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. It has since become the longest running farmer recognition program in the country.
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 77th year the awards have been presented by Wallaces Farmer.
Jim and Ann Werner
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.
Jay and Jeanne Hansen
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.
2013 award recipients
Receiving the award this year are Jay and Jeanne Hansen, Hudson, who run a dairy farm and retail dairy outlets; Nichols Farms, Bridgewater, owners of one of the largest beef cattle seeds stock operations in the country; James and Janice Stillman, Emmetsburg – Jim's father and uncles were Master Farmers; Jim an Ann Werner, Diagonal, cattle producers. You can read more about these operations in the March issue of Wallaces Farmer, www.wallacesfarmer.com/magazine online.
This group brings the total to 437 Iowa farm families who have been honored since the program began in 1926.
James and Janice Stillman