August 3, 2022
The 95th class of Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers has been announced. Twelve individuals from around the state will be honored in March for their service to Kansas agriculture and their communities.
Daryl Bucholz, associate director emeritus of Cooperative Extension, and secretary of the Kansas Master Farmer Association and the Kansas Master Farm Homemakers Guild, made the announcement.
The Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers are nominated by their local Extension councils, and a selection committee then reviews their applications. The program is co-sponsored by Kansas State University Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine.
Class of 2022
This year’s honorees include:
Philip and Jane Halling, Atchison County. For 45 years, the Hallings have built their corn and soybean farm near Lancaster, Kan. They use reduced-tillage and high-residue management to conserve their resources, and they background cattle throughout the year. The couple has served on the Atchison County Farm Bureau Board for more than 25 years and has hosted K-State Research and Extension test plots on their farm ground for more than 20 years.
Mark and Marcia Knudson, Brown County. The Knudsons are fourth-generation farmers on family ground outside of Hiawatha, Kan. They started farming in 1980 and have moved from tillage into no-till for their row crops, with the goal of becoming a sustainable farm. They also implement technology to capture data on their crops. Today, they have a streamlined operation that includes a cow-calf herd and cropland. The couple has volunteered with Brown County Extension and the local 4-H club.
Donna Pearson McClish and David Pearson, Sedgwick County. For the first time, this year’s class includes a brother and sister duo. Donna and David carry on the tradition of Pearson’s Family Farms, started in 1968 by their parents near Wichita, Kan. This urban farm gave rise to their Common Ground Mobile Market and Mobile Food Hub, which they started in 2014 to provide healthy produce to people in food-insecure areas in Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler counties. David is the family farm manager, while Donna is the CEO of the farm operations and mobile market. Donna serves on the State Extension Advisory Council, a consultative group to the director of Extension. It’s a point of pride that Pearson’s Family Farms is one of 52 African American-owned farms that is still operated by the original owners and in existence today in the Sunflower State.
Richard and Anita Poland, Barber County. As the Medicine Lodge FFA advisor, Richard decided to use their family’s Angus herd as a teaching tool and established the Poland Angus Ranch judging contest, hosting more than 7,000 students over the years at the Poland ranch near Isabel, Kan. The ranch was an early adopter of AI and embryo transfer technology to build the couple’s Angus herd, and the Polands have collected carcass merit ultrasound data since 1990. The couple has volunteered in their community with Extension and 4-H programs as well.
Todd and Charlene Sheppard, Pottawatomie County. The Sheppards met and fell in love while at K-State, and were married in 1990. As Todd began his law career, Charlene stayed home to raise their two sons and manage the ranch. Today, Charlene manages the ranch and Todd is president of Charlson & Wilson in Manhattan, Kan. They built their current 120-head registered Charolais cow herd over the past 25 years, using AI and embryo transfer. They have volunteered much of their time over the years to Pottawatomie County 4-H and Extension, Kansas Farm Bureau and the American International Charolais Association, among other organizations.
Rick and Connie Thompson, Frontier Extension District. The Thompsons have changed and adapted their family farm over the past 40 years. Today, they raise corn, soybeans and wheat, and have cattle and sheep as well. If you have a question about commercial sheep production in Kansas, the Thompsons are your go-to couple. The Thompsons have extensively volunteered their time with the Kincaid Fair Association, as well as the Anderson County Fair and the Extension board. Today they are in the process of folding their son Blake and Blake’s wife, Hannah, into the multigenerational farming operation.
The Kansas Master Farmer award was started in 1927, by Sen. Arthur Capper, then the Kansas Farmer publisher. A year later, the Farmer’s Wife magazine, which is no longer in print, started the Master Farm Homemaker Guild, with help from Kansas State University. In the early days, the two programs operated separately, and the honorees were individuals rather than couples.
More than 400 farm couples have been recognized and have become members of the Kansas Master Farmer Association and the Kansas Master Farm Homemakers Guild. The goal was to publicly honor excellence in farming, homemaking, farm living and rural citizenship.
In 1953, the K-State Cooperative Extension Service took on the selection process and coordination of the annual honor banquet.
Today, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine co-sponsor the program, with financial support from Kansas Farm Bureau, Frontier Farm Credit and American AgCredit.
Nominations for the next class, the Class of 2023, are due May 1. If you would like to see a farm couple nominated, contact your local Extension agent; call the K-State Research and Extension administrative office at 785-532-5820; or email Daryl Buchholz at [email protected].
Be sure to look for more on each of the six couples in the Class of 2022 in future issues of Kansas Farmer magazine online and in print.
About the Author(s)
Editor, Kansas Farmer
Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.
Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.
While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.
She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.
Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.
Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.
“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”
She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.
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