Mike Starkey is an avid no-tiller and proponent of cover crops and soil health. The Brownsburg farmer is also one of the few farmers you may ever meet who actually likes for government officials to visit his farm. In fact, he gets excited when he finds out that officials with the Environmental Protection Agency will stop by for a visit. He gets "happy" excited, not "nervous" excited.
"I want to show them what we are doing and that it can make a difference," he says. "We need to tell people that we can control what leaves our farm on our own. We don't need regulators to tell us how to do it."
In June 2014 at the Indiana Farm Management Tour evening program in Chrisney in Spencer County, Starkey was also named an Indiana Prairie Farmer/ Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer. He joins a list of more than 200 farmers recognized as Master Farmers since the modern version of the program began in 1968.
Was he selected because he invites the EPA to his farm? Was he selected because he hosted the Indiana State Department of Agriculture on his farm earlier this year to see cover corps and grass waterways? Was he selected because he hosted a farm management tour stop just a few years ago?
No, all those things were impressive and contributed to the case that he does a good job not only of farming and protecting resources, but of telling agriculture's story. But he was selected because he was first nominated by someone! He was nominated by Jerod Chew of the Hendricks County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The 2014 class was unique in that Starkey and his neighbor, Jack Maloney, who only lives a few miles from him, were both selected as Master Farmers. Starkey wrote a letter of support for Maloney, and Maloney wrote a letter of support for Starkey. Neither knew that they were being nominated themselves.
Now is the time to nominate the 'Mike Starkey' or Jack Maloney' or dozens more like them in your neighborhood. Many haven't been recognized yet.
The process begins with you. Find a nomination form and instructions on this Website. Go to the home page, then scroll down the left side to a list of blue links. Find 'Master Farmer' and click on it. You will find a nomination form, plus a list of winners since 1968.
Or you can email email@example.com for a nomination form. Entries must be postmarked and mailed by Feb 16, 2015.
Call me at 317-431-8766 if you have questions. We'll be looking for those nominations!