Henry R. Byma, a 36-year-old third-generation dairy, hay and grain farmer from Wantage was honored February 4 as the 2015 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer at the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention held in Atlantic City.
Byma also is one of the 10 semi-finalists for the National Outstanding Young Farmer award. He will attend the Outstanding Young Farmer Congress February 12-15 in Cherry Hill, NJ.
“Henry Byma is bright, energetic and a steward of the land he farms,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “He is a great example for other young people who are interested in starting careers in agriculture.”
Byma took the Farm and Industry Short Course at the University of Wisconsin at Madison with the goal of growing his family business to continue to be profitable, while at the same time, produce high-quality products through best practices and environmental health.
After returning from school and working as a full-time employee responsible for the family herd, in 2007 Byma and his father formed a business partnership, By-Acre Holsteins, LLC, which now comprises 680 acres in Wantage. Over the years, Byma has worked to increase efficiency and improve production. He added a 42-stall milking barn to their existing 64-stall barn and made other changes that enabled them to cut costs and increase herd production averages from 18,900 lbs. of milk per year to 21,700 lbs. He installed a 21-stall calf barn to provide a healthier, more efficient environment for calf development and enrolled in the New Jersey Cattle Health Assurance Program.
Byma places great emphasis on protecting and preserving natural resources. He has undertaken several conservation practices including use of cover crops to reduce soil erosion and water run-off; planted no-till corn to prevent soil erosion; and planted orchard grass to prevent water contamination. In 2012, a complex drainage system was constructed on the farm to reduce barnyard run-off and the farm is currently working with the Wallkill Watershed and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to develop a roof system on a farm building to collect rain and consolidate the run-off into the stock pond, already on the premises. They also have implemented a Conservation Nutrient Management Plan that allows them to more efficiently fertilize their fields while reducing any negative effects on water supplies.
“My goal is sustainability of my operation so we have partnered with a firm to produce our first value-added product — fresh mozzarella that is being sold in local supermarkets,” said Byma.
Byma and his wife, Christine, are active in the agricultural community. Henry is Vice President of the Sussex County Holstein Association and a member of the Sussex County Milk Producers Co-op, National Holstein Association, New Jersey Holstein Association, New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, Sussex County Board of Agriculture, and New Jersey Farm Bureau. Both he and Christine are active in 4-H and host and organize dairy judging clinics, as well as donate calves to exemplary 4-H members.
New Jersey annually recognizes the outstanding achievements of a young farmer, who is an upstanding leader, respected agriculturalist and is active in community or faith organizations. Nominees must be farm operators, deriving a minimum of two-thirds of their income from farming and must be between the ages of 21-40, not becoming 41 prior to January 1 of the year for which they are applying.
A panel of judges reviews each nominee’s application based on the following criteria: progress in their agricultural; soil and water conservation practices; and contribution to his/her community, state and nation.
Since the United States Jaycees presented the first award, eight New Jersey farmers’ names have been added to the National OYF Honor Roll. They include Abbott Lee (1985), James B. Giamarese (1989), Robert Von Thun, Jr. (2001), Jeffrey VanderGroef (2005), H. William Sytsema (2009), Richard A. Norz (2010), John Melick (2011), and Paul “Duce” Tallamy (2012).
The OYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, selecting its first group of national winners in 1955, and is administered by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. The goals of the OYF program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy. The OYF program encourages a greater interest in agriculture through the appreciation of the farmers’ contributions and achievements and recognizes local citizens’ contributions and encourages better urban-rural relations. The National OYF program is sponsored by Deere & Company, supported by the Outstanding Farmers of America (OFA) Fraternity and the National Association of County Agriculture Agents (NACAA), and administered by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.
For more information on the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit:www.nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html.