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Do you know someone who should be named a Prairie Farmer Master Farmer next year? Here’s how you can nominate them.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

March 1, 2023

3 Min Read
2023 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers
MASTERS: The 2023 Master Farmers were nominated by past Master Farmers, commodity groups and local supporters. They are (from left) Curt Strode, Marietta, Ill.; David Meiss, Gridley, Ill.; Ron Moore, Roseville, Ill.; and Martin Barbre, Carmi, Ill.Betty Haynes

Ever thought of nominating someone you know for Prairie Farmer’s Master Farmer award? Now’s the time to get cracking with that process.

Maybe it’s your parents, a sibling, your neighbors, a friend or a colleague. Perhaps it’s someone you’ve served with on a board, or someone you’ve long looked up to.

If that thought has ever crossed your mind, Prairie Farmer is now accepting applications for the 2024 award, and they’re due Aug. 25.

The application includes a nomination form and requires at least eight letters of support — but no financial information.

There’s an urban legend (which, in this case, probably makes it a rural legend) that Master Farmer nominees have to share their balance sheet. But make no mistake, no one needs to provide that kind of financial information. The judging panel focuses on growth of the operation over time, agricultural productivity and community involvement.

Who’s eligible? Here’s a look:

  • Candidates must farm in Illinois, deriving the majority of their income from agricultural production.

  • Successful nominees have proven agricultural production records, are recognized as leaders in their community, and have given back to the community in substantive ways.

  • Candidates may be individuals, couples or siblings; judging is equally weighted.

  • Each nominee should be actively engaged in production agriculture.

Related:Meet the 2023 Master Farmers

The selection committee is comprised of Illinois ag leaders, including experts in agronomy and ag finance, past Master Farmers, ag research or university authorities, and Prairie Farmer editorial staff.

Master Farmer winners will be recognized at the Master Farmer Awards Luncheon, typically held in mid-March. And as always, Prairie Farmer is grateful to Growmark for its sponsorship of the Master Farmer awards program.

Here’s a look at what makes for a successful application:

Be thorough. In the sections asking about farm history and growth, more information is better than less. Share how the individual(s) got started and show how their operation has progressed. No detailed financial information is required.

Get letters. Ask for at least eight recommendation letters to support your nomination. These letters give insight to character and reputation in the community. At least one needs to come from a farmer in your neighborhood.

Think small. Don’t forget all the things they do in the local community, as well as state and national organizations. These lists are often very detailed! For spouses or sibling nominations, list both individuals’ activities, noting who did what.

Start early. It’s not a quick process to nominate a Master Farmer. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime award, and the application reflects an entire career.

Think well-rounded. Community involvement is weighted highly as judges select winners, but so too is a farmer’s ag production skills and dedication to family.

Check the mirror. You can nominate yourself. Many farmers do every year.

The 2024 application is available online. Download it, fill it out and send it in, complete with letters of support, by Aug. 25. Or, email [email protected] to have an application sent to you.

Judging thanks

Prairie Farmer is grateful to the 2023 panel of judges for sorting through and selecting this year’s Master Farmers.

  • Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics

  • Germán Bollero, dean, University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Con-sumer and Environmental Sciences

  • Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer

  • Dwight Raab, vice president of agribusiness, First Midwest Bank

  • Steve Carson, executive vice president, Farm Credit Illinois

  • Mike Wilson, editor, Farm Futures

Read more about:

Master Farmers

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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