Dorchester mushroom farmer Tanner Sanness wins Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s “Grow Your Future” Contest

Winner of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s “Grow Your Future” Award ... Tanner Sanness (pictured at right in the photo at right) of Reconnected Farms near Dorchester in Allamakee County receives a check for the top prize of $7,500 in the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) “Grow Your Future” Award from Megan Hansen, Chairperson of Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Advisory Committee. Sanness was presented his prizewinnings at the 2023 IFBF Young Farmer Conference held January 27-28 in Des Moines, and he plans to use his prizewinnings to help purchase a walk-in cooler and a delivery van for his mushroom growing business that was the focus of his presentation in the award contest. Submitted photo.

Tanner Sanness, age 26, of Reconnected Farms near Dorchester was named the first-place winner of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) “Grow Your Future” Award.

The award promotes young agriculturalists, ages 18-35, with a niche market, unique ag service or specialty business. Sanness was announced the winner during the 2023 IFBF Young Farmer Conference, held January 27-28 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, and took home $7,500 to grow his mushroom growing business.

“I was in college when I heard a podcast about the health benefits of Lion’s Mane mushrooms,” says Sanness. “I wasn’t involved in farming at all at the time. When I couldn’t find them locally, I bought a grow kit.”

Sanness now grows 300 to 500 pounds of mushrooms per week that can be found in local grocery stores and 20 area restaurants. With his winnings, he plans to purchase a delivery van and walk-in cooler.

Matt Vermeersch of Mud Ridge Ranch in Pottawattamie County, where he raises and sells Scottish Highland cattle, was awarded the $5,000 second-place prize. In third place, Annie Palmer of H8R Acres LLC in Warren County, where she raises purebred Berkshire hogs and Navajo Churro Sheep, received $2,500.

“These top three finalists exemplify the opportunities agriculture has to offer for those willing to think outside of the box,” says Amanda Van Steenwyk, Iowa Farm Bureau farm business development manager. “From growing mushrooms to niche livestock opportunities, young farmers are finding ways to stay innovative and add value not just to their own farms - but to Iowa agriculture as a whole.”

The award process began with young entrepreneurs submitting an application and short video introducing their business, its community impact and future goals. Five applicants were then selected to participate in a public voting during Iowa Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting. This vote then narrowed the contestant pool to Sanness and two other entrepreneurs who competed in a live “pitch-off” in front of nearly 500 young farmers during the Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Conference.

To learn more about the IFBF Grow Your Future Award for young farmers, visit