The concept of a Master Farmer award was initiated in 1925 by Clifford Gregory, editor of Prairie Farmer in Illinois, in an effort to reward and recognize farm citizenship. Henry Wallace, editor of Wallaces Farmer recognized the value of such a program and in 1926 launched the Iowa Master Farmer Award.
Deserving Iowa farm families have been recognized every year since, with the exception of 1932-37 – during the Great Depression, during World War II from 1942-45 and in 1962. This marks the 75th year the awards have been presented by Wallaces Farmer.
For nearly 30 years prior to 1926 Wallaces Farmer carried the motto "Good Farming, Clear Thinking, Right Living" on the masthead. It became the inspiration for the score card used to judge Master Farmer nominations. Those three precepts are still considered in the selection process today.
Good farming refers to a successful and profitable farm business along with proper stewardship. Operating the farm as a business is only part of the job, however.
Clear thinking is an essential ingredient in farm management. It's also crucial in family and community life. A short list of factors considered include interest in schools, participation in farm and other organizations, political interests and activity, hobbies and forward thinking.
Right living means the farmer takes care of his home and property, plans for an education for his children, is a good husband and father, participates in church, is neighborly, etc.
Judges consider how the nominee got started and how they've grown the operation while demonstrating sound financial management. Those who are good stewards of the land and give proper care to livestock rank high.
Further, this is a family award. Farming is a true partnership between husband and wife. All members of the family contribute to the success of the operation.
2011 award recipients
Receiving the award this year are Jim and Mary Bradford, who grow forages and raise purebred Angus cattle near Guthrie Center; Kevin and Terri Carstensen who raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa at Odebolt and own and operate a cattle feedlot; Vincent and Jean Hassebrock are ridge till pioneers and cattle feeders from Ames; Jim and Jolene Hultgren raise corn and soybeans at Alta and have a farrow-to-finish swine operation. You can read more about these operations in the March issue of Wallaces Farmer.
This group brings the total to 429 Iowa farm families who have been honored since the program began in 1926.
Exceptional Service Award
The Iowa Master Farmer Exceptional Service award is not an annual honor. It is given from time to time to individuals who are not a farmer but who have served a lifetime helping farmers. Extension specialists are among those who have received the Exceptional Service award.
This year's recipient is Brian Peterson, Corning. Peterson retired in 2009 as the State Grassland Conservationist after a 40-year career helping Iowa farmers better utilize natural resources and improve their bottom line as well. He has also been active nationally through the American Forage and Grassland Council and the National Grazing Lands Conservation programming of NRCS.
Anyone can nominate a Master Farmer: father, spouse, neighbor, children, Extension, etc. Letters of support from community leaders, pastors, co-op managers, bankers, etc., help strengthen the nomination. Deadline for the 2012 awards is Oct. 1, 2011.
For a nomination form, write to Wallaces Farmer, 6200 Aurora Ave., Suite 609E, Urbandale, IA 50322. Or call the office at 515-278-7780.
Nomination forms in both pdf and Word format are available on this Web site under "More Wallaces Farmer".