The Master Farmer program in Kansas began 90 years ago in 1927 when Kansas Farmer magazine printed a scorecard and asked farmers to evaluate themselves for consideration for the award.
There were five criteria on that first scorecard: operation of the farm, business methods, general farm appearance and upkeep, home life and public spiritedness.
The title Master Farmer was established that year, and the program continues to honor farmers annually for their contributions to agriculture and their communities. The first year, there were 268 nominees and a class of 15 Master Farmers was chosen.
A year later, Farmer's Wife magazine started the Master Farm Homemaker Guild with help from Kansas State University and other land-grant university Extension programs. The programs operated separately, and the honorees were individuals rather than couples.
In 1953, the two programs were combined, and it became customary to choose farm couples for the honor. Each organization continues to maintain its own identity and slate of officers.
Each year, six couples are chosen as Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker winners — one from each of the four Extension districts and two from the state at large. The new class members get a chance to meet with each other and prior winners at an afternoon business meeting that precedes the annual awards banquet.
At the banquet, Kansas Farmer presents a wall plaque to each couple in recognition of their honor, and the Kansas Farmer editor serves as emcee of the annual banquet.