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Fred Whitford Selected as Honorary Master Farmer for 2013Fred Whitford Selected as Honorary Master Farmer for 2013

Here are my personal thoughts about what Fred Whitford means to Indiana agriculture.

Tom Bechman 1

June 27, 2013

2 Min Read

The first time I saw Fred Whitford address farmers was under a tent near a soybean field on a hot afternoon in Delaware County. His topic was handling chemicals safely. This will be a yawner, I thought. Maybe I should just go on home.

Wow, was I wrong! He was in farmer's faces, asking them personal questions about how they used herbicides, causing them to laugh so hard sometimes I thought they were going to fall off their chairs. When he finished, there wasn't a safety pamphlet left on the table.

Who was this guy? He was either a comedian, a clown or a lunatic escaped from a care facility.


Since then, Whitford has given 4,400 more programs and authored or co-authored 100 Extension publications.

Dave Petritz hired him in 1991 as coordinator of Purdue University Pesticide Programs. Petritz gave Whitford a mission: expand the program and take it to a new level, Whitford says.

"I believe in Extension and I love what I do," Whitford says. "I love working with farmers and others to solve problems. Many of our publications resulted from farmers asking questions."

Not everyone could take what could be the most boring position in Extension and become a requested, respected speaker. I remember another meeting where Fred's topic related to how to deal with your neighbors about pesticides.

As Fred spoke, what appeared to be a television cameraman showed up. Fred approached a farmer. The cameraman zoomed in.

"Ok, what are you going to tell the press about how you spray next to your urban neighbor's garden?" he asked.

The surprised farmer spit out an answer. Everyone sat up. Was this for real?

No, it wasn't – Whitford soon told the audience the guy wasn't a real cameraman. The audience laughed, mostly out of relief.

Was it effective? Well, that was more than 15 years ago, and I still remember the message.

In addition to all this, Whitford is also an accomplished author, writing about key people in the life of Purdue Extension. He is currently completing his third book, with a fourth book planned.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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