The Iowa Master Farmer Exceptional Service Award isn’t given out every year. It is presented from time to time to individuals who aren’t farmers but have served a lifetime helping farmers. The award, sponsored by Wallaces Farmer, recognizes exceptional service to Iowa agriculture.
This year the award goes to two Iowa State University Extension specialists who work directly with farmers: Clarke McGrath and Steve Johnson.
McGrath is the On-Farm Research and Extension coordinator for the Iowa Soybean Research Center at ISU. Johnson is the ISU Extension farm management specialist in central Iowa. Both were nominated by farmers who have benefited from and appreciate the educational efforts and information programming offered by these two “teachers” over the years.
Before his current job, Clarke spent 13 years as an ISU Extension field agronomist in western Iowa. With a down-to-earth practical approach, his meetings were well-attended, and his phone always rang during crop season as farmers sought his help. He writes the Soybean Source column each month for Wallaces Farmer.
Before joining ISU, Clarke spent nearly a decade as a retail agronomist and manager in the Growmark system, earning several awards. He is a certified cop adviser for Iowa and nationally.
Clarke is a retired honorary firefighter who served with the Harlan Fire Department, where he was a Heartland Heroes nominee and was awarded the American Red Cross Certificate for Extraordinary Personal Action — the organization’s top award for saving a life.
Raised on farms in Union County, Iowa, and Dixon County, Neb., Clarke and wife Meg have two grown daughters.
Johnson makes sense of it all
Johnson has served as the ISU Extension and Outreach farm and ag business management specialist in central Iowa for the past 17 years. He speaks at over 100 meetings and workshops across the Corn Belt each year. Topics range from government farm programs and crop insurance to crop marketing and farmland leasing. Johnson writes articles for Wallaces Farmer and is known for his ability to make complex farm financial information easy to understand.
Johnson served in a similar Extension role at Colorado State University, and then worked in crop research and training in private industry. During the 1980s, he taught high school vo-ag at Mount Ayr and was an ag lending specialist with Brenton Banks in Knoxville. He was raised on a family farm near Pleasantville. He has a doctorate in education and natural resource management from Colorado State and a bachelor’s and master’s from ISU.
He and wife Rachel have two grown sons and three grandsons.