Naming the 2020 class of Master Farmers continues a tradition of honoring outstanding farmers and other individuals in Indiana agriculture. Four couples were tapped as Master Farmers this year. An Honorary Master Farmer was also selected.
The Master Farmers are Max and Karen Beer, Berne; Jim and Carol Jo Droege, Mount Vernon; Jim and Jane Gillooly, Washington; and David and Gloria Sommer, Berne. Robert Nielsen, the Purdue University Extension corn specialist, is the Honorary Master Farmer.
The award is sponsored each year by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture. Judges include Karen Plaut, dean of the Purdue College of Agriculture; Jim Mintert, Purdue Extension ag economist and director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture; and Don Villwock, a 1985 Master Farmer from Edwardsport.
Read about the accomplishments of these individuals in accompanying stories. Normally, they’re officially recognized at the Purdue Farm Management Tour. However, it is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, an awards ceremony will be held Aug. 19 at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds, Danville, Ind. Reservations are required.
Frequently asked questions
Here are questions often asked about the Master Farmer program:
When did the program begin? The first awardees of the modern era were named in 1968. The program was originally started by Prairie Farmer to recognize outstanding farmers in the mid-1920s. However, it was discontinued in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression.
How many awardees are named each year? Ten Indiana farmers were named in 1968, followed by seven each in 1969 and 1970. Five were named each year through 1985. Typically, four have been named each year since then. However, there were occasions when brothers were named jointly. That last occurred when Kent, Kim and Kerry Ames, Greencastle, were recognized in 2012. Their father, Kenneth, was named a Master Farmer in 2002.
Can couples be nominated jointly as Indiana Master Farmers? Yes. Marjorie Colglazier, Salem, was the first woman named a Master Farmer in 1977. The first couple was Bill and Kaye Whitehead, Muncie, named in 1987.
Today, sponsors offer nominators the choice to nominate a single person or a person and their spouse, since many spouses are an integral part of the farming operation.
In 2013, Kenneth and Jane Rulon, Hamilton County, and Del and Tammi Unger, Sullivan County, were recognized jointly. Since then, counting 2020, 20 couples have been named together. This year marks only the second year all award winners were couples, with the other year being 2014.
Are Honorary Master Farmers named every year? No. The late Mauri Williamson and the late Hobe Jones were among the first two named. In recent years, it’s been common to recognize an Honorary Master Farmer most years, because there are many deserving people in agriculture who aren’t farmers.
Honorary Master Farmers don’t have to be nominated by readers, although reader nominations are accepted. Bob Nielsen is the first Purdue Extension specialist to receive the award since Chris Hurt, an Extension ag economist, was named in 2015.
How do I nominate a Master Farmer? Simply request a nomination form. Write to: Indiana Prairie Farmer, P.O. Box 247, Franklin, IN 46131; or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Nominations for the 2021 class will be due Feb. 15.