Dec 8, 2016
Michigan Vegetable Council awards farmer, sales representative

The Michigan Vegetable Council handed out a Master Farmer Award and a Master Farmer Associate Award during the latest Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Master Farmer Award went to Mike Kenny. The Master Farmer Associate Award went to Tim Riley.

Mike Kenny

The Master Farmer Award recognizes outstanding leadership in the vegetable industry and local community.

Kenny serves as CEO and president of Kenny Inc. in Merrill, Michigan, which operates pickle receiving and grading operations in Michigan and Delaware. These operations supply over 2 million bushels of pickling cucumbers annually to companies throughout the U.S. This past year brine storage tanks were added to the Michigan operation, which makes it possible to ship pickles to processors throughout the year.

He also works with his brothers on the family farm, Kenny Farms, which grows corn, wheat, soybeans, sugarbeets and pickles on 13,000 acres. Kenny and his brothers are the second generation to grow and grade pickles.

Kenny has been an important leader in Pickle Packers International (PPI) for a number of years. PPI supports research, produces educational materials and represents the pickle industry nationally. He has served on the PPI board of directors since 2006, and on the executive committee since 2008.

He has long been a member and chair of PPI’s Agricultural Research Committee. The PPI Agricultural Research Fund, to which Kenny Inc. contributes, has provided more than $1 million for agricultural research over the past 10 years, including substantial funding of cucumber research at Michigan State University. Kenny has also made many trips to Washington, D.C., over the years to represent the interests of the pickle industry.

About 10 years ago, when downy mildew first became a disease threat for pickle growers in Michigan, he took an active role by hosting and attending other meetings to help growers and others understand the problem and learn what control tools were available. He also helped in putting facts and figures together to inform university and governmental administrators about the potential impact of this disease on Michigan’s pickle industry.

Although pickle is the only vegetable crop Kenny is directly involved with, he has taken on leadership roles important to the broader vegetable industry. He recently completed three terms on MVC’s board of directors, including two years as president and seven years on the executive committee.

Kenny has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural technology and systems management from Michigan State University. He and his wife, Liz, have two sons, Avery and Reece.

Tim Riley

The Master Farmer Associate award is presented to an individual who, while not directly involved in farming, has made significant contributions to the well-being of the vegetable industry in Michigan.

Riley, who works for Wilbur-Ellis as a technical sales representative, serves growers on the west side of Michigan. Over the years, he has demonstrated a sincere commitment to helping growers be successful in managing their crops.

Riley’s work has always been more than a job. He grew up on an onion farm near Marshall. He graduated from Central Michigan University with an education degree and had plans to teach and coach. He initially was a school teacher, but then returned to the home farm for a while. Eventually, he starting working for a Terra ag chemical dealership, which led to becoming a sales representative with Wilbur-Ellis 21 years ago.

While his consulting work with growers has been first and foremost, Riley has taken on other roles for Wilbur-Ellis, including serving as branch manager at the Watervliet branch and the former branch in Schoolcraft. He has also been a mentor and trainer for new company employees.

Riley is well connected with MSU researchers and Extension educators, often sharing information and plant samples from his farm visits. A few years ago, he was the first to observe the new anthracnose pathogen in onions. To the benefit of all onion growers, his efforts helped expedite identification and treatment recommendations by MSU researchers for this new disease problem.

Riley has always been very protective of the growers he serves. One story goes that when one of his company’s managers asked if he could schedule a day to ride with him while he made grower visits, Riley’s replay was, “Why?”

Riley and his wife, Bonnie, reside in Plainwell. They have three adult sons and a daughter.

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