2024 Best Young Farmers and Ranchers

14th Class of America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers Announced

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
The 14th Class of America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers gathering in Austin, Texas, this week to receive awards, attend family business workshops and receive a briefing at the John Deere Innovation Hub. Pictured are (back row, left to right): Tyler Knott, Brad Laack, Bryant Kagay, Abbie Bryant, Kasey Bamberger, Heath Bryant and Brad Bamberger; (front row, left to right): Megan Knott, Nicole Laack, Rachel Kagay and Rachel Arneson. (DTN photo by Nick Scalise)

AUSTIN, Texas (DTN) -- The 14th class of America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers was announced Friday by DTN/Progressive Farmer.

The annual award recognizes five farmers and ranchers who best represent the pioneering promises of American agriculture -- farmers and ranchers who are innovative, imaginative and who work to improve their communities.

"We look for farmers and ranchers who are meeting the promise and challenges of 21st-century agriculture," said Gregg Hillyer, editor-in-chief of Progressive Farmer. "As much as any class before them, we believe this class will take agriculture to the new levels of professionalism required of them as they work to feed a hungry and growing world."

This year's honorees include:

-- Tyler and Megan Knott, Knott Land and Livestock, Oak Creek, Colorado.

Tyler and Megan are the fourth generation to operate this 87-year-old ranch, 8,100 feet up on Colorado's Western Slope in northwest Colorado. Knott Land and Livestock is a commercial livestock operation producing cattle and sheep. The Knotts also operate Trout Creek Meats, a direct-to-consumer beef and lamb meat business.

The Knott's ranch is 2,400 deeded acres backing up to the Routt-White River National Forest. With additional private and federal leases, Knott Land and Livestock is 17,000 acres in all. The ranch sustains 250 cows, 700 yearlings and 200 ewes, plus purebred Rambouillet ewes and rams.

They have two young children: Ella and Collin.


-- Bryant and Rachel Kagay, Kagay Farms, Maysville, Missouri

Kagay Farms is 2,400 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. The Kagays also operate a 1,000-head lot and 200 cow-calf pairs, about 120 spring calving, and then the rest are a fall-calving herd.

The principal operators are Bryant, his father, Barry Kagay; and grandfather, Joe Kagay. Rachel is a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach. Rachel Kagay Coaching and Consulting works to train individuals, managers and teams to understand their natural talents and to understand how to use those more intentionally in the workplace.

The Kagays have three young children: Parker, Kinsley and Hyatt.


-- Kasey Bamberger and Heath Bryant, Bryant Agricultural Enterprise, Washington Court House, Ohio

Kasey and Heath, who are cousins, are third-generation partners in Bryant Agricultural Enterprise located in southwest Ohio.

John Bryant, Kasey and Heath's grandfather, began farming 258 acres. He expanded the operation to make room for his two sons, Mike and Mark, who also chose to make farming their careers.

Bryant Agricultural Enterprise, a family partnership, was started in 1988 to help achieve the same goals of John and Patsy, Mike and Christy (Heath's Parents), and Mark and Kim (Kasey's Parents). Heath and his wife, Abbie, and Kasey and her husband, Brad, joined the partnership in 2019.

Today, the operation encompasses ground in six counties, producing corn, soybeans and wheat.

Kasey and Brad have a son, Maverick. Heath and Abbie have three children: Kaden, Ella and Kamden.


-- Rachel Arneson, Arneson Farms, Halstad, Minnesota

Rachel is assuming management of 4,000-acre Arneson Farms in 2024. The operation produces wheat, soybeans, corn and 650 acres of sugar beets, the farm's most valuable crop.

Rachel's parents, Ray and Jacqueline, are set to retire, making Rachel the fifth generation to operate a farm that began in northwest Minnesota 140 years ago.

As a female operator, Rachel hopes to show other girls that women are capable and can be highly successful in running farming operations.

Rachel is an emergency medical responder and is a member and now president of the Halstad Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Rachel and her boyfriend, Ryan Stene, are raising their daughter, Isla.


-- Brad Laack, Lake Effect Farms, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin

Lake Effect Farms is a row-crop operation growing corn, soybeans, winter wheat and alfalfa in heavy clay soils and is testing production of about 100 acres of red beets for the canning market.

Brad operates his own acreage and manages a custom farming operation, the largest part of his business. Custom farming puts some money in the bank, but Brad also values the input and wisdom of his custom farming customers.

"I love everything about this," he says when asked about his business. "Ten years ago, I never would have told you where we're at today, because I never would have dreamed of it. This is all so inspiring. You go out in the spring and put a seed in the ground, take care of it all year and come back to harvest. It's awesome to watch that crop turn it into something. And year after year, we keep doing it, getting better as we go along."

Brad is married to Nicole. She is a herdsman, managing a local dairy operation with 1,500 milking cows. Together, they are raising their son, Porter.


Videos featuring each honoree of this class of 2024 America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers are found at: https://spotlights.dtnpf.com/….

America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers is accepting applications for its 15th class. Find applications at: https://spotlights.dtnpf.com/….

For any questions, contact America's Best Young Farmers and Ranchers program coordinator Dan Miller.

Dan Miller can be reached at dan.miller@dtn.com

Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @DMillerPF

Dan Miller