Prairie Farmer Logo

The window to send applications for Prairie Farmer’s lifetime achievement award for farmers ends Sept. 9.

Austin Keating, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

July 9, 2019

3 Min Read
past Master Farmers collage
MASTERS: The last four Master Farmer classes are (clockwise, top left): 2019, Bill Sahs, Boyd Schaufelberger, Jim Robbins, Marty Marr; 2018, Darell Sarff, Fred Reichert, Jim Rapp, Tom Martin; 2017, Tracy Jones, Allen Entwistle, Joel Kooistra, Kent Kleinschmidt; 2016, Norma Jean and Reggie Dowell, Karen and Mark DeDecker, Brenda and Bill Raben, Julie and Ron Lawfer.

Prairie Farmer is now accepting applications for 2020 Master Farmers.

If you’ve ever considered nominating someone — maybe your parents, a sibling, your neighbors, a friend or even yourself — don’t wait. This lifetime achievement award is competitive, and applications require time to fill out before they close in September.

More good news: You can nominate or apply as an individual, or as a husband and wife. In 2016, four farm couples received the award. Siblings can also be nominated, as was the case for Doug and Tom Block, who farm in partnership and were named Master Farmers in 2009. They joined a list of names that now tops 350.

The application process may seem intimidating, but here are some winning tips from past judges:

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.

Get letters. Ask for at least 10 recommendation letters to support your nomination. These letters give insight to character and reputation in the community.

Think small. When listing community and industry work, consider the nominee’s entire body of work. For spouses or siblings, 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.

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

You can find the 2020 application online. Download it, fill it out and send it in, complete with letters of support, by Sept. 9. Email [email protected] for more information or to have an application sent to you.


Prairie Farmer is grateful to Growmark for its continued financial support of the Master Farmer program. Since 2009, Growmark has provided the financial assistance necessary to continue the awards program.

The company’s commitment to caring for the local ag community dovetails with Prairie Farmer’s mission to maintain the heritage and honor of the Master Farmer awards. Like the Master Farmer award, the Growmark system was born during the 1920s. In 1927, nine local co-ops formed the Illinois Farm Supply Co. Today, the brand is known as FS.

“It’s an honor to sponsor this prestigious award,” says Jim Spradlin, Growmark CEO. “Individuals recognized as Master Farmers embody the qualities and competencies of this noble profession we are so proud to serve.”

In 1925 when the award was founded, the editors at Prairie Farmer believed the values of a Master Farmer were worth recognizing as a way to help farmers take pride in themselves and their jobs. They felt it was important to recognize farmers for excellence the same way an individual is honored in any other profession. The same holds true in 2019, as Prairie Farmer and Growmark continue to honor new Master Farmers because their actions and beliefs, both on and off the farm, capture the essence of this award.

Hats off to judges

Prairie Farmer is grateful to this panel of judges for selecting this year’s Master Farmers:

  • Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics

  • Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer

  • Robert Easter, president emeritus, University of Illinois

  • Steve Myers, Busey Ag Services

  • Dwight Raab, Illinois FBFM

  • Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

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.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like