Many people want to know why we honor an honorary Master Farmer each year. They also want to know how this person is chosen, and what the qualifications for this award might be. Here's a brief explanation, including a tip on how you could help determine who the next Honorary Master Farmer will be.
First, the primary focus of Master Farmers since 1925, restarted in 1968 by Prairie Farmer magazine, is to honor farmers and their families who are not only good producers, but good citizens, and who contribute to their communities and take care of their land and other resources without expecting recognition in return. That remains the focus today, with the program today sponsored by Indiana Prairie Farmer and the Purdue University College of Agriculture.
The only way to be named a Master Farmer is for someone to nominate you, and submit an application with up to six letters of support. The deadline this year is a postmark of Feb. 15, just over a week from today. The four winners will be picked from an impressive field of candidates by a panel of three judges with experience in farming, agriculture and ag business.
Many years ago someone decided it would also be good to honor someone who isn't a farmer, but who has contributed mightily to the ag community in Indiana, across the entire state. Typically, this should be a person who has gone out of his or her way to help fellow Hoosiers in agriculture, going well beyond the limits of their job description.
For many years, the award was only given sporadically. Recognizing the tremendous amount of talented people who support farmers behind the scenes, Indiana Prairie Farmer decided to make this an annual award as long as viable candidates existed. Don't expect the well to run dry anytime soon.
The main requirement is that this person is not a full-time farmer, and has made contributions to the ag community in Indiana above and beyond what might have been expected of them. A person can be nominated in one of two ways. We don't typically solicit nominations for this award. However, we do accept them if offered. In at least one case in the past, a person was nominated by a group of farmers, and was chosen for the award.
The other way for a person to be nominated is for the Master Farmer judging committee to submit names. Then the committee selects an Honorary Master Farmer form the list they compile. If someone has been nominated by the general farm public, their name is considered as well.
If you would like to nominate someone as an Honorary Master Farmer, simply explain why in a letter- you don't need to complete the full form. Include letters of support if you like. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Indiana Prairie Farmer, P.O. Box 247, Franklin, IN. Those nominations are also due postmarked by Feb 15.