A crowd of roughly 200, one of the biggest crowds ever to welcome a new class of Master Farmers, gathered in the shop area of the John Deere/Vincennes University training facility at the Purdue Southwest Ag Center earlier this week. It was the first time the awards ceremony also made up the evening program for the Indiana Farm Management Tour.
The Master Farmer program is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture. With Dean Jay Akridge unable to attend, Extension Director Chuck Hibberd brought words of greeting to the crowd. Donya Lester of the Purdue Ag Alumni, the group's executive director, emceed the event. Bruce Erickson, Purdue University ag economist and coordinator of the Top Farmer Crop Workshop, conducted a panel discussion with the winners, zeroing in on things that work well for them.
Here's a thumbnail sketch of the last two 2011 Master Farmers.
Loran Wilson, Orleans- Loran and Kathy Wilson and their entire family, including all three daughters, live, eat and sleep the cattle industry. Their biggest contribution is in producing Angus cattle, but Loran also maintains some other breeds, and buys feedlot market animals to supplement what he raises, keeping his feedlot full near 250 head.
One daughter, Kara, has made the beef industry and the Angus breed in particular her career. She is currently employed by Certified Angus Beef, LLC. The entire family tries to be ambassadors for the beef industry and for agriculture in general. Recently, they hosted an event for people from town, so they could explain why they did things in producing beef as they did.
Loran has served on the board of directors of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association for six years. He is currently IBCA vice-president. And if it's an ag position in Orange County, he's either on it now or has served on that group in the past. Congratulations to Loran Wilson and his entire family.
John Zupancic, Morgantown- Throw the 'How to be a Master Farmer Book' out the window when you meet his guy. His dad didn't farm, he started farming on a shoe string with a neighbor, most of the land he rents is marginal in some of Indiana's least productive areas for farming, and he struggled heavily just to survive the 1980s financially. He and his wife, Marie, hung on, and today they farm with their son, Matthew.
Zupancic has a relatively small beef herd, and utilizes it to make use of his roughest land. He has participated in the EQIP program to help fix up the farm to protect resources and do a better job of raising cattle at the same time.
John is much like the other winners- just change the name of the county to Morgan, and he has served or is serving on every major farming organization possible. He also served on the Indianan FFA Foundation and was active in the Indiana Young Farmers Association.