Early last fall, the Pennsylvania-based Master Farmers Association board of directors approved a $50,000 Trustee Matching Scholarship Fund at Penn State University. Since then, another $50,000 was added to it. The association has pledged to "grow" it into $150,000 within five years.
The fund is dedicated to providing scholarships for College of Ag Sciences undergraduate students with financial need. The scholarship will be named for the Pennsylvania Master Farmers Association.
Established in 1927 by Pennsylvania Farmer magazine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Master Farmer program is one of America's oldest and longest-running agricultural honors programs. Master Farmers are those with outstanding farming ability, marketing skills, family solidarity and cooperation, and involvement in the betterment of the local community, state and nation.
Today, the award is co-sponsored by American Agriculturist magazine (successor to Pennsylvania Farmer) and by the Cooperative Extension of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia.
The Master Farmers Association first established annual scholarships in the College of Agricultural Sciences in 1967 in honor of Norman Reber and in memory of Mason Gilpin, both former editors of Pennsylvania Farmer. The scholarships were later expanded to provide support to students in honor of two Master Farmers and their spouses, Ernest and Joyce Miller and Harry and Kathleen Ulrich.
The new scholarship fund "will result in many more opportunities for students to receive financial support," says Jim Hoover, secretary/treasurer of the association.
The Trustee Matching Scholarship program is designed to keep a Penn State education accessible to all qualified students, regardless of financial means, adds Mark Sharer, Penn State's director of development. Launched in 2002, the program has a unique matching component -- the University matches 5% of each gift annually. Then the funds are combined with income from the endowment to increase the financial benefit.
The association is also pursuing development of similar programs at University of Maryland, University of Delaware and other land grant colleges involved in this magazine's Master Farmer Awards program. Master Farmers in each of the five involved Mid-Atlantic states control scholarship monies raised in their respective states.