Every year, Wallaces Farmer and the Iowa Master Farmer Association, honors four farm families with the Iowa Master Farmer Award. However, on occasion, an honorary Master Farmer Award is given to someone who, while not a farmer, has made significant contributions to agriculture.
In years past, the award has even been given to Wallaces Farmer editorial staff — including Frank Holdmeyer and John Otte, who were named honorary Master Farmers in 2015. By now, you've hopefully read about the 2020 Iowa Master Farmer Award recipients, who we were unable to honor in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and instead honored in September. In addition, longtime Wallaces Farmer editor Rod Swoboda was honored as an honorary Master Farmer.
As I told one of the attendees at the ceremony, what makes this job so interesting is that it's a perpetual learning experience — I can't think of a single farmer interview I've conducted in my time in Nebraska or Iowa where I haven't learned something new. And if you talk to various Master Farmers throughout the years, you'll find that most, if not all of them, are lifelong learners. They’ve been dynamic in the management of their farming and ranching operations — in many cases, making decisions throughout their farming careers that dramatically changed their overall management and improved their farm's profitability.
Rod Swoboda is a prime example of someone who has amassed more knowledge on agriculture than most of us ever will, and still found opportunities to learn about the latest practices and technology used in agriculture. A colleague of mine once commented, "Who knows a more dedicated ag journalist than Rod Swoboda?"
Rod, who is from southern Illinois originally, wrote for Wallaces Farmer for 44 years, and spent time writing for publications in Washington, D.C., and Ohio before coming to Iowa. And I personally owe Rod, along with Frank and John, a "thank you" for taking a chance on a young journalist fresh out of college back in 2012. I couldn't have asked for better mentors as a beginning ag journalist, and as I've mentioned, I'm incredibly grateful for their help in launching my career.
I've mentioned before that one of the important lessons I've learned from Rod came from the long-lasting relationships he formed during his time at Wallaces Farmer, and the stories and names he knew from farm visits over 20 years ago. I think it's the mark of a great ag editor, and the kind of experience you have when you write for an ag publication for a number of years.
And with each of those farm and ranch interviews comes a learning experience in itself. Along with telling a compelling story and providing information that's useful for farmers, it's what drives many of us as ag editors. In that regard, Rod Swoboda has undoubtedly made an impact on Iowa agriculture, and I can't think of a more deserving recipient of the title honorary Master Farmer.
Editor’s note: This is a reminder to submit nomination forms for 2022 Iowa Master Farmer awards. You can find the forms online at wallacesfarmer.com. Fill the form out and email it to [email protected].