What are the Kansas Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker programs?
The Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers comprise a select growing group of more than 360 Kansans who have been recognized for success in their agricultural operations and service to their communities.
The Kansas Master Farmer Association and the Master Farm Homemakers Guild were formed in the late 1920s to publicly recognize excellence in farming, homemaking, farm living and rural citizenship.
In 1953, Kansas State University, through the Cooperative Extension Service, assumed responsibility for the selection process and setting up the annual banquet. Today, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine co-sponsor the program.
County extension councils and extension districts nominate farm couples. The associate director for extension and applied research appoints a committee to choose one couple from each of the four extension areas in the state, plus two additional couples at large.
The two groups host an annual meeting and joint recognition banquet in the spring, where members discuss agricultural and rural issues, and share experiences with other members. This year, the meetings and banquet will be March 11 in Manhattan at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel.
The combined group awards a $500 4-H scholarship each year to a high school senior or college undergraduate.
In addition, donations to the Rock Springs 4-H Center by Master Farmer individuals and the organization as a whole, are reflected in various facilities and improvements made at the center’s campus near Junction City, Kansas.
More information is available through the K-State Research and Extension administrative office at 785-532-5820.
Six couples have been named 2015 Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers in recognition of their leadership in agriculture, environmental stewardship and service to their communities. They will be honored at a banquet on Friday, March 11, at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan.
The award program dates to 1927 and is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine.
The honorees for 2015 are:
Kevin and Barbara Alpers – Hudson – Stafford County
Children: son Tyler (wife Leah and grandchildren Braxton, Easton and Brecken); daughter Tabra Ward (husband Shawn and grandchildren Ryer and Bowen); and daughter Taci Axman (husband Tyler and grandchild Alida).
Just a bit outside of Hudson third-generation farmer Kevin Alpers is always looking for ways to improve the family’s beef cattle and crop operation. Kevin and his wife, Barbara, raise wheat, grain sorghum, soybeans, alfalfa and rye. In the past 15 years alone, he and his son, Tyler, who joined the family business in 2003, have added windbreaks for cattle, installed solar pumps to improve pastures, begun rotational grazing and added new cattle sorting pens.
The use of GPS and variable rate watering in crop irrigation, estrus synchronization in their cattle herd and grass quality improvements are among the other enhancements the Alpers have made to their farm over the years.
Kevin graduated from Fort Hays State University with a degree in animal science and serves on the Hayes Township Board, currently as treasurer, and the U.S Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Board. He has served on the Farm Service Agency Board, Stafford County Zoning Board and the USD 350 School Board, including terms as president and vice president.
In addition to handling the farm’s income, expense and employment records, Barb has devoted years of her time and energies to education. She served for seven years on the USD 350 School Board, including two years as vice president, and worked in the school district for 20 years. She spent 18 years as a 4-H project leader and helped place more than 90 Japanese exchange students with host families. She and Kevin have themselves hosted five Japanese exchange students.
The couple said their best “crop” is their children, who are passing down their love of agriculture.
Kevin and Barb have been active in Trinity Community Church for many years – each serving in numerous leadership roles. They have been involved in other organizations, including 4-H, Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association and more.
They live in the home that Kevin’s great-grandfather “traded” for in the early 1900s. The structure, which originally had one bedroom and no indoor plumbing, dates to the late 1800s. A portion of it is still supported by the tree stumps on which it was originally built. Thanks to years of remodeling, the home now has five bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Dwight and Cindy Baldwin – McPherson – McPherson County
Children: daughter Emily Baldwin Fast (husband Tyler and grandchildren Rowan and Eli) and son Adam Baldwin (wife Kim and grandchildren Banks and Isannah).
What started with a used combine and custom cutting work for neighbors in the 1970s grew into a successful farming business for Dwight and Cindy Baldwin of McPherson. The two Kansas State University graduates knew fresh out of college that they wanted to farm. Crops and hogs particularly sustained them in the early years, as did recognition that sometimes renting land is better than buying.
“As we watched other young farmers go out of business in the ‘80s, victims of high interest rates, we decided maybe it wasn’t so bad not to own land at the time,” Dwight wrote as he described their early work. Today, they are out of the swine business, own part of their land and rent the rest. Their son, Adam, and daughter-in-law, Kim, have a separate farm, but the families share the labor. Most of Dwight and Cindy’s land is devoted to non-irrigated wheat, but they also grow grain sorghum, corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and have a small honey business, Blaze Fork Honey.
