MANHATTAN, Kan. – Six couples have been named Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers for 2014. The couples are identified as leaders in farming and their communities, and they were honored at a banquet March 13 in Manhattan.
The Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker award program began in 1927 and is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine.
The 2014 honorees include:
Dewey and Carol Adams, Clay Center, Kansas, Clay County
Children: Rhonda (husband Jim); grandsons Adam and Ryan
Dewey Adams is a fourth-generation farmer, and along with his wife, Carol, the couple raises beef cattle, including stockers and feeders, and crops that include wheat, sorghum, soybeans, grass hay, alfalfa and silage. Dewey’s great-grandfather homesteaded the farm in 1870, and he and Carol took ownership in 1964. Much has changed to keep the operation up-to-date and more efficient over the years.
Dewey joined the Kansas National Guard as a young man and completed active basic training before returning to the farm. He began renting more land and expanding the farming operation before his parents died in an automobile accident. Dewey can often be found tinkering around the farm and updating infrastructure, using his talents on various repairs, welding and woodworking.
Today, the Adams’ operation uses many good stewardship practices—no-till, terraces, buffer strips, cover crops, stalk grazing and pasture rotation to name a few—in hopes of preserving the farm for future generations of the family. They both have been actively involved in the agricultural industry through serving roles in Kansas Young Farmers, the Clay County Fair Board, the Kansas Farm Management Board, the Clay County Soil Conservation Board and the Clay County Extension Homemakers Council, to name a few.
A lifelong educator, Carol worked off the farm for 43 years in the public school system, and even after retiring in 2007, she still fills in as a substitute teacher when she has the opportunity. She teaches Sunday school and helps with vacation Bible school, among many other roles, at the Mizpah United Methodist Church where she and Dewey are members.
Dewey has used his builder’s niche to travel to Nicaragua and build churches as part of 17 mission trips. Carol has accompanied him on seven of those trips. Dewey has also served as a rural volunteer firefighter for more than 40 years and worked as a field technician 34 years for the Farm Service Agency.
Family is important to both Dewey and Carol, and they involve their daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons to help out on the farm when possible. The family’s motto is, “We work together; we play together.” Dewey’s dream is that one day his grandsons will be able to keep the farm in the family.
Larry and Millie Dearden, Scott City, Kansas, Scott County
A continuous yearning to learn is instilled in Larry and Millie Dearden. While they seek out opportunities to serve in their community and the agricultural industry, and learn as much as possible about how to improve their farming operation, they also take the time to educate children about the origin of their food.
Larry has worked his family’s farm since 1965, a farm that was homesteaded in 1904. He is the president of Bar-X, Inc., partner in Dearden Brothers and officer of 777 Corporation, Agri-Biz and Agriland Realty. He and Millie are also members of the Scott Co-Op Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, Friends of Lake Scott State Park and have been active leaders in Scott County 4-H.
Larry is the current president of Scott County Farm Bureau, but that isn’t surprising for a man with many years of agricultural experience. He has been a member of Scott County Farm Bureau for more than 40 years, but even before that, he was a charter member of the Scott Community High School FFA Chapter and awarded the FFA Greenhand at a young age.
The couple raises a mix of crops that includes wheat, corn and fallow. To make the operation environmentally friendly, the Deardens practice mostly no-till and have a soil management plan in place. They also practice terracing and have planted more than 3,000 trees as windbreaks.
Over the years, they have won numerous awards, including the Kansas Farm Bureau 8th District Century Farm and Farm Family. Larry has been awarded the Scott County 4-H Alumni Award and K-State Research and Extension Appreciation Award. The couple works often with youth in the local library and schools through programs focused on wheat and milk. The programs go into how those commodities are produced and what food items are made from them.
Being involved in education comes naturally to Millie, who works as a special education para-educator in USD 466 and librarian for the Scott County Library. She and Larry are members of Immanuel Southern Baptist Church, where they serve many roles.
Bill and Chris Pannbacker, Washington, Kansas, Washington County
Children: Jake, Molly (husband Tyrone)
Life in agriculture has extended beyond the farm for Bill Pannbacker and his wife, Chris. Bill is a renowned veterinarian who plays an active role in many organizations that include the Kansas Livestock Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Veterinary Medical Association and Washington County Extension Council, to name a few.
Bill often starts his day with news from C-SPAN, DTN and the Kansas City Star before heading out the door. Chris, likewise, typically reads five to six newspapers daily, as she has always loved to read and learn. She has an impressive background in communications and journalism and has served as editor of The Washington County News, as well as compiled and revised newsletters for many organizations.
Chris was a board director of the Kansas Press Association, and other organizations in which she has been involved include but are not limited to the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications, Kansas Cattlewomen, American National Cattlewomen and the Washington County Emergency Response team. She was a typical “4-H mom” through the years and Girl Scout troop leader for 22 years.
Somehow despite everything going on outside the farm, the couple has been able to successfully manage a diverse farming operation, with crops that include wheat, sorghum, corn, soybeans, silage, alfalfa and grass hay. They also are highly involved in beef production, from the cow-calf side to the stocker and feeder phases.
