OSKALOOSA — Michael and Mary Beth Jackson of Oskaloosa were selected national winners at the 64th annual National Outstanding Young Farmers Awards Congress held Feb. 6-8 in Westbrook, Conn.
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.
Guest Master of Ceremonies Tom Steever of Brownfield Ag News announced the four national winners and interviewed them for an upcoming episode of This Week in Agribusiness.
The three other national winners for 2020 are from Delaware, Georgia, and North Dakota. 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 2021.
As a sixth-generation farmer, Michael was challenged to discover where he fit into the operation when he returned from college with a degree in feed science and agronomy. He replaced his father’s aging swine buildings with more efficient, segregated, early-wean swine buildings, and they partnered in growing corn and soybeans.
Michael has further diversified with Jackson Seed Sales, providing seed for corn, soybeans, and cover crops. The investment in a 40-foot no-till drill led to a custom drilling business to offset the cost of the equipment.
It also allows Michael to seed cover crops in the fall, providing erosion control, nutrient banking, and increasing the soil’s organic matter.
Other conservation practices include 20,000 feet of terraces and more than 100 acres of dedicated wetlands, settling ponds, buffer strips, grassed waterways, and headlands.
The farm’s goal is a sustainable soil legacy with cleaner water and a strong economic bottom line through less input costs.
Michael’s wife, Mary Beth, is the bookkeeper for the farm, seed business, and custom farming operations and is involved in the school activities of their children, Arianna, Johnathon, and Mack. The couple are active in Farm Bureau, 4-H, Iowa State Extension Ag Advisory Group, their church, and Practical Farmers of Iowa. They participate in Ag in the Classroom, where they use Skype to give on-farm tours to classrooms as far away as Florida.
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 and supported by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and the U.S. Jaycees.