Farm Progress

Young farmers can apply now for the Cultivating Master Farmers mentorship program, which pairs young farmers and Master Farmers.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

January 24, 2017

2 Min Read
TALK IT OVER: The Cultivating Master Farmers program gives young farmers and Master Farmers the chance to build relationships and seek advice from someone who’s not necessarily their neighbor, like Champaign County young farmer Mike Briggs, show here with Sandy and Bill Christ, Master Farmer Class of 2015, from Metamora.

Sometimes the best learning method is a conversation with someone who’s been there, done that. Now in its 12th year, the Cultivating Master Farmer program has provided just that: expert farm and family mentorship from folks who have walked the walk. This unique mentoring program links young farmers with a wealth of information from Prairie Farmer’s Master Farmers.

Classes of approximately 10 young farmers (21 to 35 years old) and 10 Master Farmers are selected for the two-year program, which features six ag-related events, including a summer tour. The Class of 2017, which graduated in July, toured the St. Louis Science Center, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Growmark’s Bussen Fertilizer Spur on the Mississippi River, and met with agriculture professionals at The Maschhoffs. They also heard from acclaimed speakers on the topics of estate and succession planning, diversification on the farm, marketing strategies, how to give back, and managing working relationships with family members.

Like previous classes, incoming CMF members will have plenty of opportunities to hear from a top-notch slate of speakers. However, the real backbone of the program is the round-table discussion and relationship building, where young farmers learn from Master Farmers and vice versa. Upon the completion of the two-year program, participants will have developed lasting relationships that continue to yield solid farm advice even after the program’s conclusion.

Young farmers have until March 31 to apply for an opening in the Class of 2019. Eligible applicants must meet the following criteria:
• reside in Illinois
• between the ages of 21 and 35 as of Dec. 31, 2016
• actively engaged in production agriculture
• committed to actively participating in the two-year program
• couples encouraged to apply

The Class of 2019 will be selected in April. The inaugural meeting will be held July 19 at Farm Credit Illinois, Mahomet. The CMF application is available on select sponsors’ websites, including and, or email Prairie Farmer editor Holly Spangler at [email protected]. The CMF program is sponsored by 1st Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit Illinois, Growmark, Illinois Farm Bureau, Monsanto and Prairie Farmer.


MASTER FARM: During the summer tour, the Class of 2017 enjoyed a picnic at the farm of Don and Karen Schrader, Master Farmers from Waterloo.



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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