The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) recognized four leaders from across the state for their contributions to the organization and agriculture at its annual Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Promotion (LEAP) Conference, held Feb. 2-3. 

The Promotion & Education (P&E) Committee presented its Advocate of the Year Award to Keith and Lori Aakre of Clay County and the Golden Apple Award to Amy Mastin of Beltrami County.

The Advocate of the Year Award is presented to individuals who work tirelessly to advocate for farmers and ranchers. Keith and Lori devoted their lifetime to promoting agriculture in their community and across Minnesota while also continuing to run their own family farm. They volunteered countless hours on behalf of county Farm Bureau events, FFA chapter activities, and their local rodeo. Some of their favorite ways to tell agriculture’s story is through annual second grade farm visits, and working in the State Fair building each year. 

The Golden Apple Award is presented to someone who has gone above and beyond to work with Agriculture in the Classroom programs and educate others about farming and ranching. Mastin is dedicated to building relationships with farmers, growers, and Farm Bureau members in her community. She also brings agriculture and business into her classroom, with students learning marketing, branding, and all facets of animal husbandry.

The Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) committee presented its Golden Pitchfork Award to Brady and Katie Lee of East Polk County, while the Outstanding Friend of YF&R went to Marlin Fay of Mower County.

The Golden Pitchfork Award is presented to someone who is not afraid of hard work and heavy lifting in helping to promote the YF&R program. Brady and Katie lead by example, holding several roles at the county Farm Bureau level, including president and YF&R chairs. They served on the state YF&R Committee, representing District 7, from 2019-22. Serving the next generation is also important, as they volunteer with the annual Collegiate Discussion Meet in their district. 

The Outstanding Friend of YF&R is presented to someone who has gone above the call of duty to assist and lead YF&R into the future. Fay shows his support for YF&R programs in District 1 through judging FFA and Collegiate Discussion Meet contests, advocating for local members to attend state Farm Bureau events, encouraging younger members to become involved in their county board, and attending events in the area hosted by YF&R chairs. Outside of his work advancing YF&R programming, Fay serves as president of the Mower County Farm Bureau, and advocates for agriculture in a variety of ways.

The annual LEAP Conference is designed to provide leadership and advocacy training for all MFBF members and is hosted by the P&E and YF&R Committees. Over 225 members attended this year’s conference, taking part in workshops, special sessions, and networking with fellow members from around the state.