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Know an outstanding farmer? Nominate a Master FarmerKnow an outstanding farmer? Nominate a Master Farmer

Jen’s Jots: Michigan and Ohio Master Farmer nominations are due Oct. 1.

Jennifer Kiel

July 24, 2023

4 Min Read
Three men each holding plaques pose for a photo
2023 MICHIGAN MASTER FARMERS: The 2023 Michigan Master Farmers included (from left) Joe Bryant, Dave Milligan and Louis Wierenga Jr. Photos by Jennifer Kiel

Just about every farmer or affiliate in the ag industry knows another farmer who is doing a bang-up job — and has been for years.

They take care of the land. They are good stewards of the environment. They’re profitable, and they help others in some way. That may include helping a neighbor or acting as a mentor, or maybe serving in a commodity leadership position, local government, community activities or church.

Chances are, you’re already picturing this person in your head. That’s exactly who I’m looking for when I talk about Master Farmers.

Being a Master Farmer does not mean you are a perfect farmer. Just ask those who have received the award. They are honored by the designation, but they are quick to point out that it does mean they have taken chances, and at times, turned losses into lessons.

Everyone knows farmers get little recognition and take on more risk than most would consider sane. This award pays homage to the good farmers bring to this world and the outstanding job they do feeding it.

The prestigious Master Farmer award is bestowed on individuals who have established how to farm more effectively, efficiently, environmentally and economically.

It’s easy to nominate

Please consider nominating a Master Farmer now, as the deadline is approaching. It’s easier than you think, especially if there are multiple people involved pulling it together. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be a surprise, but I will admit, it’s kind of fun when it is.

First, here is the link to the application online. Fill it out and email it to me at [email protected], complete with letters of support, by Oct. 1. The completed application and letters can also be mailed to: Jennifer Kiel, 710 W. Park St., St. Johns, MI 48879.

Please make every effort to fill out the nomination completely, but it’s not a deal breaker if you can’t answer every question. The most compelling part of the nomination are the letters of support. They should build a case for why this farmer belongs in this elite group, which consistently demonstrates outstanding farm management, innovation, conservation and leadership. The award also takes into consideration growth of the operation and the future direction.

In Michigan, there are three Master Farmers named each year. In Ohio, there are two. I’m not sure why they are different, other than these two programs were started by two different people. It’s a matter of history (20 years for Michigan Farmer), so I’m sticking with it.

Last year’s winners in Michigan were Joe Bryant of Shepherd, Dave Milligan of Cass City and Louis Wierenga Jr. of Hastings. In Ohio, they included Duane Stateler of McComb and Tim Norris of Gambier.

You can ask any one of them — or any prior winners — and they’ll admit, while being incredibly humbled, they really enjoyed the award. Many Master Farmer plaques are now hanging proudly in their farm offices.

What happens if you win?

You’ll be hearing from me to go over some of the details and to set up an interview. The videotaped interview will be used to write a story and to produce a video that will be shared during the awards ceremony on the last day of the Great Lakes Crop Summit in Mount Pleasant, Mich., which is at the end of January 2024.

In Ohio, the winners are acknowledged during the opening session of the Ohio Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, set for the first week of March 2024.

The story will appear online after the awards ceremony with a gallery of photos, and will be published in American Agriculturist magazine, which has incorporated Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer magazines.

Winners receive a plaque and are invited to make a few remarks — some choose not to, and that’s OK.

The Michigan Master Farmer program is sponsored by the Great Lakes Crop Summit, Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee, Michigan Wheat Program and Corn Marketing Program of Michigan. It is also supported by Brownfield Ag News, Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Greenstone Farm Credit Services and Wilbur-Ellis.

The Ohio Farmer award is sponsored by the Ohio Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference and supported by Brownfield Ag News.

Being able to acknowledge what often goes unrewarded is one of the best aspects of my job. I need your help in identifying my next Master Farmers. I look forward to hearing from you!

Read more about:

Master Farmers

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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