Farmers Union honors four members at annual banquet

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) honored four of its members for their service to agriculture and Farmers Union during their annual banquet, Nov. 20.

Alan Perish of Todd County received the Lifetime Service Award. A retired dairy farmer, Perish has been active in MFU for more than 20 years. He’s earned several awards for member recruitment, and he’s been a delegate to the state convention for more than 20 years.

“Receiving this award is an honor. It’s been a privilege to work with so many qualified and understanding great people,” Perish said. “We need an organization that supports the smaller and mid-sized family farmers because the larger farmers’ interests are protected by agribusiness where the smaller farmers stand on their own with the assistance of organizations like Farmers Union.”

Rice County farmer Steven Read received the Distinguished County Officer Award. Read operates Shepherd’s Way Farms sheep dairy with his wife, Jodi, and their four sons. He has been a lifelong advocate for family farms, small towns and rural development.

“Minnesota Farmers Union is a true supporter for Minnesota’s family farmers and for all Minnesotans and I’m grateful to be part of it,” Read said. “I continue to be impressed by all the ways the Farmers Union responds to farmers’ concerns, creating real change that helps keep our Minnesota farm families farming and rural Minnesota strong.”

Melany Thomas of Clay County was named the MFU Rising Star. She has farmed on her own for three years. She raises organic small grains and soybeans. Thomas is a graduate of MFU’s New Leader Academy and served on the National Farmers Union (NFU) Policy Committee in 2022.

“It was a shock to learn that I won the Rising Star award,” Thomas said. “It’s really cool to be recognized for my efforts. I like the fact that Farmers Union is very diverse and there are such a variety of farmers working together. I like that we can have different political views, but the same values.”

Madeline Schultz of Faribault was named the Ag Educator of the Year. Schultz has grown the agricultural education program in Faribault from 90 students in 2020 to 415 students in 2022.

“Earning this award is a very humbling experience,” Schultz said. “When I started the program in 2020, I had hopes for what it could become. Being able to expose a group of students to an industry that means a lot to myself and my family in the school I graduated from has been a great experience and makes me excited for what the futures holds.”

“It was an honor for me to recognize these members for their leadership,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “Each of them is making a difference for family farm agriculture.”

The 81st annual Minnesota Farmers Union State Convention was Nov. 18-20 at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Minneapolis Northeast, Minneapolis.