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Master Farmers offer advice for younger generations

Tom J. Bechman Don and Joyce Villwock with Karen Plaut
CONTINUING THE LEGACY: Don and Joyce Villwock set up a trust to fund the Master Farmer program and the Purdue Farm Management Tour. Purdue Ag Dean Karen Plaut (center) recognized them for their support.
Veteran farmers share life lessons with the next generation.

What advice would you offer to the next generation? Jim Mintert posed that question to the 2021 Indiana Master Farmers during a panel discussion. Mintert, a Purdue University Extension ag economist and director of the Center for Purdue Agriculture, asked each winner to draw on experiences from their career and tell today’s and tomorrow’s farmers and aspiring farmers what they wished they would have known when they began their careers.

The 2021 Master Farmers are Harry Egnew, Linton; Randy and Joyce Kron, Evansville; Cameron and Cara Mills, Walton; Craig and Kim Williams, Oaktown; and Honorary Master Farmers Ted and Jean Merrell and Terry and Nieta Merrell, Kokomo.

Related: Welcome new class of Master Farmers

See how many of these nuggets of wisdom may help you.

Ted Merrell: Look at how you do things today. Is there a way to do what you’re doing better? It’s important to always look to improve, even if you think you’re already doing a good job.

Terry Merrell: Each generation wants to try to leave things better for the next generation. Our father did that for Ted and me by giving us the chance to fail. Not everything we tried worked, and he was there to back us up, but he let us try first. The biggest challenge for young people today, in my mind, is trying to be the best at what they do. An average work ethic is not good enough today. You want workers with above-average work ethics, and they’re hard to find!

Related: Master Farmers pinpoint changes during their careers

Cameron Mills: Terry is right. Work ethic is extremely important, and I would start there too. You must have a good work ethic to start like Cara and I did. And you must be willing to know you’re going in a different direction, and not care what some neighbors think. If you’re committed to something like planting green and it’s working, but others who aren’t doing it drive by and point, you’re probably going in the right direction.

Randy Kron: My best advice to my children or anybody else is to leave things better than you found them. I agree with Ted. You may think you’re doing well and maybe you are, but there is always room to improve. We’re always looking for ways to do things better and improve how we do things. That’s how we will leave things better than we started.

Craig Williams: If you’re just coming out of school, travel or work off the farm in some other job for a while before you come back. I did that because there wasn’t room on the farm for me right away, but it’s valuable for other reasons too. You get a better appreciation for why your parents do what they do when you see how things work elsewhere. It can be a growing experience for your parents, too, when you do go back. Working for someone else or in a different industry is one way to learn and bring new ideas back to the farm operation.

Harry Egnew: I told my kids to get a job they like. If you like what you’re doing, you’re going to do a good job at it, whatever it is. If you wind up back at the farm, you will appreciate it more too.

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