When Donya Lester adjourned the 2007 Indiana Prairie Farmer/ Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer awards banquet last week, it marked the end of an era for the program. The awards program itself will continue full force. But the venue for the awards ceremony where actual presentations are made will be new next year.
For the first time in recent memory, the awards will be held outside of Indianapolis, and will be held near West Lafayette, instead. Ironically, some of the first programs honoring farmers in the early era of Master Farmers, in the late '30s and early '30s, were held at Purdue University.
Lester, emcee for the evening last week and executive director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association, told the crowd that next year's program will be held at the new Beck Agricultural Center, now under construction at the Purdue Agronomy Research Center, located on US 52 about two miles west of West Lafayette.
The $5 million dollar facility is scheduled to be completed within the next few months. Dean Randy Woodson, representing the Purdue College of Agriculture, now co-sponsor of the Master Farmer program, says the new facility will contain a spacious banquet area capable of comfortably seating 300 people. The loft of The Barn across from the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis was filled to capacity last week, with roughly 150 people attending.
Ceremonies have been held at the Barn since 2000. The '99 ceremonies were held on the actual Indiana State Fairgrounds themselves, in a tent also used by antique tractors behind Pioneer Village. Before that time, ceremonies were usually held in a hotel meeting room on the outskirts of Indianapolis.
Biggest reason fro not returning to The Barn next year is that sources say it will be moved inside the Indiana State Fairgrounds. One source says permanent offices will be housed in the first floor of the building. Other sources say The Barn will be located near Pioneer Village, and will become part of a giant ag classroom for school children to visit year around, not just during the fair.
The Barn was moved from north of Indianapolis to its current site several years ago. Exact plans for how the structure will be moved this time have not been announced. It was the home fro the Center for Agricultural Science and Heritage, brainchild of Mauri Williamson, West Lafayette and Economy, former director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association. Lester took the torch for that organization from him 17 years ago.
It's still not certain if the organizational structure behind the Center will continue. Watch for announcements in the next few months.
Those named as Master Farmers in the Class of '07 included Scott Beck, Atlanta; Bruce Buchanan, Fowler; Jim Douglas, Flat Rock, and David Miers, Greensburg. David Petritz, recently retired director of the Extension Service in Indiana, was named an honorary Master Farmer.
Exact dates for next years event, and deadlines for entries, have not yet been determined. Look for an announcement this fall, which will clarify details for the '08 Master Farmer program.