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Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year Award
Each year, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recognizes Michigan's leading exporters in the category of Food and Agriculture products. MDARD does this by awarding a Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year award to a deserving Michigan company. This special honor can bring further success, signaling to international buyers a company's quality and commitment to exporting.
Companies of all sizes are encouraged to apply. The winner of the Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year Award is selected on the basis of export growth, innovation, and the pursuit of new export markets.
Michigan food and agriculture producers, manufacturers or shippers of good reputation and good standing in the business community, who are aggressively pursuing international markets and increasing export sales, are encouraged to apply.
Products must be over 50 percent grown, processed or manufactured in Michigan. Companies with headquarters in other states but production facilities in Michigan are invited to apply on the basis of their Michigan-made exports. Past recipients of the "Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year" award are eligible to apply five years after their initial award if they have increased their exports or expanded into new markets.
The 2023 application period has closed. Subscribe to our Ag Development email bulletin to be notified when the 2024 application period opens.
Zeeland Farm Services Earns '2023 Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year Award'
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring celebrated Zeeland Farm Services (ZFS) for earning the department’s highest export honors for 2023. The company, headquartered in Zeeland, began exporting Michigan-grown soy products in 1999 and currently about 90 percent of the soybeans they process are grown in Michigan.
ZFS was founded in 1950 and has 12 employees whose focus is exporting, while many other employees assist in the process daily. They credit their export success to having a great team of people who work well together to make their export program successful.
"Being named the 2023 Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year is a tremendous honor for our entire team at Zeeland Farm Services," said Cliff Meeuwsen, ZFS Chairman of the Board. "Nothing happens without a lot of people making it happen as a team. If it wasn’t for everyone involved, we wouldn’t have the success that we have. It’s rewarding to work with people around the world, from different cultures, to help meet their needs with products made right here in Michigan and the USA.”
As a soy processor, nearly 100 percent of their exports consist of non-GMO soybean meal. ZFS also processes corn, soybean oil, hulls, and other agricultural commodities. Many of their exports are sent to the Pacific Rim, but they also export to Canada, Europe, Central America, and South America. ZFS cites being an active participant with trade organizations and participating in events like trade shows and buyers’ missions as a major help in their export success.
The 2023 Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year award review committee consisted of representatives from Van Andel Global Trade Center, Michigan State University’s International Business Center, Comerica Bank, the U.S. Commercial Service’s International Trade Administration, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s International Trade Team. The decision was made based on export growth in the past three years, job creation from exporting, and the ability to enter new markets.
The 2023 Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year Award Winner, Zeeland Farm Services (ZFS)
Pictured: Dr. Tim Boring, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, presents award to Zeeland Farm Services (ZFS).
Read the full press release about Zeeland Farm Services' award here.
Past Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year Award Recipients
2021 Ag Exporter of the Year Award
"Citizens LLC provides high quality products to both international and domestic customers. Nattos and other non-GMO soybeans are processed at our world-class facility in Charlotte and travel from rail to ports and destinations around the world. We strive to set the highest standards of quality and to help expand the world's consumption of super foods promoting health and longevity across the world." - Bruce Wymer, Vice President of Food Grade Soybeans at Citizens LLC
2020 Ag Exporter of the Year Award
"We're so thankful to all of our customers and to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for their help and support as we have sought to grow our export business. The team here at Kamps has worked hard to increase our quality and service as we have expanded our market and are so appreciative for the honor of this award." - Rob Kukowski, General Manager of Kamps Hardwoods
2019 Ag Exporter of the Year Award
"We are honored to be the recipient of the 2019 Ag Exporter of the Year award. As a boy growing up around our operation, I never dreamed SSF would have a worldwide impact on the potato industry. Today I greatly value the customer relationships we have formed and the team we have at SSF, which helps grow some of the best seed potatoes in the world." - Ben Sklarczyk, CEO of Sklarczyk Seed Farm
2018 Ag Exporter of the Year Award
"We are honored to be the recipient of the 2018 Ag Exporter of the Year award. We never dreamed a dentist and a dental hygienist looking for a better alternative for our patients could grow a cottage business into an internationally sought-after brand of candy that provides nutritional benefits and fights tooth decay." - Debra Bruinsma, Co-Founder of Dr. John's Candies
2016 Ag Exporter of the Year Award
"Receiving this award is a reminder of how much Bayside Best Beans has grown - and continues to grow. We are proud of all the member owners who had the dream to make Bayside what it is today and the hard work our employees have put forth to help us achieve this growth. We are honored and excited to be selected as the 2016 Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year." - Bayside Best Beans General Manager Brad Witek
2015 Ag Exporter of the Year Award
"Star of the West is pleased to be recognized with the 2015 Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year award. This award is a reflection of the Star's commitment to partner with food producers and processors to provide quality flour, edible soybeans and dry edible bean products to help feed the world." - Star of the West president Arthur Loeffler