WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, Ohio — Nick and Sunny Cummings were national winners at the 62nd annual National Outstanding Young Farmers (NOYF) Awards Congress in Sacramento, Calif.
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 community involvement. The Cummingses are first-generation farmers.
In high school, Nick said he persuaded a banker to loan him money to buy a baler. He started custom-baling and worked all summer to pay back the loan. “I still maintain that relationship today,” he noted.
He rented his first 25 acres at age 19. Nick knew from high school that he’d be a farmer, but Sunny grew up on a multi-generational farm.
“We farm approximately 2,000 acres today, from corn, soybeans and wheat to feeder cattle,” Nick said. “We own about 650 acres with a partner. I would credit my involvement with agriculture to 4-H and FFA.”
Sunny teaches second grade at Miami Trace Elementary School and they have three kids: Tyler, 14, Hannah,10, and Hayden, 6. All are involved in 4-H. Tyler already wants to be a farmer and everything the couple is doing is for the next generation, Nick said.
Sunny is highly motivated to educate her students about where their food comes from, that lunch is not just from Kroger or Walmart, and to teach them to be good stewards of the land. Some conservation practices the Cummingses have established include installing surface waterways.
They have systematically tiled about 350 acres, and established buffer strips along the edges of several creeks, Nick said. They do grid soil sampling, fertilization soil sampling and variable-rate applications. They are doing more no- and minimum-till practices.
They credit part of their success to establishing good relationships. They have surrounded themselves with good people, Nick said.
“When you talk about agriculture today, everyone around you says it is just not possible; it is too hard to get into farming. We are the opposite because that is what we did. Some of the things that happened in our lives are a blessing. We surrounded ourselves with good people; they gave us some opportunities to buy or rent land. They believed in us and trusted us, and gave us that opportunity.”
The other National Outstanding Young Farmer award winners were Robby and Stephanie Bevis, Arkansas; Ian and Val Plagge, Iowa; and Sam and Jenn Zimmermann, Wisconsin.
The NOYF is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, selecting its first group of winners in 1955, according to Rich Norz, program coordinator for the candidates. It is sponsored by John Deere, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America and supported by the National Assoc. of Conservation Districts, the National Assoc. of County Agricultural Agents and the U.S. Jaycees.
Candidates for the program must be nominated. “There are plenty of great young farmers out there, and we love to get nominees. Anybody can nominate another farmer and anybody can self-nominate, as well,” Norz said.
For information, visit www.OFAfraternity.org