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Young farmers learn from the Masters

Slideshow: Take a look at the Cultivating Master Farmers program, as one class graduates and another class begins.

The Cultivating Master Farmers program recently graduated its Class of 2019 and welcomed the Class of 2021 with a special ceremony in Mahomet, Ill., at the Farm Credit Illinois office.

CMF is a unique two-year mentoring program that connects a select group of young Illinois farmers with folks who have been through it all and are willing to share their sage advice: Prairie Farmer Master Farmers. The program was organized in 2005.

Class of 2019 graduates were recognized and awarded a special photo canvas, and the Class of 2021 was introduced to the group. Kim Kidwell, dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, spoke to the group in a keynote address.

“The torch pass from one generation to another is really sacred,” she said. “I commend you for choosing to spend your time in this space.”

Kidwell talked about changes in how consumers make buying decisions, including those that center on generational differences. She pointed to “disruptive innovation” and how it will shape our food choices — innovations such as Beyond Meat, an alternative-meat company. She reported the meat-substitute market has grown to $5 billion in the U.S.; Beyond Meat was one of the hottest initial public offerings on Wall Street this year. The global market for alternative meats is expected to reach $140 billion in 10 years, to become 10% of the global meat markets.

“Things that didn’t seem possible two years ago are happening,” Kidwell explained. 

Kidwell also talked about Generation Z: teenagers, college kids and early-20-somethings, all born since the mid-’90s. “There’s not a kid in college today that doesn’t want to make a difference,” she shared. “They want to do things that are meaningful. And they’re not afraid to dare to dream.

“If a farmer tells you from a heartfelt place why they do what they do, it’s inspiring. So tell them what you do and why you love it. That’s where it starts. Passion and drive is something you can’t fake.”

Following the recognition of the Class of 2019, the Class of 2021 went through orientation, including a session on recognizing personality types — both their own and others’ — and how to use that knowledge in their farm business.

“We’ve captured and enjoyed the enthusiasm of the young people,” says Russ Rosenboom, a Master Farmer from Clifton. “That’s what we get out of the program. Here, we see younger farmers accepting the same challenges we did 60 years ago.”

The CMF program covers topics like financial management and succession planning. Speakers lead the discussions, but the real value is the one-on-one conversations between the young farmers and the Master Farmers.

Young farmer Kate Huffman farms with her parents near Kewanee. “I’ve asked some of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to ask,” she says. “This is a safe place, and these people are resources for a lifetime.”

Mitchell Hinds, a Mount Pulaski young farmer, agrees: “I enjoyed the conversations with Master Farmers — people who aren’t your neighbor or your competition. You see you’re not alone.”

The CMF program is sponsored by Compeer Financial, Farm Credit Illinois, Growmark, Illinois Farm Bureau, Bayer and Prairie Farmer.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019

Young Farmers
Tony and Amber Baird, Martinsville
Brad and Hilary Boelens, Cambridge
Drew and Adrienne DeSutter, New Windsor
Stephen Grace, Urbana
Jeff and Katie Grady, Port Byron
Mitchell Hinds, Mount Pulaski
Kate Huffman, Kewanee
John and Megan Klemm, Waynesville
Donna and Cameron Klostermann, Sheffield
Jason and Laura Pitcher, Montrose
Jamin and Whitney Ringger, Gridley
Jason and Erin Watson, Villa Grove
Josh and Sarah Wurmnest, Sibley

Master Farmers
Ron and Karen Bremmer, Pearl City
Bill and Sandy Christ, Metamora
Reggie and Norma Jean Dowell, Greenview
Tracy and Beth Jones, Kirkland
Ron and Julie Lawfer, Kent
Tim and Delreen Lenz, Strasburg
Russ and Marilyn Rosenboom, Clifton
Tim and Roxy Seifert, Auburn
Jim and Luann Shaeffer, Dixon

Meet the Class of 2021

Young Farmers
Ryan Atherton, Lanark
Ryan and Amanda Bland, Pittsfield
Michael and Mallory Deuth, Polo
Clint Gorden, Mount Auburn
Reeder and Lena Head, Decatur
Seth and Jessica Lambert, Macomb
Justin and Jessica Lane, Virginia
Alex and Sherry Mewes, Albion
Mike and Mandi Nelson, Paxton
Thomas and Kristin Perkins, Effingham
Josh Plunk, Mansfield
Scott and Amber Poettker, Breese

Master Farmers
Bill and Sandy Christ, Metamora
Reggie and Norma Jean Dowell, Greenview
Ron and Julie Lawfer, Kent
Tim and Delreen Lenz, Strasburg
Marty and Sheila Marr, Jacksonville
Jim and Pam Robbins, Peotone
Russ and Marilyn Rosenboom, Clifton
Darell and Rosanne Sarff, Chandlerville
Tim and Roxy Seifert, Auburn
Jim and Luann Shaeffer, Dixon

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