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90th Class of Kansas Master Farmers, Master Farm Homemakers Honored
Kansas Ag Connection - 03/20/2017

Six couples have been honored as the 2016 Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers in recognition of their leadership in agriculture, environmental stewardship and service to their communities. They were feted at a banquet at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan.

The statewide award program is in its 90th year and is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine.

The honorees for Class of 2016 are:

- Gary and Ruth Ann Barker -- Pratt County. Children: Son Matthew (daughter-in-law Amy, granddaughter Katherine); son Bryce (daughter-in-law Shannon, grandson Benjamin).

The Barkers' operation grows wheat, grain sorghum, corn, alfalfa, and oats as well as raising beef cattle. Their farm has planted wheat test plots for Pratt County Research and Extension. They have been farming rented land from families in the area for more than 40 years. The Barkers rely on crop consultants and their local K-State Research and Extension agent to stay current on issues and maintain their successful farming practices.

Gary Barker graduated from Pratt High School before earning his Associate of Science degree at Pratt Community College. He continued his education at Kansas State University with a degree in agricultural economics.

Gary has served as the superintendent of the Pratt County Fair for more than 30 years. He has been a member of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Pratt County Kansas State University Alumni Association, and Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Currently, he is part of the Cairo Co-op Board of Directors, Pratt County Hospital Board, and the board clerk for Township 12.

Gary and his wife, Ruth Ann, serve their community by being trustees, administrative board members, Bible school teachers, and youth leaders at their local Methodist church. They both have served as project leaders and community leaders in local 4-H clubs.

After graduating from Skyline School, Ruth Ann attended Pratt Community College and Kansas State University. She taught elementary education at Cunningham and Skyline. During that time, Ruth Ann held several offices in the Kansas National Education Association. She has volunteered with Farm Bureau educational programs and Skyline library, and was a member of the Pratt Regional Hospital Auxiliary.

- James and Terri DeGeer -- Neosho County. Children: Daughters Melissa and Staci

The DeGeers operate a registered Gelbvieh operation and farm grass hay. They sell bulls and heifers to other seed stock producers, as well as feed out steers for custom locker beef sales. Their ranch is a part of the Kansas Sunflower Supreme Heifer program and hosts livestock judging workouts on their farm. The DeGeers stay current on industry topics by attending numerous seminars sponsored by Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association, and K-State Research and Extension.

James DeGeer graduated from Medicine Lodge High School and earned a bachelor's degree in animal science and industry from Kansas State University.

James is a member of the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Gelbvieh Association, Kansas Livestock Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Chanute Chapter of Kiwanis. He has served as the county fair beef superintendent.

James and his wife, Terri, are active volunteers in their local 4-H program by serving as community leaders and helping youth with their beef projects. They are members of the Chanute First United Methodist Church where they have served on multiple committees and in leadership positions. The Kansas Farm Bureau has awarded the District 3 Farm Family of the Year to their family.

Terri graduated from Kansas State University with a bachelor's degree in music education. She received her master's from Wichita State University in counseling. Terri has served as the region president and secretary for the Kansas Counselor Association. She keeps the financial records for their ranch.

As fourth-generation seed stock producers, the DeGeers realize the importance of their role: "Although we work hard to make a living and raise quality cattle, our impact on the lives of others and promoting agriculture is just as important."

- Monte and Donneta Felbush -- Dickinson County. Children: Son Jason (daughter-in-law Maria, grandchildren Alegra, Gabe and Josie); daughter Marci; daughter Shawnee (son-in-law Chris, grandson Hudson); son Levi (daughter-in-law Kristen, grandchildren Autumn and Dean)

The Felbushes farm wheat, sorghum, soybeans, silage, alfalfa, and grass hay, and own a beef herd. The sorghum they grow is prepared into packing pellets by a local businessman. To ensure their farming practices are efficient, the Felbushes use a computer program developed by their son. The program allows them to formulate a daily plan to meet their business goals.

After graduating from Chapman High School, Monte Felbush earned an agri-business degree from Cloud Community College. He is a member of the Kansas Livestock Association, Abilene Co-op Board, and served as the Dickinson County Cattlemen's Association Director.

Donneta Felbush graduated from Abilene High School and continued her education at Kansas State University. She graduated with a degree in elementary education. Donneta taught second graders and was a substitute teacher. On the farm, she has been involved with keeping financial records.

