0310KSMasterFarmersHomemake.cfm Kansas Master Farmers, Master Farm Homemakers named
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Kansas Master Farmers, Master Farm Homemakers named


Six couples have been named Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers for 2009 in recognition of their leadership in agriculture, environmental stewardship and service to their communities.

The award program dates to 1927 and is sponsored by Kansas State University Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine. The couples will be honored at a banquet March 19 at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Junction City. More information about the Master Farmer program or the banquet is available by calling 785-532-5820.

The 2009 Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers are:

Rice County: Bill and Mona Ball, Sterling, Kan.

Bill Ball began farming full time with his father, Ralph, in 1969. With nearly 3,700 acres currently in the Ball operation, the farm produces wheat, corn, soybeans, silage and grass hay. Bill improves his acreage by using strip tillage and minimum till and has installed irrigation systems. He also uses technology innovations such as auto steering and computer planting. In addition to crops, a beef herd with 150 beef cows and 140 calves are part of the operation. A large feeder pig operation is run by the couple's two sons and a son-in-law. The waste from the hog barns is used to fertilize crops. Bill currently serves as chair of the Sterling Co-op and previously served on the Groundwater Management Board District. In 2007, he was honored by the Kansas Bankers Association for installing filter strips on conservation land. Mona served 13 years as 4-H leader for the Sterling Meadowlarks 4-H Club and as a Rice County Council Advisor and superintendent of photography at the 4-H Fair for several years. She is involved with the Sterling Booster club, Beta Sigma Phi, and Sterling Sorosis. Bill and Mona are members and involved with the Sterling Presbyterian Church. The Balls have two sons and a daughter: Monte is a chemistry teacher and athletic director in Sterling High School; Tami (married to Steve) is a hairdresser; and Brian (married to Becky) farms with his dad. Bill and Mona have five grandchildren.

Rooks County: Thomas and Ruth Ann Bigge, Stockton, Kan.

Family history plays an important part of the Bigge's operation, as their land has been farmed for 110 years by a member of the Bigge family.

Tom and Ruth Ann Bigge were married in 1968, when they began to build their farm and family together. The 3,500-acre farm produces a variety of crops: wheat, grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, grass hay and forage sorghum.

Their livestock herd includes beef cows and calves along with a few buffalo and longhorn stock. They practice minimum tillage in their operation, maintain terraces and use a global positioning system to improve chemical and fertilizer applications. Tom has served on several boards of directors: the Farm Bureau Board, the Stockton Co-op Board, USD 271 Board of Education and the Friends of Historic Fort Hays. He enjoys hunting and was one of the first hunter safety instructors in Rooks County. Ruth Ann is active in Extension work, serving on many local, district and statewide committees including the State Extension Advisory Council for eight years, including as chair for one year. The Bigges are the parents of five: Curt (married to Rebecca) is a paramedic in the Kansas City area; Douglas (married to Kori) serves as a magistrate judge for Rooks County; Beth (married to Jason Pfeifer) is a Farm Bureau agent in Russell; Holly (married to Aaron Beaton) works at Poky Feeds in Scott County; and Stephen (married to Melissa) farms with his parents. Tom and Ruth Anne have several grandchildren.

Thomas County: Richard and Kathy Calliham, Colby, Kan.

Richard and Kathy Calliham began farming in 1963. The Calliham farm is currently 2,700 acres and produces wheat and grain sorghum. Much of the family's ground is terraced. More than 1,100 trees were planted in two windbreaks on their farm. They have worked with the Agricultural and Food Center at Texas A&M University for several years to help project farm economic viability by region and commodity. A 47-year member of the Farm Bureau, Richard has been active both locally and at the state level. He has been on the Extension council and helped attain a new 4-H building. He has served as a board member of the Hi-Plains Co-op and on the rural fire department for Thomas County. Kathy, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, has worked on many charity drives, including being a volunteer for a bloodmobile for 30 years. Active in garden clubs, she has served on the District Federated Garden Club board and chaired the Blue Star Memorial Highway Committee.

Currently she is on the committee for the 125th celebration of Thomas County. Richard and Kathy are both active in the Colby United Methodist Church. They are the parents of two: Michelle (married to Todd Schuster) works for Argus in Kansas City area; Rich (married to Suzi) farms also, with the two operations sharing machinery and labor. Richard and Kathy have several grandchildren.

Ford County: Don and

Bonnie Irons, Minneola, Kan.

