Donya Lester never has to speak twice to bring a crowd to order. But she does at the annual Master Farmer gathering. The feisty director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association is always in control, but even she has to make two or three attempts to bring the crowd to order at the annual awards luncheon. No one is being impolite. Maybe a few of us in the crowd, including myself, are hard of hearing, thanks to too many years on tractors with straight pipes. But the real reason it takes a while to shut down the talking and begin a program is because everyone is just having too darned much fun talking to each other.
Each year four new families and an honorary recipient are recognized as Master Farmers. The modern version of the program dates back to 1968. It's sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture. Each year, former Master Farmers and their spouses are invited to return and meet the new recipients. Usually at least half the crowd is made up of these folks.
Like Dave and Bev Salomon, who sat at my table this year. "You'll have to come up and see our strip crops," he mentioned over lunch. "We're trying to raise corn yields by alternating 16 rows of corn and 16 rows of soybeans."
Don't worry, Dave, I'll get there before the summer is over, one way or another. I've followed that concept since I started this job 28 years ago. I've written about it several times. It's fascinating, and corn yields go up. The trick is keeping soybean yields from slipping due to shading. It's one of my favorite ideas but it's never taken off - not yet. I have several ideas like that, come to think of it.
Tom Turpin and his wife were there, honorary recipients of a year ago. I didn't get to talk to Tom, the master of ceremonies at cockroach downs at the Indiana State Fair, in Our Land Pavilion. He was too busy talking to Bruce McKenzie, our honorary recipient this year, Carl Eiche, our former senior editor, and other folks. At least by keeping my distance, he didn't try to con me into eating meal worms. He did that once- during a talk he gave - at the Indian Creed FFA banquet in Trafalgar. Carla, my wife, swore she wouldn't kiss me for a month!
Jim Douglas came all the way form Shelby County to be there at the Beck Ag Center at the Purdue Agronomy Research farm. Of course, it didn't hurt that he got to see his daughter, Julie, an ag communications graduate, who now works for Purdue ag communications. She writes the Ag Answers release issued every week.
But it looked tome as if he spent his time talking to other farmers, especially hog farmers like himself. Maybe they were cooking up a plan to keep things going until hog prices improve. There's a few dairymen that would like to be in on that conversation, I'm sure.
Perhaps the best visiting was amongst the new recipients. I had to pry RD Wolheter away from Maurice Robeson and others so Dave Russell And Andy Eubank, farm radio broadcasters, could interview them. And Rodney Hager always had someone asking him how his new meat business was going. "We're keeping the light on," he would respond. I've got his answer memorized by now.
No, Donya, you're not losing your touch. You're a great emcee, and did a superb job. It's just tough to break up chatting when farm folk get together.