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How to nominate a Master Farmer for 2022

Holly Spangler 2021 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers
WINNERS: 2021 Master Farmers were nominated by past Master Farmers, commodity groups and family. They are Kenneth Hartman Jr., Waterloo, Ill. (left); Paul Taylor, Esmond, Ill.; and Kent Hodel, Metamora, Ill.
Do you know someone who should be named a Master Farmer next year? Here’s how you can nominate them.

Ever thought of nominating someone you know for Prairie Farmer’s Master Farmer award? Now’s the time to get cracking with that process!

Maybe it’s your parents, a sibling, your neighbors, a friend or a colleague. Maybe it’s someone you’ve served with on a board, or someone you’ve long looked up to.

Related: Meet the 2021 Master Farmers

If that thought has ever crossed your mind, we’re now accepting applications for the 2022 award — and they’re closing soon, on Sept. 24.

The application includes a nomination form and requires at least eight letters of support — but no financial information.

Related: Meet the Master Farmers — at FPS21

There’s a bit of an urban legend (which, in this case, probably makes it a rural legend) that Master Farmer nominees have to share their balance sheet. But make no mistake, that kind of financial information is not required. The judging panel focuses on growth of the operation over time, agricultural productivity and community involvement.

Who’s eligible? Here’s a look:

  • Candidates must farm in Illinois, deriving the majority of their income from agricultural production.
  • Successful nominees will have proven ag production records, be recognized as leaders in their community, and will have given back to the community in substantive ways.
  • Candidates may be individuals, couples or siblings; judging is equally weighted.
  • Each nominee should be actively engaged in production agriculture.

The selection committee will be comprised of Illinois agricultural leaders, including experts in agronomy and agricultural finance, past Master Farmers, agricultural research or university authorities, and Prairie Farmer editorial staff.

The hope is to be back to the normal pre-pandemic recognition process in 2022, which means winners will be recognized at the Master Farmer Awards Luncheon, hopefully held in early March. Members of the new class will be announced on on March 1 and in the March issue of Prairie Farmer.

As always, Prairie Farmer is grateful to Growmark for its sponsorship of the Master Farmer awards program.

Here’s a look at what makes for a successful application:

Be thorough. In the sections asking about farm history and growth, more information is better than less. Share how the individual(s) got started and show how their operation has progressed. No detailed financial information is required.

Get letters. Ask for at least eight recommendation letters to support your nomination. These letters give insight to character and reputation in the community.

Think small. Don’t forget all the things the nominee does in the local community and state and national organizations. These lists are often very detailed! For spouses or sibling nominations, list both individuals’ activities, noting who did what.

Start early. It’s not a quick process to nominate a Master Farmer. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime award, and the application reflects an entire career.

Think well-rounded. Community involvement is weighted highly as judges select winners, but so too is a farmer’s ag production skills and dedication to family.

Check the mirror. You can nominate yourself. Many farmers do every year.

This year, Prairie Farmer is recognizing both the 2021 and 2020 Master Farmers at a first-ever Farm Progress Show program in Decatur, Ill. If you’re on-site on Sept. 2, stop by the Hospitality Building at 1:30 p.m. to hear their stories, congratulate the winners and enjoy some homemade ice cream.

The 2022 application is available online. Download it, fill it out and send it in, complete with letters of support, by Sept. 24. Or, email to have an application sent to you or to get more information.

Judging thanks

Prairie Farmer is grateful to the 2021 panel of judges for sorting through and selecting this year’s Master Farmers.

  • Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics
  • Ed McMillan, former board of trustees, University of Illinois
  • Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer
  • Paul Stoddard, ag economist and farm manager, University of Illinois
  • Steve Carson, executive vice president, Farm Credit Illinois
  • Holly Spangler, editor, Prairie Farmer
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