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Cumberland County farmer wins national award

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Cumberland County’s Hillary Barile was selected as a national winner at the combined 2021 and 2022 National Outstanding Young Farmers Awards Congress held last week in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Barile owns and operates Rabbit Hill Farms in Shiloh with husband Jeffrey, father Abe Bakker, brother Blair Bakker and uncle Robert Reed. Barile was one of four national winners selected from a group of eight finalists for the 2021 award based on their progress in an agricultural career, extent of soil and water conservation practices and contributions to the well-being of the community, state and nation, according to a news release from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

“It is very humbling to be selected as there were so many other wonderful candidates,” Barile said. “We understand the work it takes to be successful in agriculture, and it is truly special to be recognized in this way.”

Barile and the other winners will receive a savings bond from John Deere and the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., during National Agriculture Week in March.

“We are very proud of Hillary for being an outstanding representative of New Jersey on the national agricultural scene,” Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “Hillary’s ability to create a new vision for her family farm is a credit to her and an excellent example of the ingenuity and innovation that so many farmers in our state possess.”

Barile grew up on Rabbit Hill Farms, originally located in Central Jersey. She graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, working in the agricultural field. She returned home in 2010 to help the farm relocate to Shiloh.

The farm primarily grew potatoes but switched to growing barley for malt and building New Jersey’s first craft malthouse.

Barile cited the growth in the craft beer and spirit industry as well as the fact that New Jersey made some changes to support growth in the industry as reasons for the switch.

“Rabbit Hill briefly considered starting an on-farm brewery to capitalize on the consumer interest in craft beer and educate consumers that beer is an agricultural product,” Barile said. “However, as I researched what was required to make beer on the farm with our own ingredients, I learned more about the main ingredients in beer. Malt, an ingredient in beer and spirits, is predominately made from certain varieties of barley. The quest to make malt for ourselves led me to conclude that there is a market for locally grown and craft malted barley in our state.”

The Outstanding Young Farmer program is the oldest program of its kind in the nation, with the first group of national winners selected in 1955. The goals of the program are to foster better urban-rural relations, award farmers for their contributions and raise awareness of the industry’s impact on the economy.

Contact John Russo: 609-272-7184 Twitter: @ACPress_Russo

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I graduated from Rowan University in 2011 where I studied journalism. I covered local high school and college sports at the South Jersey Times and Vineland Daily Journal. I have been a sports reporter with The Press since July 2013

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