Local farm family named top young leaders
WORTHINGTON -- Ryan and Cindy Gravenhof, of rural Worthington, will represent Minnesota at the upcoming Commodity Classic after being named the state's American Soybean Association/DuPont Young Leaders.
The honor was presented to them during the annual meeting of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association at MN Ag Expo Jan. 23 in Morton. In addition to a trophy, the couple earned a trip to Anaheim, Calif., later this month to attend the national conference of the corn and soybean growers associations.
The Gravenhofs are in partnership with Ryan's brother, Stace, and their dad, Norm, in a diversified crop and registered Angus cow-calf operation. The couple lives north of Worthington, just a couple of miles from the farm where Ryan grew up.
When the Gravenhofs married in 1989, Ryan had just completed his second year at Dordt College. By then, he'd decided to pursue a career in agriculture, after beginning his freshman year as a pre-forestry major. He graduated from the four-year program with a double major in general agriculture and animal science.
Cindy, a native of Sheldon, Iowa, grew up helping in her family's hog operation. While in high school, she was named the O'Brien County Pork Queen, and went on to become the district Pork Queen. She attended the medical secretary program at then-Northwest Iowa Technical College in Sheldon.
Today, Cindy works as a personal care attendant for a special needs child, provides part-time daycare and is working to become a First Responder for Reading.
As recipients of the ASA/DuPont Young Leader award, the Gravenhofs will take part in numerous leadership training activities and seminars at the Commodity Classic. They will be joined by more than 20 other couples from across the nation who also received the honor through their state soybean association.
"We're excited, it will be a good getaway time," said Ryan.
The couple was encouraged to apply for the ASA/DuPont Young Leaders award last year after turning down an opportunity to apply five years ago. Their application was one of four submitted from young farmers across the state to advance to a formal interview.
In early January, they traveled to the MSGA headquarters in Mankato for the interview, which included questions on farming operations and practices, farm policy, soybean and other commodity issues and community involvement.
"The other couples were very knowledgeable," said Ryan, adding that they hailed from Jackson, Litchfield and Albert Lea.
Two days after the interview, the Gravenhofs learned they were selected as the winners. They are excited to represent the state at the Commodity Classic, and honored by the challenge to become leaders.
"We don't have hobbies that we spend a lot of time and money on," said Ryan. "We decided a long time ago that service was important to us.
"It goes back to our faith -- how we are called to live and make things better in the world," he added.
Ryan completed his bachelor's degree at Dordt College at the same time his younger brother finished his two year college degree. Both decided to return to the farm and join their dad in a farming partnership.
"My parents sacrificed to be able to get my brother and I started," said Ryan. The father and sons partnership expanded their crop operation to 1,800 acres, today growing wheat, alfalfa, corn, soybeans and seed soybeans. They also have acreage in pasture to help support their registered Angus cow-calf operation.
Fifteen years since Ryan and Cindy joined the family partnership, they are happy with their decision, saying that it's been a good place to raise a family and teach their children responsibility.
Their family includes four children: Katelyn, 15, who attends Southwest Christian in Edgerton, and Mitchell, 13, Haley, 12, and McKayla, 7, who are students at Worthington Christian School. Cindy is an active volunteer at Worthington Christian, while Ryan serves on the school board.
In addition to the farming operation and raising a family, the Gravenhofs are involved in their church, Worthington Christian Reformed, where Ryan is a former deacon and now serves as Sunday school superintendent. Both are leaders in church youth groups GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) and Cadets. Their children are members of the Elk Tip Toppers 4-H Club.
Ryan also served one term on the Southwest Minnesota Farm Management Association, and is now a member of the Nobles County Corn and Soybean Growers Association board.