The 94th class of Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers includes six couples from across the state known for their service to Kansas agriculture and their communities.
Daryl Bucholz, associate director emeritus of Cooperative Extension and secretary of the Kansas Master Farmer Association and the Kansas Master Farm Homemakers Guild, made the announcement in late December.
The class of 2021 includes:
• Larry and Virginia Kepley, Grant County. For more than 50 years, the Kepleys have been farming near Ulysses. Larry is widely known for his work promoting white winter wheat production across Kansas, as well as his service on the Kansas Wheat Commission, and the Farm Credit Association. Virginia has volunteered many hours with the Kansas Ag in the Classroom program, promoting agriculture to teachers and students.
• Wayne and Carrie Grimm, Brown County. The Grimms, of Morrill, have taken their agricultural advocacy from in-person Farm Safety Days on their farm for local first- and second-graders to the virtual space with a farming YouTube channel called Double G & L Farms. The couple and their daughters share their diversified farm and livestock through informative videos and more.
• David and Sara Combes, Osage County. David and Sara Combes of Lebo began their farm with an 80-acre farm and homestead 47 years ago. Together, they worked to make their dream come true with seasonal off-farm jobs, hard work and faith. Over the years, they have expanded their operation to now include retained ownership of their Angus beef for a premium for age, source and carcass merits.
• Philip and Rhonda Perry, Jefferson County. The Perry Ranch of Oskaloosa consists of a 500-head spring calving cow herd, along with a stocker calf herd and a custom preconditioning operation. The Perrys have been very active in the Kansas Livestock Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, as well as serving their local community.
• Jess and Laryce Schwieterman, Hamilton County. The Schwietermans were a young couple fresh out of college when a retiring farmer near Syracuse offered them an opportunity: Work for him for a couple years, and he would transition his land to the couple. At 25 years of age, the couple took on 3,000 acres. Since then, the couple has expanded JL Farms through the use of no-till and other conservation practices, as well as sound business management.
• Nathan and Suzanne Larson, Riley County. The Larsons, of the community of Riley, have a diversified farm that includes corn, silage, grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat. They have spent the last 20 years transitioning their farmland to no-till for soil and crop improvement. They also have two cow herds that calve in the spring and the fall, with calves fed on the farm and sold directly to Tyson Fresh Meats. Nathan serves as treasurer of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission, and he is a Kansas Wheat commissioner.
The six couples and their families will be guests of honor at a banquet in March in Manhattan. They will also have a special day of recognition during the Kansas State Fair in September.
The Kansas Master Farmer award was started in 1927, by then-Kansas Farmer publisher Sen. Arthur Capper. A year later, the Farmer’s Wife magazine, which is no longer in print, started the Master Farm Homemaker Guild, with help from Kansas State University. In the early days, the two programs operated separately, and the honorees were individuals rather than couples.
More than 400 farm couples have been recognized and have become members of the Kansas Master Farmer Association and the Kansas Master Farm Homemakers Guild. The goal was to publicly honor excellence in farming, homemaking, farm living and rural citizenship.
In 1953, Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service took on the duty of the selection process and coordination of the annual honor banquet.
Today, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine co-sponsor the program, with financial support from Kansas Farm Bureau, Frontier Farm Credit and American AgCredit.
Each year county Extension councils and Extension districts nominate farm couples. Then, a committee is appointed to choose one couple from each of the four Extension areas in the state, plus two additional couples at large.
Nominations for the Class of 2022 are due May 1. If you would like to see a farm couple nominated, contact your local Extension agent; call the K-State Research and Extension administrative office at 785-532-5820; or email Daryl Buchholz at email@example.com.
Be sure to look for more on each of the six couples of the Class of 2021 in upcoming issues of Kansas Farmer magazine online and in print.