Sponsored By
Prairie Farmer Logo

Time to nominate a 2024 Master FarmerTime to nominate a 2024 Master Farmer

The deadline is Aug. 25 to nominate someone you know to be a Prairie Farmer Master Farmer.

Holly Spangler

July 19, 2023

3 Min Read
 A collage of previous Prairie Farmer Master Farmer winners
MASTERS: Folks like these from the Master Farmer classes of 2023, 2022, 2021 and 2020 were all nominated by friends, neighbors, family, farm organizations or themselves. Photos by Betty Haynes and Holly Spangler

Look around at the folks you know. There’s a good chance you have a Master Farmer in your midst — or at the least, someone who should be a Master Farmer. And now is the time to make that happen.

Nominations are open for the 2024 Prairie Farmer Master Farmer award, and they’re due Aug. 25.

Maybe it’s your parents, your sibling, your neighbors, a friend or a colleague. Perhaps it’s someone you’ve served with on a board, or someone you’ve long looked up to. The application includes a nomination form and requires eight to 12 letters of support — but no financial information.

A lot of folks think that Master Farmer nominees have to share their balance sheet or deeply private financial information. But make no mistake, no one needs to provide those kinds of details. The judging panel focuses on growth of the operation over time, agricultural productivity and community involvement.

Who’s eligible? Here’s a look:

  1. Candidates must be actively engaged farmers in Illinois, deriving the majority of their income from agricultural production.

  2. Candidates must have proven agricultural production records and be recognized as leaders in their community.

  3. Candidates may be individuals, couples or siblings; judging is equally weighted.

The selection committee will be comprised of Illinois agricultural leaders, including experts in agronomy and agricultural finance, past Master Farmers, agricultural research or university authorities, and Prairie Farmer editorial staff.

Prairie Farmer staff will present the awards in March at the Master Farmer Awards Luncheon. And as always, Prairie Farmer is grateful to Growmark for its sponsorship of the Master Farmer awards program.

Here’s a look at what makes for a successful application:

Show growth. 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. Sometimes growth happens in numbers of acres or livestock; sometimes it’s through niche markets or specialty crops. Judges look for candidates who have made the most of what they have.

Don’t sweat financials. Again, no detailed financial information is required.

Get letters. Collect eight to 12 recommendation letters to support your nomination. These letters give insight to character and reputation in the community. At least one needs to come from a farmer in the nominee’s neighborhood.

Think local. Don’t forget all the things the candidate does in the local community, as well as state and national organizations. These lists are often very detailed. For spouses or sibling nominations, list each individual’s activities, noting who did what.

Don’t wait. 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.

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

Check the mirror. You can nominate yourself. Many farmers do every year.

The 2024 application is available online. Download it, fill it out and send it in, complete with letters of support, by Aug. 25. Or, email [email protected] to have an application sent to you or to get more information.

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.

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

You May Also Like