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2018 Master Farmers
MASTERS: The 2018 Master Farmers are (from left) Darell Sarff, Mason County; Fred Reichert, Sangamon County; Jim Rapp, Bureau County; and Tom Martin, Logan County.

Meet the 2018 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers

Four farmers who are outstanding in both agriculture production and agricultural leadership will be honored in a ceremony March 14. Plus: A new Honorary Master Farmer joins the ranks.

Four Illinois farmers have been selected as 2018 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer magazine. The group will be honored for their exceptional agricultural production skills and community service at a ceremony in Springfield, Ill., on March 14.

The award recipients are Tom Martin, Mount Pulaski; Jim Rapp, Princeton; Fred Reichert, Auburn; and Darell Sarff, Chandlerville.

Prairie Farmer has also named a new Honorary Master Farmer this year: Max Armstrong. Armstrong has originated broadcasts from 30 countries and every state in the U.S. for WGN, “This Week in Agribusiness” and Farm Progress. He is the first Honorary Master Farmer to be named since 2010; only 15 Honorary Master Farmers have been named by the magazine.

Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and farm organizations from throughout the state. Judges for the awards this year were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer; Ed McMillan, University of Illinois board of trustees; Steve Myers, Busey Ag Services; and Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer editor.

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award in 1925, when Editor Clifford Gregory established it as a way to recognize Illinois farmers for something more than just farming skills. Gregory felt the award would help give farm people a greater sense of “pride and permanence.”

Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contributions farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities.

With the list of winners described as a “hall of achievement,” the Master Farmer award is like no other, because it honors farmers who seem to do it all — combining top agricultural production skills with community service, grassroots achievement and dedication to their families. Master Farmers leverage every bit of talent, skill and opportunity they possess, and use it for the greater good: for their family, their farm, their community and their industry.

Some Master Farmers serve in state and national farm leadership positions. Others chair prestigious boards or serve with honor at the highest levels of government. Still others build their farms or businesses to regional or national prominence.

However, the majority serve their communities — building churches, chairing little-known but important committees, organizing harvest for a stricken neighbor — and continue the service-minded commitment that earned them the Master Farmer distinction in the first place.

Between 1925 and 1937, the magazine named 97 Master Farmers. The program was discontinued in the 1930s due to the Depression, but Prairie Farmer revived it in 1968. Since then, more than 300 Illinois people have been named a Master Farmer or Honorary Master Farmer.

Growmark Inc. is a financial sponsor of the award. Like the Master Farmer award, the Growmark system was born during the 1920s, when farmer cooperatives first organized the Illinois Farm Supply Co. Today, the brand is known as FS.

Close-up with 2018 winners
Tom Martin, Logan County.
Tom and his wife, Cheryl, live near Mount Pulaski, where they raise 2,700 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and straw with their son, Christopher Martin. Tom was nominated by Cheryl and Chris.  

Jim Rapp, Bureau County. Jim and his wife, Nancy, farm near Princeton, where they raise corn and soybeans on 2,800 acres with their sons Nick and Ben Rapp. Jim was nominated by IL Corn.  

Fred Reichert, Sangamon County. Fred and his wife, Eileen, farm near Auburn, where they raise 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans with son Mark Reichert and son-in-law Jim Ringer. Fred was nominated by Mark and 2012 Master Farmer Tim Seifert, also of Auburn. 

Darell Sarff, Mason County. Darell and his wife, Rosanne, farm near Chandlersville, where they raise 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and popcorn, following a long career in specialty crops. Darell was nominated by 1996 Master Farmer Rollie Moore. 

Watch in the coming days for full profiles of each winner.

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