Dakota Everts, Tyler Keckley, Travis Hake, Marissa Hake and Melanie Strait-Bok award the Hakes with Farm Credit Mid-America’s inaugural Forward Thinker Award during a Know to Grow Conference in March.

Marissa and Travis Hake honored with Forward Thinker Award from Farm Credit Mid-America

Marissa and Travis Hake of Edon, Ohio are the recipients of Farm Credit Mid-America’s inaugural Forward Thinker Award. This award is given to young, beginning or small farmers who exemplify outstanding leadership, community involvement and implementation of unique practices that drive the growth of their operation.

The Forward Thinker Award is made possible through Growing Forward, the financial service cooperative’s program for young, beginning and small farmers. This multi-year program provides eligible customers with continuing education opportunities that focus on financial management and help these customers position their operations for growth and long-term success.

“We felt it was important to highlight and reward innovative thinking among our young, beginning and small farmer customers,” said Dakota Everts, vice president of Growing Forward and Lending Partnerships. “This award is just a small way we are able to acknowledge Marissa and Travis for their exceptional work. We hope their story will inspire other young, beginning or small farmers to pursue fresh ideas for their operations.”

The Hakes are seventh-generation farmers with a diverse operation that includes producing beef, hogs, and row crops. They recently bought an adjoining property to graze their cattle on and are brainstorming ideas for a potential agritourism experience on that land. 

“Farm Credit Mid-America does a great job bringing the younger generation of agriculture together and providing valuable resources beyond just loan service — we wouldn’t be where we are without them,” Marissa said. “For us, forwarding thinking involves constantly asking questions about what’s happening around the world: what are the needs of our customers, and how can we serve a global marketplace?”

Marissa noted the importance of diversification, especially for a generational farming operation, to maintain a competitive advantage and remain relevant in the marketplace. The Hakes run their operation with the guiding principles of What’s right by our land, what’s right by our animals, and what’s right by the people in our community.

“One of my favorite parts of being in agriculture is the connection we have with our animals and our land,” Marissa said. “My advice for anyone considering making the jump into agriculture is to surround yourself with a strong community of counselors who can provide specific guidance for the various parts of your operation.”

Forward Thinker Award recipients are recognized at one of the cooperative’s Know to Grow conferences for young, beginning and small farmers. They also receive $5,000 and a personalized plaque.

Applications for next year’s Forward Thinker Award will open later in 2022. Applicants must be customers of Farm Credit Mid-America and either belong to or have graduated from the Growing Forward program. 

“This award will continue to recognize young, beginning and small farmers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or Tennessee who are blazing the path for the next generation of agriculture,” Dakota said.

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