July 30 seems like a long ways off, but in the larger scheme of things, with winter behind us and spring blooming out, it's just around the corner. That's the day the '09 class of Master Farmers will be formally recognized in ceremonies at the Beck Ag center near West Lafayette, Ind. The award is co-sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University's College of Agriculture.
What's important is that you still have the opportunity to make a difference in what happens that day. Some Indiana farmer long overdue to receive this type of recognition may be out there that no one has yet nominated, and who has not yet received the award. Since magazine staff can't directly make nominations, we're dependant upon every reader and viewer to consider if there is someone out there they should nominate as a master farmer candidate.
Master Farmer recipients don't have to have livestock, and they don't have to farm 15,000 acres. Maybe they farm 500 and have a specialty crop with a niche market. Or maybe they farm 3,500 acres and raise identity-preserved crops. The nearly 200 recipients of the past have had a wide variety of operations. What marks a Master Farmer is not what operation he or she controls, but instead, how they operate the farm, while showing leadership in the community and good stewardship of the land and their family at the same time.
The window of opportunity is narrowing, however. Applications must be postmarked by April 15 to be eligible. A nomination form is available on line, or you can call 317-738-5441 to obtain one. If you write for an application, we will also include simple tips on helping your candidate prepare for questions during that part of the program.
Send finished applications to: Indiana Prairie Farmer, P.O. Box 347, Franklin IN 46131.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about the program.
1) If I nominate someone and he doesn't win, is he eligible next year?
ANSWER: Yes, we keep nominations active for two Years. You also have the option of filling out the form again, or of updating the original form that you prepared for the first submission.
2) Do you have to be active in Extension to win the award?
ANSWER: No. The Dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue University is usually one of the judges, but he looks for much more than whether a candidate is active in Extension work, such as being a member of his county Extension board, or not. The candidate does need to exhibit local leadership in some fashion, however.
3) Must you submit six letters of recommendation?
ANSWER: No, it's optional. However, almost everyone submits them. Valuable information from the judges to evaluate typically come from letters written by neighbors, business associates, clergy and even relatives. If you send letters, don't send more than six.
4) Is this the same as the Master Soil Conservationist Program?
ANSWER: No, they are entirely different. Indiana Prairie Farmer co-sponsors that program as well, but other sponsors include various soil conservation partners within the state. Those winners are announced in January, and featured in the January issue. That award is based upon a lifetime of service to soil conservation on and of the farm. It is entirely separate from the Master Farmer award program.
5) Can magazine editors nominate someone?
ANSWER: No. that's why it's so important for you to step forward and nominate a deserving person form your local community. The recognition not only goes to the winner, but often to the entire community.
6) Does the winner have to be present at the July 30 event to win?
ANSWER: Yes! That is one area that's not open to compromise. We want out winners to be present so that everyone can see them, hear about their program and in return bestow upon them the recognition that they deserve.