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Meet the 2022 Master Farmers

Holly Spangler 2022 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers Curt Zehr, Darryl Brinkmann, Dough Schroeder, Jim Raben
CHAMPIONS: The 2022 Prairie Farmer Master Farmers are (from left) Curt Zehr, Washington, Ill.; Darryl Brinkmann, Carlyle, Ill.; Doug Schroeder, Mahomet, Ill.; and Jim Raben, Ridgway, Ill.
Prairie Farmer names a new class of Master Farmers: Darryl Brinkmann, Jim Raben, Doug Schroeder and Curt Zehr.

Four Illinois producers will be honored as 2022 Master Farmers at Prairie Farmer magazine’s annual event, to be held March 17 in Springfield, Ill. The award recognizes exceptional agricultural production skills, commitment to family and service to community.

The 2022 Master Farmer award winners are:

Darryl Brinkmann, Clinton County. Darryl and his wife, Jean, live near Carlyle, where they raise 930 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay while helping with their daughter’s 30-head Angus cattle operation. Darryl is a past National Biodiesel Board chair and Illinois Farm Bureau director, among other positions. He was nominated by 2001 Master Farmer Philip Nelson.

Jim Raben, Gallatin County. Jim and his wife, Marilyn, live near Ridgway, where they raise 7,500 acres of corn and soybeans with their sons. They also raise 800 acres of sweet potatoes in Arkansas. Jim is current chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, was a past ag teacher, and has volunteered throughout his community. He was nominated by IL Corn.

Doug Schroeder, Champaign County. Doug and his wife, Stacy, live near Mahomet, where they raise 5,400 acres of corn and soybeans with their son and son-in-law. He’s served as chair of the Illinois Soybean Association and has volunteered throughout his community, often in organizations that benefit children. Doug was nominated by the Illinois Soybean Association.

Curt Zehr, Tazewell County. Curt and his wife, Sue, farm near Washington, where they raise 1,700 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, and run a 140-head farrow-to-finish purebred Duroc operation, selling branded meat and genetics. Curt has served extensively throughout his community and is a past president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. He was nominated by Illinois Pork.

Illinois ag’s lifetime achievement award

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award 96 years ago, in 1925. Editors have continued the tradition annually since 1968, following a pause initially caused by the Depression. When Editor Clifford Gregory established the Master Farmer program, he felt the award would help give farm people a greater sense of “pride and permanence.” Nearly 350 Illinois producers have been inducted as Master Farmers or Honorary Master Farmers over the program’s history.

The Master Farmer award has been described as Illinois agriculture’s lifetime achievement award. Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contributions farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities. 

Candidates are nominated by farmers, neighbors, agribusiness leaders and farm organizations throughout the state. Judges for the awards were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Ed McMillan, former University of Illinois board of trustees; Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer; Dwight Raab, First Midwest Bank agribusiness vice president; Steve Carson, Farm Credit Illinois executive vice president; and Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer editor.

Every year, judges pour through pages and pages of applications that document a lifetime of work, sifting until they find the very best Illinois farmers — the people who raise good crops and even better families, and who build their communities all along the way.

Some Master Farmers serve in state and national farm leadership positions. Others chair prestigious boards or serve with honor at the highest levels of government. Still others build their farms or businesses to regional or national prominence.

However, all serve their communities — building churches, chairing little-known but important committees, organizing harvest for a stricken neighbor — and continue the service-minded commitment that earned them the Master Farmer distinction in the first place.

Growmark is a financial sponsor of the award. Like the Master Farmer award, the Growmark system was born during the 1920s, when farmer cooperatives first organized the Illinois Farm Supply Co. Today, the brand is known as FS.

To nominate a farmer for the 2023 Master Farmer award, email for a nomination form or download one here. Nominations are due Aug. 26.

Follow along at all week for in-depth profiles on each winner!

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