WJBC's Carrie Muehling talks with Outstanding Young Farmer Brian Carlson of LeRoy at the 2013 McLean County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Awards Dinner. (Photo by Scott Vogel)
By Carrie Muehling
BLOOMINGTON – The McLean County Chamber of Commerce recognized successes in agriculture during its Agriculture Awards Dinner on Friday.
The event at the Doubletree by Hilton honored people in six different categories for service and contribution to the agriculture community in McLean County.
The group recognized the late David Freed of Lexington as the Outstanding Conservationist for helping to advance the knowledge and practice of soil and water conservation. His family accepted the award on his behalf.
“It’s a tremendous honor to accept this award for my father. It means a lot to our family. I, personally, take great pride in this award because I worked alongside my father for many years. It’s really what our entire family has stood for, for generations,” said Benjamin Freed, his oldest son.
The Emerging Leader in Agriculture award points to a young professional engaged in non-production agriculture who has served to improve agriculture through civic and community activities. This year’s honoree is Carrie Muehling, agribusiness director at WJBC Radio.
“It’s really a privilege to do what I do here because there are so many farmers here and there is so much agribusiness here. It’s such a hub for agribusiness in this state,” said Muehling. “I just thank you for working with me and letting me do what I do and letting me tell your stories.”
This year’s Outstanding Young Farmer was honored to receive the award as he is not originally from McLean County but made his home here after attending Illinois State University.
“I’ve had a lot of people help me from the area, and it means a lot,” said Brian Carlson of LeRoy. Carlson grew up on a grain and hog farm in Henry County but has been actively involved in civic and community activities in an effort to promote and improve agriculture in McLean County.
The McLean County Farmer of the Year actually recognized a farm family this year. Dan, Jim and Greg Kelley are brothers who have farmed near Normal for many years. Dan’s sons, Matt and Brian are also involved with the farming operation.
“It’s kind of neat to be recognized as a family because it is a family business and has been for three generations,” said Dan Kelley, who also serves as president and chairman of the board for Growmark.
The Outstanding Person in Agribusiness award honors a business person who has served to improve agriculture through civic and community activities. This year’s recipient is Steve Dennis, grain department manager with Evergreen FS.
“When you get an award from so many friends, it makes it very meaningful. McLean County is certainly home to me and a very large part of my family. I’ve worked my entire career here,” said Dennis. “Just being a part of agriculture, I’m so proud we work in an industry where millions of dollars of business are being done every day on a handshake or a phone call and there’s not a lot of other industries that are like that.”
This year’s Outstanding Service to Agriculture award also recognized a local farm family. Rader Family Farms received the award for contributions to the agriculture community.
“It’s a real honor because there are so many people who deserve this as well as us, but we really feel blessed and honored to receive it. We have worked hard in this community. It’s been good to us. We look forward to many more years and hope our family will continue to carry on,” said Lynn Rader, who owns and operates Rader Family Farms along with his wife, Linda and sons Adam and Aaron and their families.
This year’s keynote speaker was to be Joyce Watson, president and CEO emeritus of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation. Watson was unable to attend due to travel difficulties.
The Agriculture Awards Dinner is presented each year by the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Council.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.