We're often asked what it takes to be a Master Farmer. Our answer is always the same. It takes commitment to what you're doing, efficiency in production, commitment to family, and a display of leadership in your community and or state ag service organizations.
One guest lamented after this year's program that some of the operations didn't have much crop acreage. That's true- neither Loran Wilson nor Jim Day raise more than a few hundred acres of crops. But they're probably two of the stronger, more organized cattle producers in the state of Indiana. The variety in this unique class simply underscored how different Master Farmers can be and still have excellent programs.
Thousands of acres of crops don't make a master farmer. You can farm thousands of acres and barely keep your head above water if you're sloppy of hired labor that doesn't take good care of equipment. Or you can farm thousands of acres and do an excellent job, like one of this year's awardees, Bill Schroeder, Freelandville. He and his sons Brian and Kent farm more than 3,000 acres of crops.
What the Master Farmer awards judging committee looks for are efficient operators that are good in their field, with a flair for community leadership and a love of their family. They also need to be good stewards of their soils and natural resources.
There is no set scorecard that the judges use. One judge is Jay Akridge, Purdue University College of Agriculture's dean. Another is Carl Eiche, who has worked with the program in on capacity ever since it was restarted in 1968. The third is Bill Pickart, a landowner, former farmer with hogs, and who is now employed by Select Seed at Camden. After you've judged forms for decades or more, you have a feel for what you're looking for- someone who balances farming with family and community service, Pickart says.Your next opportunity to nominate a Master Farmer will be next winter. Applications are due Feb. 15, 2012. We can supply you with the form. Indiana Prairie Farmer or Farm Progress staff can't nominate a person. That's why it's important to pick out someone who feel is observing, ask for letters of support from other people who respect