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Master Farmers: What their friends say 0Master Farmers: What their friends say

The letters that pour in to Prairie Farmer offices in support of Master Farmers make for uplifting reading. Here are stories about the 2020 winners.

4 Min Read
2020 Master Farmers are Joe Pickrell (left), Susan and John Adams, Ted Mottaz, and Dale Hadden
RESPECTED: The 2020 Master Farmers are Joe Pickrell (left), Susan and John Adams, Ted Mottaz, and Dale Hadden.

When the letters of support accompanying Master Farmer nominations pour in from around the state, they add personal insight and touching memories about time spent with the honorees — on and off the farm. They also paint a picture of the farmer’s character, forged during community fundraisers, late-night meetings and harvests for neighbors.

For many Master Farmers, reading the letters is a humbling and honoring experience.

Here’s a look at what some of the closest friends, family, landlords, suppliers and more have to say about each 2020 Prairie Farmer Master Farmer.

John and Susan Adams, Atlanta, Ill.

“John and Sue have been extremely involved in whatever roles they have taken on. There have been times they turned down opportunities, as they did not think they could give a role the attention it deserved. When either took a role, they gave it their all. Outstanding examples include John’s involvement with the corn marketing board and Sue taking on many roles and responsibilities in water availability.”
John Fulton, retired Logan County Extension director

“John began incorporating no-till into his operation in 1983 and gradually increased his no-till acres each year until 1988, when he purchased a no-till drill and no-tilled all his crops. John and Sue have always been considered conservation leaders in the county ever since I have known them.”
Steve Bracey, resource conservationist, Logan County SWCD

Related:Meet the 2020 Master Farmers

“I sincerely respect John and Susan for their diligent contribution to agriculture and wholeheartedly support their nomination for Master Farmer 2020. They are truly deserving of this honor.”
Stanley Blunier, 2009 Master Farmer, Forrest

“John and Sue are true ambassadors not only for Illinois agriculture but for agriculture on a national basis. I cannot think of anyone with more interest, passion and commitment to advance and promote agriculture than the two of them. They have spent countless hours representing Illinois agriculture and have represented us with integrity, intelligence and empathy.”
Tom Martin, 2018 Master Farmer, Mount Pulaski

Dale Hadden, Jacksonville, Ill.

“I have known Dale and his family for decades, watching our children grow up together as well as competing over the years at state fair and FFA events. I believe Dale has the exemplary qualities that make him deserving of this award. He has always made the extra effort in all cases of advancing agriculture’s agenda forward.”
Philip Nelson, 2001 Master Farmer, Seneca

“Dale and I became Pioneer seed dealers about the same time, and his attention to detail for his customers is second to none. If there is a seed performance issue, Dale will make it right. His stewardship of farming practices is far above and beyond that of any normal person in agriculture.”
Jeff Cosner, Ashland

“Through Dale’s work, he has experience implementing change across large organizations, advising legislators and working on key agricultural issues. He holds an in-depth understanding of the interworkings of the agriculture industry and is an excellent resource.”
Rep. Darin LaHood, 18th District of Illinois

“Dale is passionate about promoting agriculture and enjoys assisting young people in promoting their 4-H and FFA projects.”
Allen Entwistle, 2017 Master Farmer, Riverton

Ted Mottaz, Elmwood, Ill.

“People who know Ted always comment about how he listens to both sides of any situation, and carefully communicates his thoughts to find the best solution for everyone. This character trait has been a trademark to his leadership style.”
Sarah Grant, niece, nominator and McDonough County Farm Bureau manager

“Ted and [his brother] Jeff always had some of the highest yields in their area and were great customers to work with. They utilize some of the latest technology on their farm, and soil conservation is important to them.”
Andy Bartlow, farmer and former Monsanto district sales manager, Macomb

“Ted is a servant-leader who is committed to the growth of people and building his community.”
David Serven, St. Augustine farmer

“As a kid, I knew Ted as the corn and soybean judge from the Knox County Fair, and I always appreciated the knowledge he passed on to me. I’m sure judging projects at a 4-H fair doesn’t mean a lot to many people in the grand scheme of life, but to an 8-year-old kid, it means a lot more than can be realized.”
Drew DeSutter, Woodhull farmer

“Just about as good as you can get!”
David Erickson, 2003 Master Farmer, Altona

Joe Pickrell, Buffalo, Ill.

“What drives me to farm? What’s my inspiration? The same thing I said in kindergarten: ‘I want to be a farmer, just like my dad!’”
Joseph J. Pickrell, son and farming partner

“Joe has contributed mightily to the advancement of farming and the ag industry. He has always supported and expected the very best of those associated with him.”
Jim Spradlin, Growmark CEO

“In my experience, he shows up and speaks. Joe has impact.”
Bob Easter, University of Illinois president emeritus

“To Joe, family and agriculture are synonymous.”
Allen Entwistle, 2017 Master Farmer, Riverton

“Joe’s farming credentials are impeccable; he truly understands farming and has provided leadership to so many other parts of our industry that are critical for today’s and tomorrow’s success.”
John Reifsteck, Growmark chairman of the board and 1997 Master Farmer

“The Pickrell family farm operates somewhat like Joe’s personality: conservative but always looking for the next big thing to be profitable. Joe’s list of achievements is long, and is a testament to his dedication to family, friends and agriculture. The only shortcoming he has would be his sheep!”
Darell Sarff, 2018 Master Farmer, Chandlerville

About the Author(s)

Austin Keating

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

Austin Keating is the newest addition to the Farm Progress editorial team working as an associate editor for Prairie Farmer magazine. Austin was born and raised in Mattoon and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. Following graduation in 2016, he worked as a science writer and videographer for the university’s supercomputing center. In June 2018, Austin obtained a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he was the campus correspondent for Planet Forward and a Comer scholar.

Austin is passionate about distilling agricultural science as a service for readers and creating engaging content for viewers. During his time at UI, he won two best feature story awards from the student organization JAMS — Journalism Advertising and Media Students — as well as a best news story award.

Austin lives in Charleston. He can sometimes be found at his family’s restaurant the Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon in Mattoon, or on the Embarrass River kayaking. Austin is also a 3D printing and modeling hobbyist.

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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