Four Illinois 2007 Master Farmers were honored for outstanding community service and farming abilities at a ceremony on Wednesday, July 11 at the University of Illinois Alumni Center in Urbana, Ill.
Award recipients included William Gray, Tonica: Ronald Fehr, Baldwin; David Downs, Allerton; and Henry Kallal, Jerseyville.
The award is co-sponsored by Prairie Farmer and the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. This year marks the beginning of a new partnership between Prairie Farmer and the U of I College of ACES that promises to ensure the survival of this revered farmer award and raise it to a new level.
Judges for the award were Robert Easter, dean of the U of I College of ACES; Gordon Roskamp, agronomy professor at Western Illinois University; Gary Schnitkey, U of I farm management specialist; and Cherry Brieser Stout, editor of Prairie Farmer.
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and agricultural extension specialists from throughout the state.
Prairie Farmer first offered the award in 1925, when former Editor Clifford Gregory established it as a way to recognize Illinois farmers for something more than just farming skills. The award was discontinued in 1937, but revived in 1968.
Over 200 Illinois farmers have been honored with the title of Master Farmer. The award will continue to be presented annually to recognize the important contribution farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities.
"Agriculture needs to honor the people who make a positive impact on this industry," Stout says. "The farmers we've honored over the years represent a gallery of the greatest in Illinois agriculture. They're top farmers who go beyond the call of duty when it comes to community service, family commitment and leadership."
Easter notes that the College of ACES has a long history of employing research and educational programs to advance Illinois agriculture. "Our activities regularly bring us in contact with creative, entrepreneurial leaders across the state who not only posses a high level of technical ability but also contribute significant leadership to their local communities, as well as state and national organizations," he says. "It is a pleasure to be associated with a program that seeks to recognize both success in agriculture and contributions to communities and the broader interests of the agricultural sector."