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Behind the scenes with Master Farmers

Tom J. Bechman Craig Williams
STORIES GALORE: Craig Williams was planting soybeans on April 9, and it was roughly 80 degrees F at noon. Notice his repair truck behind him. Just 11 days later, I visited Merrell Bros., and it was just above 32 degrees F and snowing! There are lots of Master Farmer stories to tell, just from the interview visits.
Learn more about these outstanding individuals in this article, and watch for future spinoff stories, as well.

If I don’t come away with three or four spinoff story ideas from a Master Farmer visit, maybe they’re not really Master Farmers! Don’t worry, I always do.

This year was certainly no exception. This week online you will meet four Master Farmer families plus two brothers and their families sharing the Honorary Master Farmer award.

To learn more, plan to attend the Indiana Farm Management Tour on July 8-9. Master Farmers will be featured during the late afternoon program at 3:30 p.m. CDT, held at the New Harmony Inn in New Harmony, Ind. It’s free to attend, but registration is requested. Visit purdue.ag/farmtour.

Behind the scenes

Here are a few tidbits from each interview that didn’t make it into the articles you will read this week:

Harry Egnew. Everybody told me Harry looked younger than his age of 89. So, when I was waiting at his shop and a pickup with two people pulled in, and a person that could pass for my age or older got out of the passenger side, I figured it was Harry. “Do I really look that old?” his son Tim asked. It turns out Harry was driving. Sorry Tim, and no, you don’t look older than your age, but your dad certainly doesn’t look anywhere near 89. Both Tim and Harry have a dry sense of humor, but don’t let that fool you. They’re both sharper than tacks. They’re adding a grain bin this year and trying strip-till corn, so there will be plenty to write about.

Randy and Joyce Kron. I’ve followed a lot of people to a lot of places, but I was glad Randy wasn’t moving too fast in the water-supply truck when I visited him on a warm afternoon in early April. He turned here, then there, then here again, winding through Gibson County, I think — we may have crossed county lines. There’s a story behind how important Randy’s sprayer is to their operation, and I can’t wait to get a peek at his recently built farm shop.

Cameron and Cara Mills. It wasn’t a warm day when I visited the Mills. In fact, it was spitting rain and windy. Cara had her umbrella, just in case. This couple is now putting fences back in so they can pasture their cattle on cover crops. Grass-fed beef may have begun as a project for the kids, but it’s becoming more important on this farm. And I can’t wait to write about the pesticide and fertilizer storage building erected from scratch and to code.

Craig and Kim Williams. I’m usually the one late, but Craig was a few minutes out when I arrived at the seed sales office. He had a good excuse: His team was planting corn and beans, and he was putting out fires, keeping them running. That just gave Kim and me more time to talk. Casually talking yields the best information about someone. Following Craig to the field was fun, too. Wait until you see the cool repair truck they take to the field.

Ted and Jean Merrell, and Terry and Nieta Merrell. This story was over 35 years in the making. That is how long I have known these two brothers. There was already an inch of snow on the ground when I arrived at their shop and barn complex on April 20. They guided me through their facility, and I would have needed a trail of breadcrumbs to find my way back out without their help. They’ve expanded, added businesses, and expanded again and again. I wasn’t surprised when they told me later that there was nearly 4 acres under roof at that site! Wait until you see the technology housed inside that facility.

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