Monte and Donneta are active in their local church community. They have served as youth group leaders and helped plan a mission trip to Mexico. Their farm sponsors the American Royal, hosted Angus Day, and held farm tours for international students. Monte and Donneta give back to their community by volunteering at the Salina Rescue Mission and Mayor's Prayer Breakfast and Luncheon.

- Merle and Jean Kaiser -- Miami County. Children: Daughter Katherine; son Kelly

On their farm near Paola, the Kaiser family grows corn, soybeans, silage, and grass hay. Originally their cattle operation was dairy but switched to a beef production. Their operation converts cooking oil to biodiesel as part of a value-added operation to the farm. They also do custom harvesting for area neighbors. To stay current on issues and learn new ideas, the Kaisers read articles, research possible investments, and attend workshops hosted by K-State Research and Extension.

Merle Kaiser is a graduate of Paola High School and continued his education at Kansas State University, studying dairy production.

Merle has been part of the Kansas Jaycees, Miami County Fair Board, Miami County Extension Council Executive Board, Miami County Conservation District Board, and the Kansas Farm Management Association. He has been a chairman for the USDA Farm Service Agency in the Miami and Johnson county areas.

Both Merle and Jean strongly support the FFA program in Miami County. All of their children were members of the FFA program. They have hosted district land judging contests on their farm. Today, they continue to give back by serving as members of the Paola FFA Alumni Association.

Jean graduated from Paola High School and took banking courses from Johnson County Community College. She has been a community leader and foods project leader for the Busy Beavers 4-H Club. Jean volunteers with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Relay for Life, and the Miami County Cancer Foundation.

The fourth-generation farm family realizes their responsibility: "We feel that our most important job is to promote, preserve, and protect the land for our children, grandchildren, and future generations."

- James and Eilene Minnix -- Scott County. Children: Daughter Kathryn (son-in-law Chris); son Carl (daughter-in-law Lauren); son Luke.

The Minnixes farm wheat, sorghum, and corn, and manage a beef operation in western Kansas. They have been members of U.S. Premium Beef since its beginning. Their farm also participates in the Conservation Stewardship Program. Recently, the Minnixes have been producing food-grade quality sorghum that is used to produce gluten-free products at Nu Life Market.

James Minnix graduated from Scott Community High School. He earned a master's degree from Kansas State University in business administration. To further his education and keep current on issues, James attends extension topic meetings, reads magazine articles, and researches new technology in the farming industry.

James serves as a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, and the Regional Juvenile Detention Board. He is a founding member of the Scott Community Foundation. For the past 22 years, James has served as a county commissioner.

James and his wife, Eilene, serve as 4-H community and project leaders. Their family has hosted youth at their home through the International 4-H Youth Exchange. Both James and Eilene are lifetime members of the Prairie View Church of The Brethren and serve on the Scott County Arts Council.

Eilene is a graduate of Hoxie High School and continued her education at Cowley Community College and University of Tulsa. Eilene received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Oklahoma State University. She is a member of the Kansas Cattlewomen, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and a board member for the William Carpenter 4-H Foundation.

- Mark and Debra Tipton -- Republic County. Children: Daughter Lauren (son-in-law Max, grandson Cooper); Sons Colin and Christian.

The Tiptons grow sorghum, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass hay, and own a beef cattle operation near the Kansas-Nebraska border. A large part of the family's contribution to agriculture has been participating in crop variety test plots. Seed dealers, elevators, and crop consultants have used the data collected from these projects. Every year the farm hosts a crop tour for 25 to 40 area producers to learn information on wheat diseases, insects, soil management, and sustainable farming practices.

Mark Tipton graduated from Southeast Community College in Milford, Nebraska, with his Associate in Auto Mechanic Technology. Upon graduation, he started his own automotive shop. After marrying Deb, Mark was slowly introduced to farming and started Tipton Grain and Cattle.

Mark is a member of the Hubbell (Neb.) Lions Club and Hubbell Farmer's Elevator Board. He sponsors many Republic County High School activities and recently sponsored a band trip to Arizona.

The Tiptons serve their community as members of the St. George Catholic Church and East Elementary Site Council. Within the 4-H program, Mark and Deb serve as project and community leaders.

After graduating from Belleville High School, Deb received her master's degree in speech pathology from Kansas State University. She worked at the Learning Cooperative of North Central Kansas until retirement. Currently, she works on the family farm and substitute teaches in the Cloud/Republic Infant Toddler Program, where she'd served as the department chair on its Autism and Assistive Technology team.

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. 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.

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