market. "Both were successful and we made money, but I think my generation puts a ton of value on quality of life. We aren't afraid to work hard. I'm always going to look at opportunities, but I'm also going to be weighing what it means to my family," he said.

Funded by the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program, ISA's 20 Under 40 continues each year. Nominations open in the spring. A detailed list of achievements for this year's 20 Under 40 will be posted here (…) before the awardees gather for the Impact Award ceremony in November.