Official counts aren't kept for crowd size at the Master Farmer ceremony. But if the crowd last week that delivered at the new Vincennes University Technology Building at the Purdue University Southwest-Purdue Ag Center wasn't the biggest ever, it was the biggest in at least two decades. Some 220 people were on hand to welcome the new class, and hear insights into their farming operations.
"This was a great facility, and a great location," says Donya Lester, Purdue University Ag Alumni executive director who coordinated the event. The Master Farmer award is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue College of Agriculture. "The people from Vincennes University helped set up the room, and it was a marvelous job of preparation."
Lester believes that the crowd benefited from traveling to a different part of the state, and form giving those who like to honor new winners another reason to be in the area- the Indiana Farm Management Tour. For the past three years, the ceremony was held at the Beck Ag Center at the Purdue Agronomic Center near West Lafayette. And while it is a great facility with good recipients and great food, the crowd was dwindling. One past winner remarked that 'You just need to give people another reason to be there. It's a long way to come for an event that just lasts two or three hours."
Alan Miller and Angela Gloy, in charge of the Indiana Farm Management Tour, both from the Purdue Ag Econ Department, met with Lester and Tom Bechman of Farm Progress last fall. They decided to give the idea a try- allow the Master Farmer program to be the evening event for the farm tour. The only stipulation was that it also be educational. Bruce Erickson, Purdue ag economist, made sure that happened when he interviewed all five winners in a panel setting for the last 45 minutes of the event.
"People in this part of the state come out for things, and it was a great place to try it," Lester says. "There's no reason we can't make it work in other parts of the state as the tour moves around each year."
Some people who attended were past winners from the area, and hadn't been to a Master Farmer dinner to help honor new classmates for several years. The main reason, they said, was location. The outcome hasn't been officially reviewed, but all signs point toward a marriage between the two events again next year.