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Several farmers join a roster of excellence dating back to 1925, including Chris Hausman, Malcolm and Susan Head, Lou Lamoreux, and Gerald Thompson. Plus: Gary Schnitkey is the newest Honorary Master Farmer.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

March 4, 2024

4 Min Read
Pictured from left: Gerald Thompson, Lou Lamoreux, Malcolm and Susan Head, and Chris Hausman
CHAMPIONS: The 2024 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers are (from left) Chris Hausman, Pesotum; Susan and Malcolm Head, Blue Mound; Lou Lamoreux, Lanark; and Gerald Thompson, Colfax. Betty Haynes

Prairie Farmer is excited to announce four new winners of the Master Farmer award, recognizing exceptional agricultural production skills, commitment to family and service to community. The 2024 Master Farmers will be honored at Prairie Farmer magazine’s annual event, to be held March 28 in Bloomington, Ill.

The 2024 Master Farmer award winners are:

Chris Hausman, Champaign County. Chris and his wife, Evonne, live near Pesotum, where they raise 1,450 acres of corn and soybeans. Chris is a director on the Longview Bank board and spent 10 years as an Illinois Farm Bureau board director. Before returning to the farm in the ’80s, he was an Illinois Farm Bureau Farm Management fieldman and has been a devoted FBFM client ever since. Chris was nominated by David A. Albin.

Malcolm and Susan Head, Macon County. Malcolm and Susan live near Blue Mound. They farm with sons Rollin and Alex, and grow corn, soybeans, seed corn and beans, wheat, hay, and alfalfa. The family also raises 450 commercial cows and 300 head of feeder cattle. Susan served on the Illinois Beef Association board for a decade and was elected checkoff board president; Malcolm is a director on the Soy Capital Bank board and a past school board president. The Heads were nominated by the Illinois Beef Association.

Related:How to nominate next year’s Master Farmers

Lou Lamoreux, Carroll County. Lou and his wife, Sue, live near Lanark, where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat and hay; 2,250 head of finisher cattle; and 250 cows with their son Nathan, nephew Dan and Lou’s brother John. Lou has served on both IL Corn and Illinois Beef Association boards, and the Carroll County Board. Lou was nominated by IL Corn and the Illinois Beef Association.

Gerald Thompson, McLean County. Gerald and his wife, Jayme, live near Colfax, where they raise corn and soybeans with their son Reid. Gerald is a member of the McLean County Board and spent 10 years as an Illinois Farm Bureau board director. Gerald also holds his private pilot’s license and officiates weddings in his spare time. Gerald was nominated by Ron and Melanie Warfield, 1992 Master Farmer.

Prairie Farmer has also named a new Honorary Master Farmer this year: Gary Schnitkey. Schnitkey is a renowned agricultural economist at the University of Illinois who teaches, conducts research and shares farm management information with farmers across the state via the Farmdoc website, which he pioneered and has authored more than 1,000 articles for. He is one of only 17 Honorary Master Farmers to have been named by the magazine.

Related:Who’s been a Prairie Farmer Master Farmer?

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award in 1925, nearly 100 years ago. 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.” More than 350 Illinois producers have been inducted as Master Farmers or Honorary Master Farmers over 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 awards were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Germán Bollero, University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences interim dean; Susan Adams, 2020 Master Farmer; Dwight Raab, Illinois FBFM; Mike Gunderson, chief credit officer, Farm Credit Illinois; 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 along the way.

Local FS companies are a financial sponsor of the award.

Like the Master Farmer award, the Growmark system was born during the 1920s. In 1927, nine local co-ops formed the Illinois Farm Supply Co., which merged with Illinois Grain Corp. in 1980 to form Growmark. The FS brand was adopted in 1955 and remains Growmark’s flagship brand. 

To nominate a farmer for the 2025 Master Farmer award, email [email protected] for a nomination form. Nominations are due Aug. 26, 2024.

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

Read more about:

Master Farmers

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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