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Meet the Master Farmers: Martin Marr, Jim Robbins, Bill Sahs and Boyd Schaufelberger.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

March 1, 2019

3 Min Read
2019 Master Farmers
CHAMPIONS: The 2019 Master Farmers are (from left) Bill Sahs, Lincoln; Boyd Schaufelberger, Greenville; Martin Marr, Jacksonville; and Jim Robbins, Peotone.

Four Illinois producers will be honored as 2019 Master Farmers at Prairie Farmer magazine’s annual event in Springfield, Ill., March 13. The award recognizes exceptional agricultural production skills, commitment to family and service to community.

Award recipients are Martin Marr, Jacksonville; Jim Robbins, Peotone; Bill Sahs, Lincoln; and Boyd Schaufelberger, Greenville.

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award 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.” Nearly 350 Illinois producers have been inducted as Master Farmers or Honorary Master Farmers over the program’s 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 the awards were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Robert Easter, president emeritus, University of Illinois; Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer; Steve Myers, Busey Ag Services; Dwight Raab, Illinois FBFM; and Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer 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 continuing 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 farmer cooperatives first organized the Illinois Farm Supply Co. Today, the brand is known as FS.

To nominate a farmer for the 2020 Master Farmer award, email [email protected] for a nomination form or download one at

Close-up with 2019 winners
Here’s more information on the Master Farmers for 2019. Click on the names for a full story:

Martin Marr, Morgan County. Marty and his wife, Sheila, live near Jacksonville, where they raise 3,600 acres of corn and soybeans, and 40 head of beef cattle with sons Martin Jr. and Evan, and Marty’s brother David. Marty was nominated by 2015 Master Farmer John Werries.

Jim Robbins, Will County. Jim and his wife, Pam, farm near Peotone, raising 2,800 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay with his partner and nephew, Michael Robbins. Jim was nominated by neighbor John Kiefner.

Bill Sahs, Logan County. Bill and his wife, Barb, live near Lincoln, where they raise 1,600 acres of corn, soybeans and pumpkins. Bill was nominated by neighboring farmer Jeff Elsas.

Boyd Schaufelberger, Bond County. Boyd and his wife, Sandy, farm near Greenville, where they raise 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans, pasture and hay, and at one time milked 120 Holstein cows. He custom-feeds 100 bred heifers and runs a small Angus herd. Boyd was nominated by his daughter, Amy Hoover.


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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