The Irons' farm features more than 3,400 acres, with some of that in pasture and Conservation Reserve Program ground.

Their main crops are wheat, grain sorghum, corn, and soybeans. They have built terraces, use contour farming methods, and stubble mulch tillage on the dry land. Irrigated land is ridge-tilled. Soil survey maps are used to rate each soil in the farm to determine soil quality; contour maps help determine conservation and drainage systems. Don, formerly a teacher, bought his first piece of land while teaching in 1969. He has farmed for 40 years. He built an ethanol plant in the late 1970s during the nation's first energy shortage. In the 1980s, the couple built a public, licensed and bonded grain storage facility for storing and merchandizing grain for their operation and others. This enterprise helped them financially during the difficult 80s. Don served on the Minneola School Board. Bonnie, who didn't grow up on a farm, maintained the farm books for the operation. The couple is active in their church and made education a priority for their family. They are the parents of three children: Bryan is pursuing an engineering career but maintains ties with agriculture by purchasing agricultural real estate and renting it out; Teena has purchased a farm and manages and sells crops near her home; and Darren (married to Angela), has his own farm plus manages and sells commodities for his parents.

Comanche County: Arlie and Patricia Lohrding,

Coldwater, Kan.

Married in 1964, Arlie and Patricia Lohrding purchased the ranch that is the base of their operation in 1989. The ranch covers 11,775 acres, with a few acres devoted to wheat and alfalfa. Nearly 600 head of beef cows, with 1,000 calves, breeding heifers, yearling bulls and breeding bulls comprise the operation. The ranch supplies recipient cows to Gardiner Angus Ranch. The ranch synchronizes groups of cows so the Gardiner embryos can be placed in viable females. When the calves are weaned, they are delivered to Gardiner Angus Ranch for a premium price. In addition, the Lohrding's offer hunting leases on their ranch. The ranch provides the land, opportunity and lodging for a small group of individuals who lease it by the acre on a non-guided basis. In addition, the Lohrding's partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife program to restore habitat for the lesser prairie chicken on the main ranch. Formerly a math teacher, Arlie and Patricia moved to the ranch in 1966 and formed a partnership with Arlie's parents. He is the third generation of Lohrdings to farm and ranch in Comanche County. Arlie was active on the Farm Bureau, serving on the board; is a founding director of the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation; served on the Comanche County Conservation Board, the Extension Council, the Protection Cooperative Board of Directors; and is a past Kansas Livestock Association area director. The ranch received the Comanche County and District 7 Farm Bureau Natural Resources Award in 2003. Patricia started teaching high school mathematics at Haviland in 1997. Both were active in the church. They are the parents of six children: Mark (married to Sindi) works with the ranch full time; Kimberly (married to Terrence Phox) lives in the Wichita area; Virgil (married to Ruth) is in New York; Charles lives two hours from the ranch; Cindy (married to Ryan McWhorter) lives in California; and Brian (married to Leslie) lives in Lubbock, Texas. They have several grandchildren.

Bourbon County:

Kenneth and Beth

Snyder, Fulton, Kan.

The Snyder farm is nearly 3,400 acres, with wheat, corn, soybeans and grass hay as the principle crops. Clover and wheat beans also are grown. With more than 500 head of beef, the feeder steers are sold mostly to a direct buyer. They maintain several miles of waterway and have added buffer strips to reduce water runoff. Some of their ground is leased for deer and turkey hunting. The third generation of Snyders to work the family farm, Kenneth has been a member of the local Elks lodge and the Bourbon County Farm Bureau for more than 25 years. He is also a member of the Kansas Livestock Association. The couple received the Key Banker Award for Soil Conservation in 2008. A supporter of the Bourbon County Fair and the Northeast Scott 4-H, the Snyders have helped 4-H members by letting them keep steers at their farm. Beth grew up on a small dairy farm. Kenny and Beth were married in 1984. They are active with the Fulton Methodist Church. Beth participated in Pennies in the Park, breaking a Guinness Record by laying a row of 40 miles of pennies for the fastest and longest lines of coins. She has been a 4-H club leader for the past 14 years and a fair board member for six years. She has donated 75 pints of blood to the local American Red Cross Bloodmobile. They are the parents of two: Jordan, who passed away, and Jared. Both boys were active in FFA and 4-H. Jared attends Fort Scott Community College and will be the fourth generation of the Snyder family to farm the land.

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