New Master Farmers were recently added to the rolls. At the awards ceremony in June, Jim Mintert pulled them together as a panel and asked them to share things they’ve learned in their careers.
Mintert is a Purdue University Extension agricultural economist and director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture. The Master Farmer program is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue College of Agriculture.
This year’s Master Farmers are Richard Law, Atlanta; David Lee, Salem; Ronnie and Sarah Mohr, Greenfield; and Roger and Mary Beth Wenning, Greensburg. The Honorary Master Farmer is Mark Sigler, chief operating officer and treasurer of Indiana Farm Bureau Inc., Frankton. Law, Lee, Ronnie Mohr, Roger Wenning and Sigler joined Mintert on stage for the discussion.
“I like to discover information I can share with my students at Purdue,” Mintert began. “Let’s start with this question: What is the biggest change in farming and agriculture you have seen over the course of your career?”
Sigler: “When I began my career at INFB, many of our programs were geared toward helping farmer-members with management practices and marketing decisions. Over the past few years and today, we spend much more of our time on issues related to protecting farmers from outside influences. Educating people and working for better rules related to the Waters of the U.S. proposed by EPA is a good example. Our goal is to work toward making sure that groups with no interest in agriculture aren’t judging what we do.”
Law: “Liability is a big issue today. We didn’t use to worry that much about it in my early days of farming. Today we must make sure we have proper protection through insurance for things which could happen and work to make sure they don’t happen.”
Wenning: “Technology is by far the thing which has changed the most for me. I was driving a Massey-Harris 33 with no power steering when I was 8 years old on our farm. This spring, one day we were planting corn and the family brought the grandkids to the field. Some were riding with me in the cab of the Massey-Ferguson planter tractor. We were sitting in the cab talking, with my youngest on my lap, and we were planting corn. The tractor drove itself, and the planter switched seeding rate on the go. When we finished the pass, we had a map of what we did. That blows my mind; it’s an amazing change.”
Lee: “I agree that technology is the biggest change. We started out plowing ground, then chiseled, and today we are 100% no-till. Much of our ground is rolling and needs the protection of no-till. No-till is also faster, saves labor and saves fuel. Today we’re going further and bringing in cover crops. This must be the biggest change I’ve seen.”
Mohr: “Technology must be the greatest change. We’ve increased our productivity, but the precision farming tools we have also help the environment. For example, we can be so precise that we have very little overlap when applying chemicals. I sprayed a very large field this morning and was only off by a very small amount when I finished. It’s amazing compared to what we did in the past.”
Watch the website this week to read more questions and answers from this panel discussion.