Bar none, in 14 years of doing this job, my favorite thing is working with the Master Farmers. They are the best in agriculture, and I count getting to know them as one of the greater privileges in my life. They are a thoughtful group of men and women, determined, passionate, engaged and committed. They might add lucky, but I don't know if I would. And over the years of interviewing and photographing them and their families, I have picked up information that I not only take home and share with my own husband, but also share on the pages of Prairie Farmer, so the rest of us might benefit from their experience as well.
Because the thing is, they didn't get to this point in life – negotiating the '70s, surviving the '80s, raising hogs through the late '90s, and getting through their share of weather extremes – without acquiring a little wisdom.
That said, it's time to nominate the Class of 2013 Master Farmers. Do you know someone who should be a Master Farmer? Or maybe you should be a Master Farmer? It's ok to nominate yourself! We've even had our share of surprise nominations over the years – tricky, I'm sure, and usually coming from the children or spouse of a nominated Master Farmer. But very cool.
At any rate, think it over, before harvest is upon us. Download our nomination form and give it a read. Think about yourself, your family members, your neighbors or greater community members. There are tremendous farmers all across this state who deserve to be recognized for a lifetime of agricultural achievement and service to their communities. That's the thing that separates a Master Farmer; he or she can raise a tremendous crop and manage their operation while still devoting time to family and to both their agricultural industry and their community.
Nominations are due September 30. And I know it's an extensive application so if you have questions, shoot me an email. I'd be glad to talk it through with you. Don't let another year go by without nominating a deserving farmer.
Editor's note: I'm writing specifically about the Illinois Master Farmer program here, but many of our other publications across the country also have Master Farmer awards programs, including Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, the Dakotas and the Northeastern states covered by American Agriculturalist. Check your state publication's website for details regarding applications and submission dates.