Prairie Farmer Logo

Cultivating Master Farmers cultivates relationships

Slideshow: The CMF Class of 2023 met for one last workshop for conversations on making a difference in government and farm organizations, and on making smart decisions in 2023.

Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

February 9, 2023

8 Slides

The Cultivating Master Farmers Class of 2023 gathered for their last official mentor meeting last week in Bloomington, Ill., for conversations about farmland, government and managing farm inputs.

Lena Head and her husband, Reeder, are young farmers from Decatur, Ill., and Lena says they’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the CMF program, which pairs a select group of young farmers with a group of Master Farmers for a two-year curriculum.

“Between our Master Farmer mentors and our fellow young farming peers, we have built some friendships that will last a lifetime, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat if we could!” she says.

Head says the best part of this last meeting for her was the chance to talk with Master Farmer Darell Sarff about where to get involved in the ag industry, as she debates serving with a statewide commodity group.

“He shared his perspective on why and how it would be a valuable experience for me, and how I can best serve our industry — it was great to be able to tap into Master Farmers like Darell who’ve already been part of the various industry organizations,” she adds.

Sarff, a 2018 Master Farmer from Chandlerville, Ill., says he enjoyed the bonding and the communication between young and Master farmers. “That was at a level I hadn’t seen at other meetings,” he says.

Sarff also sang the praises of Randy Niver, Bayer agronomist from Vermilion County, Ill., who wrapped up the two-day event.

“A highlight to me was the agronomist from Bayer. His presentation was the most practical that I can remember from any agronomy class I’ve sat through,” Sarff says, adding that he texted a friend on the way home and suggested getting in touch with him.

The CMF Class of 2023 wraps up this summer, with graduation on July 21 — which will also be orientation for the Class of 2025. Applications for that class are available online, and the deadline for young farmers to apply is March 31. Master Farmers who are interested can contact Holly Spangler at [email protected].

Cultivating Master Farmers is sponsored by Growmark, Compeer Financial, Farm Credit Illinois, Bayer, Illinois Farm Bureau and Prairie Farmer.

CMF Class of 2023

Young Farmers

  • Ryan Atherton, Lanark

  • Ryan and Amanda Bland, Pittsfield

  • Michael and Mallory Deuth, Polo

  • Clint Gorden, Mount Auburn

  • Reeder and Lena Head, Decatur

  • Seth and Jessica Lambert, Macomb

  • Justin and Jessica Lane, Virginia

  • Alex and Sherry Mewes, Albion

  • Mike and Mandi Nelson, Paxton

  • Thomas and Kristin Perkins, Effingham

  • Scott and Amber Poettker, Breese

Master Farmers

  • Bill and Sandy Christ, Metamora

  • Reggie and Norma Jean Dowell, Greenview

  • Tim and Delreen Lenz, Strasburg

  • Marty and Shelia Marr, Jacksonville

  • Jim and Pam Robbins, Peotone

  • Russell and Marilyn Rosenboom, Clifton

  • Darell and Rosanne Sarff, Chandlerville

  • Tim and Roxy Seifert, Auburn

  • Jim and LouAnn Sheaffer, Dixon

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like