Master Farmers pile up a career full of experience before they earn recognition as a Master Farmer. When Jim Mintert interviewed the 2018 Master Farmers in a panel discussion after the awards ceremony during the Indiana Farm Management Tour, he sought information they could share with upcoming generations of farmers.
“I enjoy emceeing this panel discussion each year because I take back points made here and share them with my students at Purdue University,” Mintert says. He’s an Extension agricultural economist and director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture.
This year’s class of Master Farmers includes: Barry Bishop, Campbellsburg; Jim Farris, Vincennes; Carl and Sally Swinford, Hillsdale; and Mark and Christine York, Roann.
Mintert closed the discussion with a question geared toward cashing in on experiences built up by the new Master Farmers during their careers.
Mintert: What advice would you pass along to my students or to someone starting out farming today?
Carl Swinford: You need to know what’s going on with new technology and keep up on it. Our oldest grandson has taught me about several new technologies, including how to use autosteering. You must have someone with technical expertise in these areas in your operation today.
Farris: I would advise anyone starting out to ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And find something which you are good at doing. Ask questions so that you can get even better at it.
Bishop: There is a need for people besides farmers in agriculture. We will need large-animal vets in the future. You don’t have to be a big person to be a [large-animal] vet.
Mark York: Don’t just limit yourself to one picture of what agriculture or your role in agriculture should be like in the future. There are a lot of possibilities. There was no road map for what Christine and I did — raising pigs on contract or weaning-to-finish operations were not common when Christine and I started, but we made it work.
Maybe your goal is to raise sweet corn on 5 acres and sell it locally. Maybe that’s all you do. There will be opportunities like that in the future.
Mintert: Technology and change seem to be themes coming out of your discussion. There will be places in agriculture for those kids who didn’t come from farms, too. There will be more changes ahead, but there will be a future in agriculture. It’s about providing food security for everyone.