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The Class of 2023 marks the 96th class of Kansas Master Farm Families.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

February 16, 2024

4 Min Read
2022 Kansas Master Farm Family class
CLASS OF 2022: Today, each Kansas Master Farm Family class is selected in May and recognized at a banquet the following March. The Class of 2022 was honored at its banquet in March. They are (from left) Mark and Marcia Knudson, Hiawatha; Rick and Connie Thompson, Kincaid; Richard and Anita Poland, Isabel; Philip and Jane Halling, Lancaster; brother and sister David Pearson and Donna Pearson McClish, Wichita; and Todd and Charlene Sheppard, Olsburg. The Class of 2023 will be honored at its banquet March 22 in Manhattan. Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor’s note: If you or a family member have been recognized as a Kansas Master Farmer and Kansas Master Farm Homemaker in the past, or if you have family recollections of previous honorees, we’d love to collect those stories for use in recognizing future milestones. Email [email protected] or call 620-253-5497.

It all began in 1927.

Sen. Arthur Capper, then the publisher of Kansas Farmer magazine, wanted to establish an award recognizing top farmers in the state of Kansas — the Kansas Master Farmer award.

He published a scorecard in the magazine, asking farmers to evaluate themselves for consideration. The five criteria on that first scorecard weren’t that much different than today’s criteria: operation of the farm; business methods; general farm appearance and upkeep; home life; and public spiritedness.

According to staff reports, that first year 268 farmers nominated themselves, and a first class of 15 Master Farmers was chosen and the Kansas Master Farmer Association was created.

The announcement of the first class ran in the Nov. 13, 1927, New York Times with this blurb:

“Believing that the expert farmer should be given recognition, The Kansas Farmer today awarded “master farmer” certificates and gold medals to 15 Kansas farmers selected by three judges as the best all-around agriculturists in the state.”

In 1928, the Farmer’s Wife magazine started the Master Farm Homemaker Guild, with help from Kansas State University. The award was meant to recognize women outstanding in the field of home economics and homemaking.

At that time, the two programs operated separately, and the honorees were individuals, rather than couples, according to staff reports.

In 1940, following the closure of the Farmer’s Wife magazine, the fate of the Master Farm Homemaker Award and Guild was in danger. Capper stepped up and took on sponsorship of that award, and at that time, the two programs were combined. It also became the custom to choose married farm couples for the honor. The association and guild still maintain their own identities and slates of officers.

In 1951, after Capper died, Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service assumed responsibility for the selection process and setting up the annual banquet and sponsorship of the organizations. In 1957, the Kansas Association of Industry and Commerce joined in that sponsorship.

The selection process evolved so that county Extension Councils would nominate a couple to be considered at the state level, using the customary criteria of excellence in agriculture, excellence in the family home, and service to the local and state community. A selection committee appointed by the associate director for Extension and applied research would appoint a committee to choose the class.

Today, the award is jointly sponsored by Kansas Farmer magazine and K-State Research and Extension, with financial support from Kansas Farm Bureau, Frontier Farm Credit and American AgCredit.

The Class of 2023 marks the 96th class of Kansas Master Farm Families, with more than 600 honorees recognized in its history. Today’s winners receive plaques with reproductions of the original medals that were given out to Master Farmers in the early years.

Each year, six couples are chosen for each class: one from each of the four K-State Research and Extension districts, and two from the state at large. Through the decades, selection of the Kansas Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker reflected the times.

Honorees have always primarily been outstanding farmers and homemakers. But volunteering in communities, service in state farm organizations, and leadership at the state and national level on agricultural and farm family topics started to be seen in the applications.

This year, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine chose to rename the award the “Kansas Master Farm Family.”

The Kansas Master Farmer Association and Kansas Master Farm Homemaker Guild continue to meet annually in March to hold their annual business meetings and come together for a joint recognition banquet. Honorees of the class are invited to join the association and guild. The groups typically come together in the fall during the Kansas State Fair each year, as well as assorted tours and gatherings through the year.

The association and guild raise funds for philanthropic outreach, such as 4-H scholarships for high school seniors or college undergraduates. They’ve also made several considerable donates to the Rock Springs State 4-H Center, Junction City, for facilities improvements.

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Master Farmers

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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