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2024 GroundBreaker of the Year

Establishing a Legacy – 2024 GroundBreaker of the Year

Uncovering unique business opportunities, Sawyer Cottrell broke into the industry in 2021 as a first-generation farmer in Eureka, Ill. He raises and sells Wagyu beef directly to consumers, owns and operates a weed removal service for organic farmers, and teaches high school agriculture.

Sawyer’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for local youth set him apart. With genuine admiration, Compeer Financial names him as the 2024 GroundBreaker of the Year.

The $5,000 GroundBreaker of the Year award annually recognizes a young, beginning, or small farmer in Compeer’s territory who possesses an unmatched passion for agriculture and is making a positive impact in the industry.

GroundBreaker of the Year

Applicants for the farmer award can self-nominate or be nominated by another. Sawyer’s nomination came from Dana Wiegand, his Compeer financial officer.

“Sawyer is a natural fit for GroundBreaker of the Year because he thinks outside the box. Like many young farmers, he is not afraid to keep trying until he gets it right. It’s rewarding to work alongside Sawyer as he and his family build their dreams and grow their operation.” – Dana Wiegand

In addition to raising Wagyu beef, Sawyer and wife Abbie have three children – Sierra, Turner and Paxton – and value working alongside them on the farm. The whole family lends a hand on the non-traditional farming operation, selling directly to consumers out of their Farm Store and shipping products nationwide. Sawyer leverages Compeer’s beginning loan programs, which support emerging farmers and their pursuits.

“Young and beginning farmers are the lifeblood and future of agriculture,” Dana says. “As a lender, when you start with a first time farming loan, you naturally form a bond that grows together with the farm.”

Before starting a small farm, Sawyer established Central Illinois Beanwalkers (CIB) as a high schooler. CIB employs more than 150 area youth to help the growing organic community by walking fields to manually remove weeds. Sawyer’s impact on the community continues through his role as the local ag teacher.

Each day Sawyer challenges the mentality that entry into agriculture is nearly impossible without an established connection – setting an example for high school youth and his own kids. 

“There are so many different ways to be part of this industry, so I truly think anything is possible,” Sawyer notes. “If you are willing to put in the time and have the determination to see it through, ­­­you can start your own legacy.”

Legacy Ranch embodies an idea bigger than Sawyer and his family. It is a flourishing example of what can happen when people are given the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Start Building Your Dreams

Nominations for Compeer Financial’s 2025 GroundBreaker of the Year Award will open in summer 2024. Learn more about the award and eligibility criteria.

Starter Loans

Finance loan programs for young, beginning and small farmers specifically designed to meet your needs. Learn more today!


Compeer Financial's GroundBreakers program provides ongoing access to financial services designed for farmers that are 35 years or younger, or have been farming for 10 years or less.

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