2017 #RootedinAg Contest Finalists

Syngenta names finalists in this year's #RootedinAg contest.

Syngenta is grateful to everyone who entered the 2017 #RootedinAg contest. The stories they told about the people who most nourished their agricultural roots were heartfelt and inspirational. Although it was difficult, a panel of judges narrowed the field of competitors to five finalists—each of whom has received a mini touch-screen tablet. Please read their stories below.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. See Official Rules for more details.

Thomas Luke Andrews from Boyle, Mississippi

Thomas Luke Andrews from Boyle, Mississippi
Thomas Luke Andrews with his late grandmother
Growing up working on my family's farm, I swore I would never farm—long hot days of hard work, not knowing what the crop would even be worth in the end. This was not what I wanted to do.

My grandmother was my best friend. She was the daughter of a sharecropper. She was the fourth of nine children. Growing up, each child was expected to pick 200 pounds of cotton each day or be punished. To help keep her younger siblings from receiving a punishment, she would pick her cotton quickly and then go help the younger ones.

Even after growing up in a rough childhood, she was still the sweetest woman I have ever known. After marrying my grandfather, they started farming. She drove tractors, hauled all the cotton to the gin and the soybeans to the elevator, and still cooked three meals a day, while raising two sons.

I grew up worshipping her. When I was around 20 years old, she explained to me that farming was not a lifestyle, but a way of life. After that, I saw the picture she had been painting for me my entire life.

She passed away January 2017 at the age of 80. I cannot think of a better way to honor her than through this contest. The picture I am submitting was taken last fall during the 2016 harvest. The picture is of me and her on the combine. She would come ride with me every year. This was a hard-working woman, who loved farming and all aspects of agriculture. It is because of her that I truly love farming and agriculture.

Lauren Grimes from Tifton, Georgia

Lauren Grimes from Tifton, Georgia
Lauren Grimes with her husband Andrew and three young children
Growing up, I was not involved in agriculture. When in 10th grade, I started dating Andrew Grimes, who is now my husband. His family had a farming operation where they grew row crops and produce. During the summer months, I worked on the farm in the packing facility for their cantaloupe operation. Andrew's mother, Jane, was in charge of all the food safety and conducted the audits that were performed on the farm. She included me in these as her assistant. It was then that I grew a passion for what my husband does full-time, and that is growing the food and fibers for our world.

As we graduated and began our lives, I became very active in our local farm bureau and in the classrooms of our local schools, where I currently teach ag to young farmers. I love to share the story of agriculture, and it is all because of Jane getting me involved.

In 2015, Jane passed away after her long battle with breast cancer. I am now the food safety director at our family farm, Docia Farms. I wouldn't be able to do this today if it wasn't for her teaching me the things I needed to know and showing me how to love agriculture just as she did. I love sharing the story of agriculture and being a part of this family farm because I know this is what she would have been doing if she was still with us today.

If I were to win, I would want nothing more than to donate the $1,000 donation to an organization in my community that promotes and supports the education of agriculture to our young children. I have pasted a link to a video about our family being nominated as the Young Farm Family for the state of Georgia.

Tift County Family Named Finalists in GA Young Farmer Association Competition

Steve Groves from Bakersfield, California

Steve Groves from Bakersfield, California
Steve Groves with his two granddaughters
In 1935, my grandad, Henry Jefferson Hutson, left Oklahoma with his wife and five children and traveled with all their possessions to Arvin, California. Farming as a sharecropper in Oklahoma did not offer a prosperous future for Henry’s large family, so like many others at the time, the Hutson family became part of the group known as the Dust Bowl Immigrants.

Grandad Hutson worked a team of mules at Di Giorgio Farms, breaking ground for some of the first vineyards and orchards in the Arvin area. He later went to work for W.B. Camp Farms as an irrigator. He raised his family in company-provided housing at the Sunset Camp south of Weedpatch, finally retiring at the age of 72 years old. Grandad spent the last ten years of his life tending to his backyard garden. He never actually retired from farming.

It was Grandad Hutson’s love and dedication to farming that influenced me to pursue an education and career in agriculture. Now, 41 years after his passing, that legacy has been passed on through me to my two granddaughters, who are active in 4-H and FFA. I’m sure Grandad Hutson would approve.

Tori Streitmatter from Sparland, Illinois

Tori Streitmatter from Sparland, Illinois
(From left to right) Tori Streitmatter, her twin sister Taylor, her mother Ann, her father Dave, her sister-in-law Kaitlyn and her brother Jay.
I was age five and just woke up from a deep sleep, while being carried up the driveway from the shed where Dad parked his truck. It was dark outside, and I was wrapped up in a men’s Pioneer sweatshirt. I could smell the fresh cut corn. My father was the one carrying me. I then heard my brother and sister following us closely. They were holding Dad’s lunchbox, thermos and Carhartt coveralls. I was gazing up at the stars, and it was silent on the farm. I thought to myself, “This is what I live for.”

I had fallen asleep in the cab of the combine that night, and this was an every night ritual for all the Streitmatter kids during harvest. As old as it must have gotten, Dad performed this routine every evening because he loved us and wanted to expose us to the lessons that cannot be learned in textbooks.

My father is who I credit for fueling my fire for agriculture. He was my biggest motivator throughout my 4-H and FFA days. He taught me how to work hard without expecting anything in return, live simply, stay humble, respect everyone’s ideas, give back to my community, problem solve, stand up for what I believe in, and ALWAYS hold my farm family close to my heart. He has exemplified countless characteristics that have transformed me into the extremely passionate young “agvocate” I am today. I owe everything I am to my father.

Nicole Swinson from Kenansville, North Carolina

Nicole Swinson from Kenansville, North Carolina
Youth learn about container gardening at EFNEP Holiday Camp at Duplin County Cooperative Extension
North Carolina State Extension helps communities across the state through programs and partnerships focused on agriculture and food, health and nutrition. This allows for individuals to become enhanced in every aspect of life. One of these esteemed specialist includes Dr. Travella Free.

Dr. Free serves as an Extension associate and coordinator of the Discover Agriculture Program at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Farm. In this position, she is responsible for the development and delivery of science-based programs for kindergarten through 12th grade.

I met Dr. Free when she hired me as a program assistant for Discover Ag. I never met anyone so driven and passionate concerning education and agriculture. Her focus areas include Children and Youth Gardens, Entrepreneurship Gardens, coordinator for the Discover Agriculture Program at the University Farm at A&T, design of experientially based curricula and instructional strategies, and tools for K to 12th-grade teachers.

As an EFNEP (Expanded, Food and Nutrition Education Programs) Nutrition educator, I have learned how to facilitate community meetings and educate communities for the purpose of agriculture and nutrition. Dr. Free taught me the importance of our natural resources. Because of her, I'm able to educate others throughout the nation.