One of the most prestigious honors in Indiana agriculture is the Master Farmer award presented by Purdue College of Agriculture and Prairie Farmer magazine. The new class of Master Farmers for 2016 was honored in ceremonies last week at the Farmhouse Conference Center at Fair Oaks Farms. During a panel discussion led by Jim Mintert of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture, the Master Farmers shared some of their thoughts on farming and agriculture.
This year’s honorees included:
Dan Gwin of Montgomery County
Don and Darcy Zolman of Kosciusko County
Tom and Karen McKinney of Tipton County
John and Nan Nidlinger of Adams County
Dr. Bret Marsh, Indiana State Vet, Honorary Master Farmer
Don Zolman said that keeping up with technology is the key to succeeding in farming today, “The advances are coming at a breakneck speed. Another issue we are facing in farming in finding the people to service all this great technology.”
Dan Gwin said being willing to make changes when the market dictates is another key survival skill. It is one that he had to employ this season as he switched from specialty corn to commercial corn production, “The premiums on my white corn have been declining and, with an ethanol plant in my backyard, it made economic sense to switch to commercial corn this year and market it locally.” Dan also made the switch from green equipment to red equipment this year, again because it made economic sense.
Tom McKinney told the crowd one of his passions is giving back to teach the next generation of agriculture, “This can be done by mentoring, by volunteering, or even by hiring young people and teaching them a work ethic and a passion for farming.”
John Nidlinger, who gave up a career in public service to return to the farm, said farming is more than just an occupation, it is a legacy, “I am the kind of guy who just likes to feel the soil under my feet. Putting a corn or soybean seed in the ground and watching it grow just really turns me on.”
The Master Farmer award started in 1928 and has been recognizing some of the most successful and innovative farmers in Indiana ever since. Each year many former Master Farmers return to recognize the new class. In recent years, the program has been held in conjunction with the Purdue Farm Management Tour. This has increased the size of the audience that attends the program. In the coming weeks, HAT will be profiling each of these new Master Farmers.