Cultivating Master Farmers: Let’s talk

Slideshow: The Cultivating Master Farmers Class of 2019 met recently to exchange ideas — and lock themselves in a room. Here’s the how and why it all went down.

The Cultivating Master Farmers Class of 2019 met last month for its second official session, gathering in Bloomington, Ill., for two days of information and mentorship.

“I think as young people in agriculture, regardless of your educational background, when we return to the farm, we get pigeonholed into a certain way of thinking or doing,” says Donna Klosterman, who farms near Sheffield, Ill., with her husband, Cameron.

CMF is a unique two-year mentoring program that connects a select group of young Illinois farmers with folks who have been through it all and are willing to share their sage advice: Prairie Farmer Master Farmers. The program was organized in 2005.

“It is always beneficial to break outside of your network and your geography to see how other people operate their businesses,” Klostermann says.

The idea behind this CMF session? Build relationships. The young farmers and Master Farmers gathered for roundtable discussions covering financial success; farm growth; balance of home, farm and volunteer work; and more. They willingly locked themselves in a room together — think Escape Bloomington and team building — and then grilled steaks together for dinner. Day two covered information on media training and ag advocacy, plus an update on the farm bill and tax reform.

This year’s class is made up of 23 young farmers and 18 Master Farmers. The CMF program covers topics like financial management and succession planning. Speakers lead the discussions, but the real value is the one-on-one conversations between the young farmers and the Master Farmers.

“Sometimes I get apprehensive because my husband and I, at 26, don’t have a clear path to how we will fit into the family operation or haven’t taken the leap of faith to buy a farm yet,” Klostermann says. “The beauty of it is that many of the Master Farmers didn’t know how they were going to make it at 26 either, and they turned out OK!”

Norma Jean Dowell and her husband, Reggie, Master Farmers from 2016, are participating in their first class of CMF. “The meetings were great, and we had fun with the young farmers,” Norma Jean says.

When 2012 Master Farmer Tim Seifert introduced himself and wife, Roxy, he joked that while the young farmers think they’re there to learn from the Master Farmers, he often winds up learning from the young farmers and getting just as much out of their time together.

The CMF program is sponsored by Compeer Financial, Farm Credit Illinois, Growmark, Illinois Farm Bureau, Monsanto and Prairie Farmer.

Class of 2019

Young Farmers
Tony and Amber Baird, Martinsville
Brad and Hilary Boelens, Cambridge
Drew and Adrienne DeSutter, New Windsor
Stephen Grace, Urbana
Jeff and Katie Grady, Port Byron
Mitchell Hinds, Mount Pulaski
Kate Huffman, Kewanee
John and Megan Klemm, Waynesville
Cameron and Donna Klostermann, Sheffield
Jason and Laura Pitcher, Montrose
Jamin and Whitney Ringger, Gridley
Jason and Erin Watson, Villa Grove
Josh and Sarah Wurmnest, Sibley

Master Farmers
Ron and Karen Bremmer, Pearl City
Bill and Sandy Christ, Metamora
Reggie and Norma Jean Dowell, Greenview
Tracy and Beth Jones, Kirkland
Ron and Julie Lawfer, Kent
Tim and Delreen Lenz, Strasburg
Russ and Marilyn Rosenboom, Clifton
Tim and Roxy Seifert, Auburn
Jim and Luann Shaeffer, Dixon

To see photos from the event, click through the slideshow below.

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