Frank and John named Honorary Master Farmers

Frank and John named Honorary Master Farmers

Frank Holdmeyer and John Otte are recognized for nearly 80 years of service to agriculture.

Two long-time Wallaces Farmer staffers who also wrote for other Farm Progress Company publications received special awards at the recent 2015 fall meeting of the Iowa Master Farmer Association. Frank Holdmeyer and John Otte were named Honorary Master Farmers. They both retired from the company, now called Penton Agriculture, at the end of April.

THANK YOU: Frank Holdmeyer (left) and John Otte were recently named Honorary Iowa Master Farmers, in recognition of their many years of service to agriculture. This is the first ever "honorary" award the historic organization has given.

The Iowa Master Farmer program was started by Henry A. Wallace and Wallaces Farmer in 1926 to recognize leadership and commitment to the betterment of agriculture. Since then 461 Iowa farmers and their families have been honored. The Iowa Master Farmers have had a profound effect on Iowa and national agriculture through the years. Wallace made it clear from the beginning that the award was about not only farming but also involvement in family and community affairs. It made sense to use the magazine's motto—"Good Farming, Clear Thinking, Right Living"—as the basis for judging Master Farmer nominations each year.

Jim Andrew, president of the Iowa Master Farmer Association, presented the awards to John and Frank, the first-ever "honorary" awards the organization has bestowed. Andrew described Holdmeyer's and Otte's long-time commitment to their jobs and to agriculture. "They gathered, analyzed, wrote and provided helpful information for farmers for so many years," said Andrew. "Frank worked for the company for nearly 43 years and John for 36 years. They did an outstanding job of providing service to agriculture as editors, and in a number of other ways, too."

Master Farmer president Jim Andrew (left) presented the award to John Otte, with John's wife Maria Otte in the center holding the flowers, at the September 13 meeting of the Iowa Master Farmers in Ames.

They worked for Farm Progress for a total of nearly 80 years
Adding up their years of service, the two colleagues worked for Farm Progress Company for a total of nearly 80 years. That kind of long-term loyalty just doesn't happen anymore in today's business world.

Growing up on a registered Angus farm in Missouri, Frank graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in ag journalism in 1972 and started as a field editor at Wallaces Farmer in Des Moines. He managed the Farm Progress Show in 1974 and 1975, before returning to the editorial staff at Wallaces Farmer as associate editor. In 1987 he was named machinery editor of the four Farm Progress publications: Wallaces Farmer, Prairie Farmer, Indiana Prairie Farmer and Wisconsin Agriculturist. Frank was named managing editor of Wallaces Farmer in 1983, editor in 1996 and later was executive editor of the company's 11 Midwest farm publications, as the company expanded over the years.

Pictured from left is Master Farmer president Jim Andrew, presenting the award to Frank Holdmeyer and wife Trish Holdmeyer, at the September 13 Master Farmer fall meeting in Ames.

Service to community is another hallmark of a Master Farmer
Just like the many farmers and families John and Frank met and got to know through working with the Iowa Master Farmer program, service to community is a part of their life, too.

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Frank and wife Trish live in Jasper County east of Des Moines where they raised sheep until about 10 years ago. They also raised two sons who are now married with families. The Holdmeyers have six grandchildren. Frank has served as a Poweshiek Township Trustee for many years including township clerk. Frank has served on the Iowa 4-H Foundation Board as well as the Iowa FFA Foundation where he was secretary and treasurer. He also served on the Iowa Farm Safety Council. Trish has worked at Bridgestone/Firestone for nearly 30 years.

Helped farmers understand and use economic information
John Otte grew up on a dairy-hog farm in northern Illinois. He earned bachelors' and masters' degrees in ag economics from the University of Illinois and also took ag journalism courses. He then came to Iowa State University where he pursued further graduate studies in economics and taught undergraduate courses in farm management. After working a few years in Florida as an area Extension farm management specialist, John returned to Iowa in 1979 to fill the new position of economics editor for Farm Progress.

"For 36 years John wrote articles explaining economic information in a way we could all understand," said Andrew. "Readers of his articles benefitted from John's work. He was also generous with his time when farmers called him and had questions or wanted more information or an in-depth explanation."

In retirement, John and wife Maria will reside in the Des Moines area for part of the year and also in Brazil to be with Maria's relatives there.

Volunteered time, talent to assist Iowa Master Farmers
Frank and John volunteered and gave a lot of help to the Iowa Master Farmer Association and its sister foundation, which provides scholarships for ISU students. John served as chief financial officer of the Iowa Master Farmer Foundation. Frank was executive secretary and assisted the officers of the association in helping manage that part of the organization for many years.

 John and Frank also gave time and support to the Iowa Master Farm Homemakers, another program Wallaces Farmer has helped sponsor for decades. "The leadership assistance John and Frank have provided for so many years is greatly appreciated by all of us," said Andrew. "We wish both of them good luck in their retirement."

While working, Frank and John talked about going fishing. Now that they are retired, they're still talking about going fishing. They're traveling a lot, and getting work done around the house, but still not doing much fishing.

I've heard from a number of people who upon hearing of Frank and John's recent retirement, tell me to "give Frank and John our best wishes." If any of you readers feel inclined to deliver that message yourself, you can send an email to [email protected] and to [email protected]. They'd enjoy hearing from you.

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