Four Illinois farmers were honored as 2006 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer for outstanding community service and farming abilities at a ceremony on March 21 in Springfield.
Award recipients are Richard Guebert, Ellis Grove (Randolph County); Steve Stierwalt, Sadorus (Champaign County); Jim Walter, DeKalb (DeKalb County); and Larry Wernsing, Raymond (Montgomery County).
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and agricultural extension specialists from throughout the state.
Judges for the awards were Robert Easter, dean of the University of Illinois (U of I) College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Gary Minish, dean of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale College of Agricultural Sciences; Gary Schnitkey, farm management specialist at U of I; and Cherry Brieser Stout, editor of Prairie Farmer.
Prairie Farmer first offered the award in 1925, when former Editor Clifford Gregory established it as a way to recognize Illinois farmers for something more than just farming skills. The award was discontinued in 1937, but revived in 1968. Since then, 211 Illinois farmers have been honored with the title of Master Farmer.
Stout says Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contribution farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities.
"Agriculture needs to honor the people who make a positive impact on this industry," she says. "The farmers we've honored over the years represent a gallery of the greatest in Illinois agriculture. They're top farmers who go beyond the call of duty when it comes to community service, family commitment and leadership."
Stout says many Master Farmers serve in high profile state and national farm leadership positions. But the vast majority solidly serve their communities â€“ building churches, chairing local committees, or organizing a harvest for a stricken neighbor. "That is exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes service this award was initially designed to honor," she says.
Nomination forms are available for 2007 Master Farmer awards on the Web site www.PrairieFarmer.com, or write to: Master Farmer, Prairie Farmer, 1301 East Mound Road, Decatur, IL 62526.