Outstanding volunteers receive MFB 4-H Excellence in Ag awards

Three outstanding 4-H leaders were honored with 2017 Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Awards Jan. 19 at MFB’s Voice of Agriculture conference in Grand Rapids.

MFB Michigan 4-H Excellence in Agriculture awardees with MFB representatives.
Photo by Farm News Media

Melanie Barnes, of Iosco County; Tiffany Spedowski, of Mecosta County; and Michelle Barnes, of Calhoun County; were recipients of $1,000 grants, funded by the MFB 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Endowment, to designate to a 4-H agricultural program of their choice, for volunteer training, supplies or curricula to enhance 4-H programming locally and statewide.

Melanie Barnes

Since the beginning of her involvement with the 4-H program in Iosco County in 2006, Melanie Barnes has worked diligently to help local 4-H members gain skills in their project areas and for themselves. She worked with the 4-H Horse Program to establish a local 4-H educational camp to allow members to expand their horsemanship and showmanship skills, as well as leadership and teamwork skills. In addition to her guidance with the horse project area, she is also a 4-H Livestock Club volunteer.

She has been instrumental in establishing youth leadership positions for members, such as a 4-H market steer club that allows members to thrive in both their project areas and personal development. She connects 4-H with her community as well, arranging for youth to speak on the radio, and organizing community service events at the local fairgrounds as well as a youth-led community breakfast to share about the 4-H program.

“Melanie has done an outstanding job encouraging youth to participate in the 4-H Awards program both in Iosco County and at the state level,” wrote Kelli Rau in her nomination for Melanie. “In addition to supporting youth in various award programs, Melanie also encourages youth to step outside their comfort zone and participate in regional and state leadership experiences. She has a way with making youth feel empowered, and she encourages them to seek new opportunities and live the 4-H motto of making the best better.”

Tiffany Spedowski, Mecosta County

Tiffany Spedowski has been a 4-H volunteer for 20 years, leading the largest 4-H community club in Mecosta County with over 70 youth members, known as the Stanwood Pioneers 4-H Club.
Aside from being a club leader, she is involved in the Junior Livestock Association, Horse Leaders Association and Mecosta County 4-H Council. Through those groups, she holds officer roles and is actively involved in the county program, which influences and benefits the lives of all Mecosta County 4-H members.

Community service is a big focus of the Stanwood Pioneers 4-H Club. The club participates in many service projects that contribute to the quality of life in the community. Through these projects, the club stays active and involved during all seasons and helps youth to learn the importance of giving back and advancing their citizenship.
“Tiffany is showing her youth how to recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism,” stated Jenn Marifo in her nomination for Tiffany. “She also does this by showing through example helping out those individuals that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to participate in 4-H. The members of her club are always growing and contributing through their service and leadership and help in any area they are needed.”

Michelle Barnes, Calhoun County

Michelle Barnes got her start with 4-H in 1998, and today she volunteers with five clubs: 4-H Dairy Starter Calf Club, 4-H Shooting Sports, Calhoun County 4-H Council, Lucky Starts 4-H Club and the Mini-winnies 4-H Club.

Along with living the life of a small farmer, she works in the veterinary field. She is a shining example of someone who works hard and shows passion for the world of agriculture. She uses the resources available to her through the veterinary clinic and her own knowledge to help teach many concepts in animal husbandry, nutrition and much more.
She leads many community service projects for 4-H Council. She represents 4-H at many local events, teaching youth to be involved leaders in their community by example. This past year Calhoun County 4-H offered a tractor and machine operator course for youth. She was instrumental in helping surface instructors and assembling other resources to make the program a success.

“Michelle is always encouraging youth to pursue their dreams,” said Andrea Boughton in her nomination. “She even pushes them to look outside their comfort zone and create goals that might require some hard work to achieve. Once youth have set these goals, she is there to support them every step of the way. Whether it is learning how to vaccinate, tag or build a new enclosure, Michelle will support them and usually find others to help as well.”

Supported annually through the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture and funded by the MFB 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Endowment Fund, the 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Awards recognize outstanding achievements of Michigan 4-H volunteers or groups that have exhibited excellence in 4-H youth education and leadership development in the areas of 4-H beef cattle; dairy cattle; goats; horses; horticulture, crops and soils; poultry; rabbits; sheep; swine and veterinary science.

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