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Meet the 2023 Master FarmersMeet the 2023 Master Farmers

Prairie Farmer names a new class of Master Farmers: Martin Barbre, David Meiss, Ron Moore and Curt Strode. Plus: Bob Easter is the newest Honorary Master Farmer.

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2023 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers standing in front of red barn
CHAMPIONS: Illinois’ 2023 Master Farmers are (from left) Martin Barbre, Carmi; Ron Moore, Roseville; David Meiss, Gridley; and Curt Strode, Marietta. Betty Haynes

Four Illinois producers will be honored as 2023 Master Farmers at Prairie Farmer magazine’s annual event, to be held March 15 in Bloomington, Ill. The award recognizes exceptional agricultural production skills, commitment to family and service to community.

The 2023 Master Farmer award winners are:

Martin Barbre, White County. Martin and his wife, Gayla, live near Carmi. Martin and his son, Brandon, raise 6,500 acres of corn and soybeans, including white corn and seed soybeans. He’s a past president of IL Corn and the National Corn Growers Association, and he served as USDA Risk Management Agency director. Martin was nominated by IL Corn.

David Meiss, McLean County. David and his wife, Debbie, live near Gridley, where they raise 1,600 acres of corn, soybeans and seed beans. He’s a past Illinois Farm Bureau director, served on the local school board, and volunteers extensively with his church and community. David was nominated by Richard Guebert, 2006 Master Farmer and Illinois Farm Bureau president.

Ron Moore, Warren County. Ron and his wife, Deb, live near Roseville, where they raise 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and hay, and finish 150 feeder calves with their son Michael. He’s served as president of the American Soybean Association and the Illinois Soybean Association, and he and Deb open their farm to many urban consumer tours. Ron was nominated by the Illinois Soybean Association.

Related:Illinois Master Farmers through the decades

Curtis Strode, Fulton County. Curt and his wife, Mary, live near Marietta, where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,700 acres with their son, Wes. They operate a 120-head cow-calf herd and finish 1,300 head a year. Curt has served on his local FS board and Farm Bureau board and is active in his church. The Strodes also host urban classroom tours on their farm. Curt was nominated by the Fulton County Farm Bureau.

Honorary Master Farmer awarded

Prairie Farmer has also named a new Honorary Master Farmer this year: Bob Easter. Easter is a renowned swine nutritionist who ascended the leadership ranks at the University of Illinois to become dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; interim provost; interim chancellor; and ultimately, president of the university. He is the first Honorary Master Farmer to be named since 2018; only 16 Honorary Master Farmers have ever been named by the magazine.

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award 98 years ago, in 1925. Editors have continued the tradition annually since 1968, following a pause initially caused by the Depression. When Editor Clifford Gregory established the Master Farmer program, he felt the award would help give farm people a greater sense of “pride and permanence.” More than 300 Illinois producers have been inducted as Master Farmers or Honorary Master Farmers over the program’s history.

Related:Illinois Master Farmers rooted in history

The Master Farmer award has been described as Illinois agriculture’s lifetime achievement award. Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contributions farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities. 

Candidates are nominated by farmers, neighbors, agribusiness leaders and farm organizations throughout the state. Judges for this year’s awards were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; German Bollero, University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences interim dean; Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer; Dwight Raab, First Midwest Bank agribusiness vice president; Steve Carson, Farm Credit Illinois executive vice president; and Mike Wilson, Farm Futures editor.

Every year, judges pour through pages and pages of applications that document a lifetime of work, sifting until they find the very best Illinois farmers — the people who raise good crops and even better families, and who build their communities all along the way.

Some Master Farmers serve in state and national farm leadership positions. Others chair prestigious boards or serve with honor at the highest levels of government. Still others build their farms or businesses to regional or national prominence.

However, all serve their communities — building churches, chairing little-known but important committees, organizing harvest for a stricken neighbor — and continue the service-minded commitment that earned them the Master Farmer distinction in the first place.

Growmark is a financial sponsor of the award. Like the Master Farmer award, the Growmark system was born during the 1920s, when nine farmer cooperatives first organized the Illinois Farm Supply Co. The FS brand was adopted in 1955 and remains Growmark’s flagship brand.

To nominate a farmer for the 2024 Master Farmer award, email [email protected] for a nomination form. Nominations are due Aug. 25.

Follow along at PrairieFarmer.com all week for in-depth profiles on each winner.

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.

Betty Haynes

Betty Haynes is the associate editor of Prairie Farmer. She grew up on a Menard County, Ill., farm and graduated from the University of Missouri. Most recently, Betty worked for the Illinois Beef Association, entirely managing and editing its publication.

She and her husband, Dan, raise corn, soybeans and cattle with her family near Petersburg, Ill., and are parents to Clare.

Betty recently won the Emerging Photographer Award from the Ag Communicators Network during the 2022 Ag Media Summit and placed in the Emerging Writer category as well.

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