Four Illinois farmers have been selected as 2014 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer magazine. The four will be honored for their exceptional community service and farming abilities at a ceremony in East Peoria, Ill., on Wednesday, March 19. Among this year’s recipients is former Illinois Corn Growers Association board member, Craig Buhrow. IL Corn extends our congratulations to Craig on this achievement.
Award recipients are Ron Bremmer, Pearl City (Stephenson County); Craig Buhrow, Ashton (Lee County); Greg Leigh, Avon (Fulton County); and Mike Kenyon, South Elgin (Kane County).
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and agricultural extension specialists from throughout the state.
Judges for the awards were Tim Seifert, 2012 Master Farmer, Auburn; Bob Boesdorfer, First Midwest Bank, Danville; Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Rob Rhykerd, Illinois State University; Josh Flint, Prairie Farmer editor.
Prairie Farmer first offered the 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.”
Flint said Prairie Farmer continues to present the awards annually because of the important contributions farmers make to Illinois agriculture and their local communities.
“Prairie Farmer sponsors the Master Farmer awards program to recognize farmers who excel not only in farming but also in community service, family commitment and leadership,” he said. “The farmers we’ve honored over the years represent a gallery of the greatest in Illinois agriculture.”
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 – and continue the service-minded commitment that earned them the Master Farmer distinction in the first place.
Between 1925 and 1937 the magazine named 97 Master Farmers, Flint said. The program was discontinued in the ‘30s due to the Depression, but Prairie Farmer revived it in 1968. All together, more than 300 Illinois people have been named Master Farmer or Honorary Master Farmer, including the four named this year.
CRAIG BUHROW: A NUMBERS MAN
When Ashton, Ill., farmer Craig Buhrow talks about the early years of his farming operation, he talks numbers: cash flows, balance sheets, accrual-based accounting and more.
"If you haven't got profit, you just can't move. Profit is the thing in this business," Craig says.
A University of Illinois graduate, Craig married his wife, Marjorie, in 1972 and settled down near his family, raising grain, hogs and cattle. Later, he joined Margie's family operation in Lee County, where Craig today raises corn and soybeans with their son, Allyn. A retired teacher, Marjorie is active in the operation, helping with field work and bookwork as needed.
Craig got his start in farm financial management as an FBFM cooperator, and has used that system throughout his career. The Buhrows have long been a believer in futures and option contracts, and he and Allyn have invested in on-farm storage and drying, with enough capacity today to store 75% of their average production. With river terminals, ethanol plants, processors, rail and container facilities all within 60 miles of the farm, their on-farm storage lets them capture rapid basis improvement and improves their marketing options.
The Buhrows have worked to consistently add drainage tile to their owned and rented land. Craig laughs that much of their farmland is flat and was swampland at one point.
"Erosion isn't really a problem but drainage management definitely is," Craig says.
To manage residue, the Buhrows use a chopping cornhead followed by a deep tillage pass in the fall and secondary pre-plant tillage in the spring. Their goal: efficient harvest and minimal tillage prior to planting.
Off the farm, Craig has provided leadership to two county Farm Bureaus, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Lee County Fair Board and Lee County Zoning Board.
Craig and Margie are parents to Allyn (Amy) and Aimee (Scott), and have four grandchildren.
Craig credits past livestock projects with helping his children value agriculture.
"It helps them if they can see things grow and see that what they're doing is working right," Craig says. "To see that the animals are healthy, the calves are getting better at leading every day or whatever.
You see progress and that gives you encouragement to go on and try new things."