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Serving: IL

Meet the 2021 Master Farmers

Holly Spangler Kent Hodel, Paul Taylor and Kenneth Hartman Jr.
CHAMPIONS: The 2021 Master Farmers are Kent Hodel, Metamora; Paul Taylor, Esmond; and Kenneth Hartman Jr., Waterloo.
Prairie Farmer names a new class of Master Farmers: Kent Hodel, Paul Taylor and Kenneth Hartman Jr.

Three Illinois producers will be honored as 2021 Master Farmers at Prairie Farmer magazine’s annual event, this year to be held Sept. 2 in Decatur, Ill., during the Farm Progress Show. The award recognizes exceptional agricultural production skills, commitment to family and service to community.

The 2021 Master Farmer award winners are:

Kenneth Hartman Jr., Monroe County. Kenneth and his wife, Anita, live near Waterloo with their three children. They raise 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat with his mother while staying involved in various organizations. Kenneth was nominated by 2015 Master Farmer Randy DeSutter.

Kent Hodel, Woodford County. Kent and his wife, Janet, live near Metamora, where they raise 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and hay, and 50 head of polled Dorset sheep in partnership with their son Eric. In the past, Kent operated an egg and poultry business. Kent was nominated by 2015 Master Farmer Bill Christ.

Paul Taylor, DeKalb County. Paul and his wife, Barbara, live near Esmond, where they raise 800 acres of corn and soybeans. In the past, he’s raised specialty vegetables, fed cattle and operated a farrow-to-finish hog farm. Paul was nominated by IL Corn.

The Master Farmer awards program will be held at 1:30 p.m. in the Hospitality Building, and everyone is invited to attend. Emceed by Max Armstrong, the event will recognize both the 2021 Master Farmers and the 2020 Master Farmers, who were unable to be recognized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Master Farmer program

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award 96 years ago, in 1925. Editors have continued the tradition annually since 1968, following a pause initially caused by the Depression. When Editor Clifford Gregory established the Master Farmer program, he felt the award would help give farm people a greater sense of “pride and permanence.” Nearly 350 Illinois producers have been inducted as Master Farmers or Honorary Master Farmers during the program’s history.

The Master Farmer award has been described as Illinois agriculture’s lifetime achievement award. Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contributions farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities. 

Candidates are nominated by farmers, neighbors, agribusiness leaders and farm organizations throughout the state. Judges for the 2021 awards were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Ed McMillan, former University of Illinois board of trustees; Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer; Paul Stoddard, University of Illinois professor of ag economics and farm manager; Steve Carson, Farm Credit Illinois executive vice president; and Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer editor.

Every year, judges pour through pages and pages of applications that document a lifetime of work, sifting until they find the very best Illinois farmers — the people who raise good crops and even better families, and who build their communities all along the way.

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, all 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.

Growmark 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.

To nominate a farmer for the 2022 Master Farmer award, email [email protected] for a nomination form or download one here. Nominations are due Sept. 24, 2021.

Follow along at all week for in-depth profiles on each winner!

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