Six Kansas farm couples are being honored tonight at a banquet in Manhattan. They are this year's Master Farmer/Homemaker Class.
This year's winners are Gary and Lynda Foster of Fort Scott, Thomas and Marlysue Holmquist of Smolan, Charles and Anita Hummel of Hope, Robert and Sharon Scherman of Paola, John and Bernadine "Berna Mae" Stegman of Spearville and Leon and Janet Sylvester of Wamego.
This year marks the 86th year of the Master Farmer program in Kansas, which was started in 1927 by Kansas Farmer magazine, which printed a scorecard asking its readers to evaluate their own operations. That first class inaugurated 15 members.
More than 500 couples have joined the ranks of the Master Farmers Association since the induction of that first class. Master Farmers and Homemakers are also honored annually on Thursday of Kansas State Fair week in September.
The annual class has been six couples since 1966, one from each Kansas State University Extension district and two from the state at large.
The Master Farm Homemaker Guild was formed one year after the Master Farmers and was initially sponsored by The Farmers Wife magazine. When the magazine ceased publication in 1940, Kansas Farmer publisher Arthur Capper offered to sponsor the Guild.
When Capper died in 1951, K-State Extension offered to sponsor both organizations and in 1957, the Kansas Association of Industry and Commerce joined Extension in the sponsorship.
Kansas Farmer came back on board in 2003 and has been a co-sponsor of the Master Farmer/Homemaker awards for the last decade.
Each farm couple receives a wall plaque to honor their achievement, which is presented at the annual banquet.
To learn more about the families being honored this year, go to the Farm Progress website and look for the March edition of Kansas Farmer. Their stories appear on pages 4, 5 and 6 and a history of the award can be found on Pages 52 and 53.