The couple believes that in addition to the day-to-day effort that goes into growing food – the planning, physical work, record-keeping and use of new technologies – it is also important to be advocates for agriculture. Through her work as a substitute teacher, newspaper writer, editor and college administrator, Cindy has informed others’ views of farming. That commitment is also reflected in her work on the board of the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, where she has served as secretary and board chair.
Dwight served on their township board for 15 years and has been on the board of the Blaze Fork Drainage District No. 1 since 1991. He has been its president and is currently treasurer. He was also a 4-H woodworking and swine project leader for many years. From 2000-2009, he served on the Mid Kansas Cooperative Board.
Dwight and Cindy are active in Groveland Christian Church, where Dwight is an elder and trustee, and is currently chairman of the board. Cindy is the church’s pianist and organist, and taught Sunday school most years since becoming a member in 1979.
Ronald and Patricia Fredrickson – Osage City – Osage County
Children: son Doren Fredrickson (deceased) and daughter Anne Fredrickson.
Talk about a new chapter. Ron and Pat Fredrickson took an unusual path to ranching. Like many who grow up to farm or ranch, Ron was born on his family’s ranch near Osage City. After graduation from Emporia State University where he was student body president, and five years of active duty in the Navy (16 years Naval Reserve), he earned advanced degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught in Wisconsin and then spent 29 years on faculty and as an administrator at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Patricia grew up in Excelsior Springs, Mo., and later, Sedan. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Emporia State, a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
After a career in academia, the couple started their next chapter in 1992 when they moved back to the Osage County ranch to work with Ron’s parents. Ron developed “Fredrickson’s Principles of Farm Management,” which have guided their business ever since.
“We use a goal-setting system, one for the ranch and one for each individual who works here, including ourselves,” Ron said. “One part is ‘goals’ and the second part is ‘enabling objectives,’ which describes how a person is to attain that goal.”
Today, their beef cattle business includes about 600 cows and 575 calves. They sell calves to a Meyer Natural Angus cattle feeder. In the last 20 years, they have refined the way they cull cows, built new tubs, chutes, pens and alleys, and began dividing the herd into smaller pastures for calving. They’ve developed creek-side buffer strips to control animal waste and erosion, and rotate corn, soybeans and wheat.
Ron has served the Lutheran Church, including as a president, teacher and choir member, for more than 60 years. He’s been a member of the Kansas Farm Bureau more than 40 years, and served on the Melvern Lake Watershed Advisory Group and as a member of the local watershed board. He helped raise funds to restore the Rapp School (his boyhood school), which is now a national and state historic site.
Pat has been involved in the church, as organist, choir director, teacher and other roles. She served as the president of the Rapp School rebuilding project for five years and still serves on the board. She was on the county Farm Bureau board of directors and developed educational resources on safety for employees. She also contributed her time and talents to the Osage Arts Council and other organizations.
Ki and Kim Gamble – Greensburg – Kiowa County
Children: son Kasey Gamble and daughter Katelynn Gamble.
From community fundraising after a devastating tornado to hosting second graders on their farm, Ki and Kim Gamble of Greensburg have worked to make both their farm and community the best they can be. They cited a favorite quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
They both graduated cum laude in 1989 from Fort Hays State University, married and went to work – Ki for his grandparents on their farm in Stafford County initially, and Kim as a teacher, forensics coach, and director of plays and musicals. They moved to Kiowa County in 1991, where Ki had spent most of his childhood, to start farming on their own. In 1994, Kim began working for the family farm full time, and the couple moved to Ki’s family’s farm in 2001. Their son, Kasey, is now working with them full time.
The Gambles grow wheat, grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, alfalfa and grass hay. In 2002, they bought a neighboring farm and built livestock handling facilities to accommodate their cow-calf herd.
Ki served as president and in other capacities on the Kiowa County Farm Bureau Board, and on the board of the Southwest Kansas Farm Management Association. He has been on the USD 422 Board of Education since 1999 and has been president since 2006. He has filled leadership roles in other organizations, including Southern Plains Coop and PEK Irrigators.
In addition to her years of teaching, Kim served as president and vice president of the local chapter of Beta Sigma Phi and served on the board of the Creative Kids Childcare Center. She and Ki are members of the First United Methodist Church in Greensburg, where she served as coordinator of the Witness, Outreach, and Nurture program, Pioneer Club, Kids for Christ and Methodist Youth Fellowship for Senior High. She remains active in a variety of roles.
