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What makes a Master Farmer?

Four Iowa farm families are being recognized this month with the Iowa Master Farmer Award.

The concept of a Master Farmer award was initiated in 1925 by Clifford Gregory, editor of Prairie Farmer in Illinois, in an effort to reward and recognize farm citizenship. Henry A. Wallace, editor of Wallaces Farmer, recognized the value of such a program, and in 1926, he launched the Iowa Master Farmer Award.

Deserving Iowa farm families have been recognized every year since — with the exception of 1932-37, during the Great Depression, during World War II in 1942-45, and the year 1962.

Selection process

For nearly 30 years prior to 1926, Wallaces Farmer carried the motto “Good Farming, Clear Thinking, Right Living” on the masthead. It became the inspiration for the scorecard used to judge Master Farmer nominations. Those three precepts are still considered in the selection process today.

Good farming refers to a successful and profitable farm business along with proper stewardship. Operating the farm as a business is only part of the job, however.

Clear thinking is an essential ingredient in farm management. It’s also crucial in family and community life. A short list of factors considered include interest in schools, participation in farm and other organizations, political interests and activity, hobbies, and forward-thinking.

Right living means farmers take care of their home and property, plan for the education of their children, are good spouses and parents, participate in church, are neighborly, etc. Judges consider how the nominees got started and how they’ve grown the operation while demonstrating sound financial management.

Those who are good stewards of the land and give proper care to livestock rank high. As you read about the 2012 Master Farmers in this issue, you will see they all exemplify the Wallaces Farmer motto.Further, this is a family award. Farming is a true partnership between husband and wife. All members of the family contribute to the success of the operation.

Recipients in 2012 are Steve and Rosalie Christensen, Riceville in Howard County; Randy and Denise Eddy, Centerville in Appanoose County; Ray and Elaine Gaesser, Corning in Adams County; and Don and Sharon Struthers, Collins in Story County.

This group brings the total to 433 Iowa farm families who have been honored since the program began in 1926.

Exceptional Service Award

The Iowa Master Farmer Exceptional Service award is not an annual honor. It is given from time to time to individuals who are not farmers but who have served a lifetime helping farmers. Extension specialists are among those who have received the Exceptional Service award.

This year’s recipient is Keith Heffernan who has held a variety of positions in agriculture. He was the first executive director of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board/Iowa Corn Growers Association and served as agriculture aid to Gov. Terry Branstad.

Heffernan also was associate director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Devel-opment at Iowa State University, director of public affairs for Iowa Farm Bureau, chief of staff for the undersecretary of USDA Rural Development, chief of staff for Farm Credit Agency, and senior vice president for U.S. Feed Grains Council.

Anyone can nominate a Master Farmer: family, neighbors, Extension, etc. Letters of support from community leaders, pastors, co-op managers, bankers, etc., help strengthen the nomination. Deadline for the 2012 awards is Oct. 1.

For a nomination form, write to Wallaces Farmer, 6200 Aurora Ave., Suite 609E, Urbandale, IA 50322. Or call the office at 515-278-7780.

This article published in the March, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.