Tricia Braid

Jan 12, 2015  |  Today's News

Sometimes the best learning method is a conversation with someone who’s been there, done that. Now in its tenth year, the Cultivating Master Farmer program has provided just that, expert farm and family guidance from folks who have walked the walk. This unique mentoring program links young farmers with a wealth of information from Prairie Farmer’s Master Farmers.

Classes of approximately 10 young farmers (21 to 35 years old) and 10 Master Farmers are selected for the two-year program, which features six ag-related events. The Class of 2015, which graduates in July, toured the Chicago Farmer’s Market, the Federal Reserve, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. They also heard from acclaimed speakers on estate/succession planning, diversification on the farm, marketing strategies, how to give back, and managing working relationships with family members. 

Like previous classes, incoming CMF members will have plenty of opportunity to hear from a top-notch slate of speakers. However, the real backbone of the program is the round-table discussion, where young farmers learn from Master Farmers and vice versa. Upon the completion of the two-year program, most participants have developed lasting relationships that continue to yield solid farm advice even after the program’s conclusion.

Young farmers have until March 31, 2015 to apply for an opening in the Class of 2017. Eligible applicants must meet the following criteria:

•        Reside in Illinois.

•        Between the ages of 21 to 35 as of Dec. 31, 2014.

•        Actively engaged in production agriculture.

•        Willing to actively participate in the two-year program.

•        Couples are encouraged to apply.

The Class of 2017 will be selected in April. The inaugural meeting will be held July 7, 2015 at Farm Credit Illinois, Mahomet. The CMF application is available on select sponsors’ websites including,,, and The CMF program is sponsored by 1st Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit Illinois, GROWMARK, Illinois Farm Bureau, Monsanto, and Prairie Farmer.