Kim and Ki are charter members of Kiowa County United, a group formed in 2009 to address the needs of businesses in Kiowa County after the deadly tornado in 2007. They’ve invested in numerous community projects, including the rebuilding of Greensburg’s Twilight Theatre. They continue to volunteer there, from making popcorn to helping with events.
Craig and Tamara Gigstad – Valley Falls – Jefferson County
Children: son Derek (wife Laura and grandchildren Ryker and Axton); daughter Danae (husband Justin); and daughter Devin.
Whether it’s cooking up food for the medical center fundraiser or teaching children to make beautiful music, Craig and Tamara Gigstad are deeply involved in their community. That’s in addition to running their farm in Jefferson County where they grow corn, soybeans and hay.
As their three children entered the scene, the family motto became, “Work together, then we’ll play together.”
One key to their business, they said, is working as a couple to analyze their farm computer records quarterly and again annually, to compare trends and plan for the future. Especially important is net income per acre, with consideration of additional inputs affecting potential yield with their two new pivots – the first in the hills of Jefferson County.
From 1983 to 2008, the couple raised swine and sold more than 1,000 finished pigs annually. Now their focus is on crop production and good stewardship of the land. They grow corn, soybeans and grass hay. As far back as 17 years ago, they began using grid soil test sampling. No-till and conservation-till practices are standard on the Gigstad farm. They are currently involved with direct shipments of soybeans to customers in China.
The couple has converted waterways to tile terrace systems and planted windbreaks for conservation.
Craig has served in numerous capacities, including chairman of the Kansas Soybean Association, and is currently on the United Soybean Board. He’s been an active member of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association and National Corn Growers Association. As a public school educator for more than 34 years, Tamara has introduced music to hundreds of children and was honored as Outstanding Music Educator in Northeast Kansas. She currently teaches in USD 339, Jefferson County North, Winchester and Nortonville. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Washburn University and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas. Tamara has served on the F.W. Huston Medical Center (former Jefferson County Memorial Hospital) Foundation Board for more than 28 years, including as chair for the past 12 years.
Craig and Tamara are lifelong members of the Effingham Union Church, where they’ve each taken on numerous leadership positions.
Driven by their belief in education and advocacy, the couple hosts field days for adults and children, alike.
Don and Lois Martin – Clay Center – Clay County
Children: daughter Francine Martin; son Scott Martin (wife Polly and grandchildren Andy, Tyler and Emily); daughter Angela Martin; son Steve Martin (wife Charity and grandchildren Matthew and Courtney); daughter Melanie Martin Ramsey (husband Dave and grandchildren Ryan and Cole); and son Tim Martin (wife Roxie and grandchildren Amanda, Sarabeth, Kelly and Luke).
Don and Lois Martin of Clay Center remember the day they approached a banker about borrowing money to buy their farm. The couple was engaged and planning their lives together. “You must be pretty sure of yourselves,” they remember the banker saying. The loan was a sure bet. The couple raised six children and today grows corn, wheat, soybeans and alfalfa, and has a beef cattle business. Don works closely with the couple’s son Tim, who has a separate farm enterprise, plus a combined one with his parents.
The couple has grown the farm since those early years, partly as a result of Don’s eye for property. “Most good land will only sell once in a lifetime,” he said.
Don is a graduate of Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in education. He played football on a scholarship and earned extra money by trapping wildlife – money he and Lois used to buy the farm. He is a longtime member of the Elks Club and was a member of the Kansas Young Farmers organization for many years. He has hosted teachers participating in “Ag in the Classroom,” and, working with K-State Research and Extension, had test plots as they looked for the best crops to grow in that part of Kansas.
Lois grew up on a farm in Harper County and was co-valedictorian of her class at Attica High School. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in home economics education at Emporia State University and K-State, respectively. She taught in Argonia, Claflin and Clay Center before becoming a home economics extension agent in Clay County from 1989 to 1990. In addition to her roles as mom and educator, she was the bookkeeper for the family’s farm, seed sales and fertilizer businesses from 1960 to 2000.
Don and Lois are longtime members of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and have each served in leadership roles. Their children were involved in 4-H, and Don and Lois served as club leaders and in other capacities.