Recognizing innovators, Zimmerer receives young farmer award
Rapid City, S.D. – During the 58th Annual National Outstanding Young Farmer’s (NOYF) Awards Congress, held Feb. 13-16 in Rapid City, S.D., four national winners were selected from a group of 10 finalists. Huntley’s Patrick Zimmerer was among this year’s winners.
“It really is an honor to even make the top 10 and to be recognized for my work in agriculture, community service and conservation,” Zimmerer comments.
He further notes that the award has helped affirm his choice to return to production agriculture after college.
The National Outstanding Young Farmer program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the U.S., with its first group of national winners being selected in 1955.
“Each year, the NOYF inducts four members into their organization,” says Zimmerer. “I, along with three others, was selected to be in class 2014.”
The program is sponsored by John Deere and administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America. The U.S. Jaycees and National Association of County Agricultural Agents also support the program.
The process to apply for the NOYF award begins at the end of each summer, and Zimmerer said he was encouraged to apply for the award by Donna Cuin and Jeff Edwards, both of UW Extension.
“Donna Cuin suggested that I apply, so she nominated me and motivated me through the application process,” Zimmerer comments. “Wyoming has not had an applicant in a while.”
Ten semi-finalists were selected in November. Later, the 10 were whittled down to the four winners, based on progress in an agricultural career, extent of soil and water conservation practices and contributions to the well being of community, state and nation.
Along with Zimmerer, Christian and Julie Richard of Louisiana, Ali and Scott Ferry of Michigan and Jennifer and Brian Harbage of Ohio were selected as winners. Winners received a savings bond from corporate sponsor John Deere and the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. during National Ag Week in 2015.
Zimmerer is part of a diverse business near Huntley. As a fourth generation farmer, he was determined to develop a venture to allow the family’s farmland and heritage intact.
“After attending a meeting about growing grapes in the Wyoming area, Patrick researched the idea and planted 300 vines,” says NOYF. “In the past 13 years, he has expanded to 10,000 vines on 10 acres, producing 15,000 to 20,000 bottles of wine each year.”
Table Mountain Vineyards and Winery has continued to expand and grow since its inception. Today, the operation features an event center with a tasting room to help market the product.
Zimmerer’s wine can be found in more than 60 stores throughout Wyoming.
To ensure the success of Table Mountain Vineyards, Zimmerer has focused on conservation and continued improvement.
“New equipment and technology have been a necessary component of Patrick’s operation, both in the raising of crops and the marketing of the products,” says NOYF. “Conservation practices have included a tree line and windbreak to protect the vineyard and prevent erosion.”
Zimmerer says, “We have also looked to enhanced some of the wetlands on our property using minimal till and drip irrigation.”
Ultimately, he comments that they strive to be good stewards of the land and enhance those wildlife areas not being productively farmed.
Aside from his work at Table Mountain Vineyards, Zimmerer has also remained a strong part of the state ag community.
“I’ve served on the Board of Agriculture for eight years and just finished my last term. I’m also the outgoing chairman of the Board,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve been involved in different organizations, such as Wyoming LEAD and the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean’s Advisory Board.”
Zimmerer worked to establish the Wyoming Grape Growers Association and serves on the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom Board, as well as local organizations, including the county lodging tax board.
While the award is a highlight in his production, Zimmerer says, “We continue to grow and expand our business through Wyoming.”
He plans to continue making developments to enhance the operation but remains committed to providing a quality product and enhancing conservation.
“It is an honor to be recognized for the efforts that are ongoing through my work here,” Zimmerer says.
“It is exciting to see how agriculture has changed – from traditional crops to a crazy grape grower in Wyoming and a crawfish farmer in New Orleans, there was a lot of diversity in the award winners,” Zimmerer says. “It is also amazing to see the alumni come back year after year to see the next winners.”
Zimmerer’s accomplishments mean that he will be involved in welcoming the 2014 winners to the organization and visit Washington, D.C. on behalf of the organization.
“It really is an honor to be recognized for our efforts,” he adds.