Brian and Jennifer Harbage of South Charleston, Ohio, were selected national winners at the 58th annual National Outstanding Young Farmers Awards Congress held Feb. 13 to16 in Rapid City, S.D.
Four national winners were selected from a group of 10 finalists for the award based on their progress in an agricultural career, extent of soil and water conservation practices, and contributions to the well-being of the community, state, and nation. The three other national winners for 2014 are from Louisiana, Michigan, and Wyoming. National winners received a savings bond from corporate sponsor John Deere and the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., during National Ag Week in 2015.
Brian and Jennifer Harbage raise corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, and beef cattle. To diversify the operation, they have opened a “cow spa” to house dry cows for two local dairies. The barns used in this venture are registered with the state historical society, but they have been modernized for energy efficiency with the addition of solar panels.
Brian has always considered himself an early adapter of new technologies, and he utilizes tissue sampling and satellite imagery to target the needs of his crops. Yield and soil mapping have allowed Brian to build prescription rates and increase yields. Some of Brian’s ideas are so new that the equipment hasn’t been built for them yet, so he builds his own or modifies current equipment to make it work.
Brian and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons, Lane, 11, and Aidan, 9, who are active in farm operations, including selling eggs from Jennifer’s growing poultry flock. Jennifer is also responsible for the farm office tasks. Brian is active on the county fair board, serves as president of the township, and is a past board member of the Ohio Corn Marketing Program. He has been a spokesperson for the Ohio Corn Growers, traveling the world to advocate for U.S. corn. He has also been active in the Ohio Soybean Association, Farm Bureau, Ohio Cattleman’s Association, Farm Credit Services advisory board, and various other school and community organizations.
The NOYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, selecting its first group of national winners in 1955. The program is sponsored by John Deere, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America (OFA), and supported by the U.S. Jaycees and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.