Four Illinois farmers have been selected as 2010 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer magazine.
The four were honored for their exceptional community service and farm management abilities at a ceremony in Bloomington, on Wednesday, March 10.
Award recipients are Raymond E. Defenbaugh, Biggsville (Henderson County); Garry Niemeyer, Auburn (Sangamon County); Terry A. Pope, Burnside (Hancock County); and Jamie Willrett, Malta (DeKalb County). In addition, Prairie Farmer named James Evans, retired University of Illinois educator, as an honorary Master Farmer for his pioneering work in the ag communications field.
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and agricultural extension specialists from throughout the state. Judges for the awards were Robert Hauser, interim dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Gordon Roskamp, professor of agronomy with Western Illinois University; David Erickson, 2003 Master Farmer, Altona; and Frank Holdmeyer, executive editor of Prairie Farmer.
Former Prairie Farmer editor Clifford Gregory started the program in 1925 as a way to recognize the finest farmers in both Illinois and Indiana. That first year, 23 Master Farmers were recognized. From the very beginning, the award was unique in that a significant portion of the judges' scoring hinged on the farmers' community involvement.
Building on the success of last year's program Growmark remains the sole financial sponsor for the Prairie Farmer Master Farmer awards program.
"The principles and tradition of the awards program remain the same," Holdmeyer says. "Growmark is a natural fit for to help uphold the mission of the long-standing program."
Like the Master Farmer award, the Growmark system was born during the 1920s, when grower cooperatives began organizing. In 1927, nine local cooperatives came together to form the Illinois Farm Supply Co. Today, Growmark serves nearly 250,000 customers through local FS companies.
Established in 1841, Prairie Farmer is the oldest continuously published farm periodical in the United States.
Caption: The 2010 Master Farmers, from left: Jamie Willrett, Garry Niemeyer, Ray Defenbaugh and Terry Pope.