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Frequently asked questions about Master Farmer program

Tom J. Bechman Carl Eiche
BELIEVES IN MASTER FARMERS: Carl Eiche, Frankfort, Ind., was involved with the Master Farmer program from 1968 until he retired in 1994. He was named an Honorary Master Farmer in 2018.
Nominate someone to be a 2021 Indiana Master Farmer before the Feb. 15 deadline.

The Master Farmer program is a long-standing tradition in Indiana, spanning more than 50 years in the modern era. Nominations for 2021 Master Farmers are due Feb. 15.

Here are frequently asked questions about the program and the nomination process. Information compiled by Carl Eiche, longtime senior editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer and a 2018 Honorary Master Farmer, helped prepare these answers.

When did the Master Farmer program begin? The first Master Farmer banquet in Indiana was held in 1928. Nine farmers were honored. The first 21 Indiana Master Farmers had an average farm size of 202 acres. No awards were made in 1933 and 1934. In all, 85 Indiana farmers were honored before the program was discontinued after 1935 due to the Great Depression.

When did the modern era of the program begin? James C. Thompson, managing editor of Prairie Farmer, is credited with restarting the program in 1968. Ten Hoosier farmers were recognized in 1968, and seven more in both 1969 and 1970. Since 1968, 261 individuals have been recognized with the Master Farmer award.

Who sponsors the award? Today, the Master Farmer award is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture.

Who can nominate someone for the Master Farmer award? A neighbor, family member, friend, landlord, Extension educator — almost anyone except an employee of Indiana Prairie Farmer can nominate someone. Completed nominations for 2021 must be postmarked by Feb 15.

What are the judging criteria? There is not a scoresheet for the award. Judges evaluate nominees on demonstrated success in farming efficiency, stewardship of natural resources and community service. The three-person judging committee typically includes the dean of the Purdue College of Agriculture, a Purdue professor and a past Master Farmer.

How can you give your nominee the best shot at earning the award? Fill out each question completely in paragraph form. Many people elect not to tell the person being nominated in advance. They often rely on another family member or someone in the operation to provide specific details about the farming operation. A big key is providing six letters of support from people who know and respect the nominee. These letters often attest to the nominee’s farming ability, wise use of natural resources, and leadership and service to the community through various ag-related organizations.

When are the winners honored? The winners are featured in the July issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. For the past several years, except 2020, an awards program was held in conjunction with the Indiana Farm Management Tour. If the tour is held in 2021, the goal will be returning to that tradition.

Who can become an Honorary Master Farmer? This award is reserved for those who are not farmers but who have contributed heavily to Indiana agriculture. Purdue specialists, county Extension educators, ag journalists, farm group leaders and government agency leaders have been honored. The 2020 Honorary Master Farmer was Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist. Nominations are not required but can be submitted. The judging committee is responsible for selecting honorary recipients.

Where do I get more information and a nomination form? Obtain a form by emailing tom.bechman@farmprogress.com. You can also call 317-431-8766 or write to: P.O. Box 247, Franklin, IN 46131. Nominations are due Feb. 15.

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