It may be snowing outside, but it's not too early to think about your favorite neighbor, friend, relative, customer, or maybe even yourself, as a candidate for Master Farmer. The long-running program, dating back to 1925, is now sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture.
More than 180 Indiana farmers have been named Master Farmer since the program restarted in 1968, after a long absence dating back to the Depression era. New things keep happening every year. In '07 the program marked a first when Scott Beck became the third consecutive generation in his family to be named an Indiana Master Farmer. His father, Sonny Beck, was named in 1979, and his grandfather, Francis Beck, now deceased, received the award in 1972.
The program remains stronger than ever, with changes recently announced for '08. The nomination process is still the same- nominators complete a one-page form and add additional information to explain why their nominee should be named a Master Farmer. The nomination usually includes up to six letters of support from neighbors, ag leaders, pastors, businessmen, credit sources and so forth.
Nominations will be due at the same time as before- postmarked by April 15 (2008). Not everything that happens on April 15 is painful! Judges will then use the same criteria as in the past to select four new winners, and consider if an Honorary Master Farmer should also be added in '08. There is no set scorecard, but judges concentrate on the candidate's farming operation and love of family, his husbandry of natural resources, and his leadership in the community, state and beyond.
What's different this year is that the program returns to a noon format, and will be held near West Lafayette, at the new Beck's Ag Center at the Agronomic Research Center (Agronomy Farm) located on U.S. 52. Since 1999, the program has been held during the Indiana State Fair as an evening event. And since 2000, it's been held at The Barn across from the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Changes at the fair, including plans to move The Barn inside the fairgrounds, prompted Master Farmer organizers to consider a change.
"We're excited to host the 2008 event here at Purdue," says Randy Woodson, Dean of the College of Agriculture. "We feel it's appropriate, since the first awards Master Farmer awards ceremony was held on campus back in 1925."
The Master Farmer awards program is set for Wednesday, July 30, 2008, with a reception at 11:30 am in the Beck Ag Center, followed by the luncheon at 12:30. This year, a panel discussion featuring a closer look into the management of each farmer's operation will follow the traditional program. Then Purdue staff will close the day by offering discussions on key, 'hot' crop topics at that time, plus a tour of the new Beck's facility and a limited tour of the ARC. The event will end by 5 p.m.
One way to earn an invitation is to nominate a successful nominee. Even if you've nominated someone before and they were not named, you're free to add to the nomination, if it was within the last two years, or nominate them again if it was at an earlier date.
Note that this is completely separate from the Master Farm Conservationist program. Those awards will be presented at the Indiana Association of soil and Water Conservation Districts annual meeting in January, and winners will be featured in the January issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. That contest is sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Indiana soil conservation partnership. Recipients are recognized for lifetime careers in soil and water conservation on their farm, and in the community.
They are nominated in the spring by their respective soil and water conservation districts.