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Slideshow: Bailey turned hundreds of eyes as Prairie Farmer readers voted for their Favorite Farm Dog for 2020.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

May 1, 2020

9 Slides

Pull into the drive at Polo Farms, just east of Bunker Hill, Ill., and you’ll be greeted with a deep bark from a black dog. It sounds menacing, but it turns out that’s just Bailey — a 3-year-old black Labrador with a big bark and a gentle soul.

“She likes to greet people, but with a bark,” says Bailey’s owner Brittany Polo.

Prairie Farmer readers voted on this year’s top farm dog entries during an online contest, and Bailey emerged as the clear winner of the 2020 Prairie Farmer Favorite Farm Dog Contest. Brittany, along with her brother Joe and mom, Lisa, submitted Bailey’s winning entry.

Bailey came to the Polos’ farm two years ago as something of a hunting school dropout. Her previous owner spent the first year of her life trying to teach her to hunt. When it was clear that wasn’t going to pan out, Joe brought her home to be a farm dog.

“She’s got total freedom now — no pen,” Joe says, adding that she likes to hang out in the shop or anywhere she can keep an eye on what’s happening. Spring days are especially good for watching tractor traffic, as her people come and go and work the nearby fields.

“She laid here and watched the whole day we planted this field,” Joe says, laughing and gesturing to the field just east of the farm.

Like a lot of farm dogs, Bailey enjoys riding on just about anything, but especially the family’s Ranger. Sure, she’ll ride in the back if the front seat fills up with people, but she really prefers the pole position in the front passenger seat.

The Prairie Farmer Favorite Farm Dog Contest began in 2000, and ever since, editors and judges here at Prairie Farmer have weighed the qualifications and debated the merits of talented working dogs, terrific companion animals and guardians of the farm from across Illinois. We examine photos and read essays, and are reminded again and again that a good farm dog is truly a farm family’s best friend.

The winners of the 2020 Prairie Farmer Favorite Farm Dog Contest are: Bailey, Onyx, Roscoe, Nelli and Koojo, Enzo, Maggie Maye, Buddy, Lucky and Lincoln.

For Bailey’s first-place win, Brittany receives a $100 prize, a family farm photo shoot with Bailey, and a 16-by-20-inch modern metal wall art hanging with Bailey’s picture. Bailey’s entry was submitted by Brittany.

Second place goes to Onyx, a 2-year-old blue heeler on the farm of Bryan and Jessica Richardson, Jacksonville, who win $75 for Onyx’s efforts.

Roscoe earns third place for his owner, Marilyn Whalen. Marilyn wins $50 thanks to Roscoe’s efforts on their family’s Ivesdale farm.

Honorable mentions go to entries from Staci Yagow and Nelli and Koojo, Mansfield; Tim Brennan and Enzo, Crete; Dave and Teresa Hinterscher and Maggie Maye, Noble; John and Jackie Krueger and Buddy, Lexington; Michael Kelly and Lucky, Tampico; and Mervin Schrock and Lincoln, Arthur.

Thanks to everyone who shared photos and stories of their incredible farm dogs. Keep your cameras handy for next year’s contest!

1st place: Bailey

Bailey is a farm dog here at Polo Farms in Bunker Hill. She is 3-year-old black Labrador. She is the farm watch dog and loves to alert us when anyone comes to the farm. Bailey also loves to join her human dad, Joe, on tractor rides, pickup rides and Ranger rides to check the crops. She loves being a farm dog!

Brittany Polo, Bunker Hill

Check back Monday for more stories about our second and third place winners, and all the honorable mention winners!

Read more about:

Farm Dogs

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, 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.

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