David and Danita Rodibaugh were one of the couples named Master Farmers in 2014. They happen to practice no-till and are experimenting with cover crops on part of their farm, but that wasn't the main reason that earned them the Master Farmer recognition, according to the judges. Their outstanding leadership within the ag industry, particularly the pork industry, and their reputation and records as efficient hog producers and good crop farmers swayed the judges, not the type of tillage they do.
That description is in response to this exchange recently.
Caller: I would like to nominate someone for the Master Farmer award.
Myself: Good, the nomination form is available on this Website, and nominations are due Feb. 16. They must be submitted in written form.
Caller: The only problem is I hinted at it and asked the person what he knew about the Master Farmer award, and he didn't seem too enthused.
Myself: Was there a reason? We've recognized over 200 farmers since 1968, and most say they're honored to have received the award.
Caller: He says it's a no-till thing, just for no-tillers. Several of the winners last year were no-tillers. Is he right?
Myself: No, not at all. If the nominee happens to run a good operation and be a great leader, and also happens to no-till, they may be tapped for the award. But being a no-tiller is not a requirement.
Caller: What does it take to win the award?
Myself: The judges generally look at three areas. One is how the person or persons have improved their agricultural skills over their farming career, and if they use progressive techniques, such as precision agriculture, or at least if they have tried these methods. A second big area is if they have taken time to serve their community. Some serve at the state and national level. Obviously that likely indicates a high degree of leadership, but being on a state of national ag group is not a requirement for the award either.
The third part does talk about stewardship of natural resources – such as the land they have been entrusted to care for. However, there are ways to do that without no-tilling. If they have installed grass waterways and drained wet areas, those are forms of caring for the land.
The answer is no, they don't have to be no-tillers. Have several of the past winners happened to no-till? Yes, but that's certainly not a requirement.
Be sure to take time to nominate someone you respect while there is still time.