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Master Farmer memories

Master Farmer memories
Throwback Thursday: Every Master Farmer is special, but certain moments stand out.

The late Paul Canary was named a Master Farmer in 1970. His family says that during his last days, he still prominently displayed his Master Farmer plaque.

It’s time to nominate a new crop of Master Farmers. Nominations are due Feb. 15. In honor of preparing for the next class, here are some memories from my time with the Master Farmer program.

MASTER FARMER: The planter was in the field when I visited Gene Schmidt, a member of the 2012 class of Master Farmers. Gene farms near Hanna in northern Indiana.

• The first class I helped interview was in 1982. I visited with Don Strietelmeier on his farm near Hope. It was great to see Don again at Becknology Days in 2016. What Don didn’t tell me when I left his home back in 1982 was how long it would take to get to Vincennes, where I would find Sylvan Ice, also in the class of 1982. I allowed two hours. It took three — sorry, Sylvan. That was just one of many lessons I've learned in time management.

I will never forget Sylvan’s comments at the 1982 Master Farmer ceremony. Prairie Farmer sold insurance at the time, and the state manager was at the ceremony. He thought I was a young pup, wet behind the ears and destined to fail. Since we no longer sell insurance, the story can be told. Sylvan stepped to the mic and said, “When Tom first called, I nearly hung up on him. I thought he was an insurance salesman!” The manager’s face got beet-red. It was all I could do not to break out laughing. Thanks for the memory, Sylvan!

• The 1987 class was a colorful bunch, but none more so than the late William T. "Tommy" Crane of Martin County. If there were ever anyone who felt so humbled and honored to be named a Master Farmer as Tommy, I’m not sure who it might be. His southern Indiana drawl and "aw, shucks" presentation won over the audience. But what I remember most is that he was so taken with the award that he sent a planter of live, vining flowers to the Indiana Prairie Farmer office. Connie Batts, one of the office assistants at the time, was so impressed that she kept that plant going as long as possible.  

• The late Harry Armstrong nearly brought down the house at the 1988 Master Farmer ceremony. The truest thing to a cowboy Indiana has ever produced, when the Lawrence County native took to the microphone to accept his award and show a few slides, he got right to the point. He followed some folks who had showed some impressive pictures of hog barns and grain centers. The picture of a tiny bin that looked like it was left over from the ASCS grain storage days popped on the screen. “Here is my grain storage system,” Harry cackled. “It’s about all I need.” The crowd howled with laughter.  

• Move along to 1997. George Krom III was one of the Master Farmers honored at a hotel in Indianapolis. He and his family co-hosted the 1989 Farm Progress Show near Rochester.

I don’t remember what George said that day, but I remember what my wife was doing. During the banquet, she walked the hall with a baby, and it didn’t take much coaxing to get her to do it so the baby's mother could watch the ceremony. That baby was Kenzie Kretzmeier, George’s first granddaughter. She was later featured as a toddler with her mom, Kristi, on the cover of Indiana Prairie Farmer. Kenzie turned out OK, George! She was the 2015-16 Indiana FFA state president.

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