When the letters of support pour in accompanying Master Farmer nominations from across Illinois, those letters add personal insight and touching memories about time spent with the honorees — on and off the farm. They also paint a picture of each farmer’s character, forged during community fundraisers, late-night meetings and harvests for neighbors. For many Master Farmers, reading the letters is a humbling and honoring experience.
Here’s a look at what some of the closest friends, family, landlords, suppliers and others have to say about each member of the 2021 class of Prairie Farmer Master Farmers.
Kenneth Hartman Jr., Waterloo, Ill.
“Kenny’s ag and community leadership are off the charts. He is a very dedicated leader that shows up, knows the issues, and works with others to come up with solutions.” — Randy DeSutter, 2015 Master Farmer and Illinois Corn Growers Association president
“Whether the subject is ethanol, corn exports or Section 199a of the tax code, Ken is very knowledgeable of the facts, and you can always count on Ken to ask the tough questions.” — Carl Tebbe, Gateway FS general manager
“I first met Ken during an SAE [supervised agricultural experience] visit to a student that was working at the Glendell Dairy Farm. I could tell immediately that Ken was passionate about the agricultural industry and very supportive of agricultural education and FFA. He mentored students very well in educating them about the farming operation, key tasks and a positive work ethic.” — Dean Dittmar, Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education coordinator
“Farming the diverse landscape of Monroe County provides many challenges. Being an early adopter of technology allows Ken to manage that diversity for best profitability and soil management.” — Boyd Schaufelberger, 2019 Master Farmer
“While his operation has evolved from the fancy Holsteins at Glendell Farms, Kenny and his family continue their excellence in so many facets of our amazing industry. He’s a professional in an industry that needs more like him. Vision, humility and perseverance define his approach to each day as a steward in our wonderful industry.” — Michael Turley, Greenville, Ill., farmer
Kent Hodel, Metamora, Ill.
“After spending time in prayer and discussion with my wife, we made a faith and family decision to merge into our family farm. My dad has calmly and graciously transitioned to advisory role — positioning me to learn and lead. I have had numerous ag vendors express how impressed they are as they observe my dad passing the baton to the next generation.” — Eric Hodel, son and farming partner
“For the last five years, Kent has been a reasonable and wise voice for the agriculture community, and provided guidance on farm policy and legislation.” — Sen. Chuck Weaver, 37th District
“Kent is a natural communicator and has used his talents to connect tens of thousands of people to soybeans and agriculture over the years in a way that reaches them personally.” — Rebecca Richardson, Illinois Soybean Board biodiesel lead
“As a farmer, Kent holds a deep respect and reverence for the land. He knows that if he works hard and treats the land well, that in most years, it will provide a generous bounty to support his family. In the bad years, he has the faith to be confident that things will improve, probably next year.” — William Francis, Wilmington, Ill., farmer
“Kent is a forward-thinker that realizes the importance of youth involvement in agriculture. He has the passion and Christian-based philosophy that makes an outstanding leader.” — Grant Grebner, Illinois Central College agriculture professor and teaching chair
Paul Taylor, Esmond, Ill.
“Paul Taylor is one of the top farmer leaders we have had the privilege to work with at IL Corn. At least half of his effectiveness is due to listening, not thinking about his next statement. Paul listens with intention.” — Lindsey Mitchell, IL Corn
“One of my favorite things about working with Paul is that he keeps an open mind and listens to both sides of issues. He doesn’t jump to any conclusions until all the facts are in.” — Jeff Scates, Shawneetown, Ill., farmer
“Many farmers give back to their communities; service is a part of rural America’s character. Yet, having met so many over my 11 years working in agriculture, Paul Taylor stands out for his dedication, vision and for the strength of his character.” — Cathryn Wojcicki, National Corn Growers Association
“Paul’s experience and ability, his willingness to consider and assess new ideas, and his dedication to doing things right all combine to make him an outstanding supplier for Del Monte and a personal friend to those of us who have the benefit of working with him.” — Harlan Hawkins, Del Monte
“His depth of knowledge about agriculture is staggering.” — Kevin Skunes, Arthur, N.D., farmer and past president, National Corn Growers Association
“Paul exemplifies what it is to be a good neighbor. In times of trouble, Paul is one of the first to offer help or simply call to check on his neighbors.” — Mike Schweitzer, Malta, Ill., farmer