Four Illinois farmers have been selected as 2017 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer magazine. The group will be honored for their exceptional agricultural production skills and community service at a ceremony in Springfield on March 15.
The award recipients are: Allen Entwistle, Riverton; Tracy Jones, Kirkland; Kent Kleinschmidt, Emden; and Joel Kooistra, Woodstock.
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and farm organizations from throughout the state.
Judges for the awards were: Gary Ash, 1st Farm Credit Services; Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Bill Christ, Master Farmer Class of 2015; Ed McMillan, University of Illinois board of trustees chairman; Steve Myers, Busey Ag Services; and Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer editor.
Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award in 1925, when editor Clifford Gregory established it as a way to recognize Illinois farmers for something more than just farming skills. Gregory felt the award would help give farm people a greater sense of “pride and permanence.”
Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contributions farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities.
Described as a “hall of achievement,” the Master Farmer award is like no other, because it honors farmers who seem to do it all, combining top agricultural production skills with community service, grassroots achievement and dedication to their families.
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, the vast majority merely serve their communities, building churches, chairing little-known but important committees, organizing harvest for a stricken neighbor — continuing the service-minded commitment that earned them the Master Farmer distinction in the first place.
Between 1925 and 1937, the Prairie Farmer named 97 Master Farmers. The program was discontinued in the 1930s due to the Depression, but Prairie Farmer revived it in 1968. Since then, more than 300 Illinois people have been named a Master Farmer or Honorary Master Farmer.
Prairie Farmer is published 12 times a year for Illinois farm families. Established in 1841, it is the oldest continuously published farm periodical in the United States. Growmark Inc. is a financial sponsor of the Master Farmer award. Like the 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.
Close-up with the winners
• Allen Entwistle, Sangamon County. Allen and his wife, Sharon, live near Riverton, where Allen operates J&W Farms with his son, Jayson. They raise 4,300 acres of corn and soybeans and 80 head of beef cattle. Allen was nominated by Philip Nelson, Master Farmer Class of 2001.
• Tracy Jones, DeKalb County. Tracy and his wife, Beth, live near Kirkland, where they raise corn, soybeans and wheat on 2,500 acres and finish 1,500 head of beef cattle annually. Tracy was nominated by the DeKalb County Master Farmer Nominating Committee.
• Kent Kleinschmidt, Logan County. Kent and his wife, Sara, live near Emden, where they raise 1,300 acres of corn and soybeans and run a 20-head beef cattle herd. Kent was nominated by IL Corn.
• Joel Kooistra, McHenry County. Joel and his wife, Linnea, farm near Woodstock, where they milk 250 Holstein dairy cows and raise 250 calves and heifers annually. They also farm 700 acres of corn, soybeans and forage rye. Joel was nominated by Linnea, Master Farmer Class of 2011.
Watch PrairieFarmer.com for full profiles of each winner!