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Indiana Master Farmers reflect on what they wish they’d known as college students.

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

July 27, 2023

3 Min Read
 A group of people posing next to a welcome sign for the Master Farmer Awards
WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE: Jim Mintert asked this brain trust to offer advice to today’s college seniors in agriculture. The 2023 Indiana Master Farmers and Honorary Master Farmers are (from left) Marshall Martin, Jay Akridge, Scott Trennepohl, Tom Chalfant, Marty and Becky Evans, and Tom Schwenk. Tom J. Bechman

What advice do you wish someone had given you about a career in farming and agriculture when you were 21? Put yourself in these Master Farmers’ shoes and see how you would respond.

Jim Mintert, Purdue Extension agricultural economist and director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture, recently hosted a panel discussion of the 2023 Indiana Master Farmers. They are Tom Chalfant, Redkey; Marty and Becky Evans, Terre Haute; Tom Schwenk, Rochester; and Scott Trennepohl, Middletown. Honorary Master Farmers are Marshall Martin and Jay Akridge, both of West Lafayette. The Master Farmer program in Indiana is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue College of Agriculture.

Here is a portion of the discussion:

Most seniors in my ag economics class are headed to the farm. What advice would you give them?

Martin: I would impress upon them how important it is to know the basics of science and economics for farming. Then I would encourage them to diversify and learn a little about art or music. Being well-rounded helps start conversations and open doors, especially in a global world.

Akridge: Respect and trust in the business environment, including in farming, is essential. My family still operates an ag supply business. Dad always taught us that no matter if the customer spent a little or a lot, treat them with respect. He treated them the same way. That goes with employees, too, whether it’s an employee stacking boxes or dealing with customers.

Related:Lifetime of changes in agriculture

Trennepohl: Slow down and take it all in! Looking back, there are things I wish I had taken advantage of at Purdue that I passed up. I thought I was too busy. Take advantage of what Purdue has to offer, and enjoy the college life. Then, surround yourself with good people. No one is ever so smart that they can’t learn from someone else.

Chalfant: My advice to a college student would be simple. If you haven’t been hitting the books, study more. If you study all the time, then study less and enjoy life!

Marty Evans: We are big in our family and in our farming operation on setting goals. It’s important to know where you want to go, and to occasionally talk about how you’re going to get there. But just setting goals isn’t enough. You need to track your progress and see if you’re moving toward those goals.

Schwenk: If the opportunity isn’t there to go back home and farm right away, don’t be discouraged. Perhaps you can work for a farmer to get experience. An opportunity might arise with a farmer who wants to retire but has no family members to take it over. He may want to see his farming operation continue.

Also, seek out knowledge, especially while you are at Purdue. There are things I wish I had done at Purdue that I didn’t think were important at the time.

Finally, embrace technology. It’s here to stay. Some of us older folk must be helped once in a while. If you grew up with it, it’s easier to embrace it from the start.

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EducationMaster Farmers

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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