The Pannbackers use buffer strips on several of the fields they farm and have moved to almost 70 percent no-till. They have improved water quality for the operation by discontinuing feeding cattle adjacent to a stream to prevent potential runoff. Crossbreeding in the cattle herd has shown many benefits. Among those, home-raised steer calves from Angus-based cows sired by Charolais bulls graded 80 percent USDA Choice and gained 4.4 pounds per day with a cost of gain at 75 percent of the average quoted for the same period in 2014.
In addition to agricultural industry involvement, Bill served on the Bluestem Electric Cooperative Board and is involved in the K-State Alumni Association. He and Chris have both served on their local school board and supported local 4-H in many ways. They are active members of the First Presbyterian Church in Washington.
Bill and Ruth Pracht, Westphalia, Kansas, Anderson County
Children: Ericka (husband Nick), Ethan and Wyatt; grandson Max
People have to want to help others, and that is how Bill and Ruth Pracht take on life. Both Bill and Ruth are lifelong residents of Anderson County and graduated from Garnett High School. Both were also involved in agricultural youth organizations, 4-H and FFA. They carried experience from those organizations into adulthood, where they continue to help others.
The local 4-H club, Cherry Mound, has benefited from having Bill and Ruth as community leaders. Bill has served as the beef project leader, is the beef superintendent for the Anderson County Fair, and also serves on the fair’s sale and carcass contest committees. Ruth continues to be the club photography project leader, serves as superintendent of the Cloverbuds for the Anderson County Fair and is lead the Mom’s Committee for the livestock sale supper. Both Bill and Ruth have served on the Anderson County Fair Board.
Wheat, corn, soybeans, silage and grass hay take root at the Prachts’ farm, which is also home to 150 beef cows. On the crop side, some of the Prachts’ conservation practices include terraced acres, and strip-till and no-till farming—a practice the couple has been using for about 15 years. They also use buffer strips to help prevent erosion and have found an increase in the quail population on their property since installing those. On the cattle side, they use rotational grazing to properly manage the pastureland.
Additionally, Bill has served as president of the Anderson County Extension Council and is a member of the Kansas Livestock Association and Kansas Corn Growers Association. One of his proudest accomplishments is helping start East Kansas Agri-Energy, an ethanol plant in Garnett. Bill has served as board chairman since 2001 and believes it has had a positive impact for agriculture in the eastern third of the state.
Bill and Ruth are part owners of a local elevator, Valley R Agri Service. Ruth is a retired high school secretary and continues to manage the books on the farm and work at the local sale barn once a week. All three of the Pracht children have worked on the farm and participated in 4-H and other extracurricular activities.
The couple takes time to help others within their church, St. Teresa Catholic Church in Westphalia. Ruth is a member of the church choir and alter society, while Bill takes part in the Westphalia Knights of Columbus.
Alan and Beth Vogel, Wright, Kansas, Ford County
Children: Beth’s daughter Mandy and husband Dan have two children, Erik and Elizabeth; Beth’s son Ben has three children, Daxton, Cayson and Biliegh.
Alan Vogel has lived his entire life on the family farm, a diversified farm that formerly raised purebred Duroc hogs but now includes beef cattle, wheat, grain sorghum, fallow and hay. Alan and his wife, Beth, married in 2005, and each have been involved in K-State Research and Extension programs over the years.
Both Alan and Beth were 4-H members and held many officer positions. Both were also awarded the prestigious 4-H Key Award. Alan’s passions centered on agriculture at a young age, where he participated on the soils and livestock judging teams, even into his college years.
Beth has a passion for horticulture and home economics. She took part in the home economics judging team as a youth and currently serves as the countywide 4-H horticulture leader and open class horticulture superintendent for the Ford County Fair.
Alan is a member of Farm Bureau and has served on the Ford County Farm Bureau Board. He has also participated on the Ford County Pork Producer’s Board, Ford County Soil Conservation Board and Ford County Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Development Committee (PDC). Beth, a Ford County Master Gardener, has served on the Ford County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences PDC.
On the farm, the grain is marketed using many options due to having several grain bins. The Vogels grow food-grade milo for gluten-free flour as one such marketing strategy. The Vogel operation concentrates on using the best grain and livestock genetics, crop rotation and no-till practices. Terraces and waterways are used on the land to prevent erosion. The Vogels have planted trees as windbreaks and plan to increase the number of trees planted.
Off the farm, Alan is a member of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Wright and the local Knights of Columbus. Beth attends Grace Community Church in Dodge City, where she leads a women’s Bible study and assists with vacation Bible school.
Jim and Sharon Zwonitzer, Horton, Kansas, Atchison County
Children: Jeanne (husband Clifford Jr.), John (wife Martha); 7 grandchildren: Jennifer, Julie, Justin, Shannon, Brooke, Molly and McKenna
Jim Zwonitzer has represented agriculture, and specifically the soybean industry, across the United States and even internationally. Jim’s wife, Sharon, has accompanied him on many of these trips. In addition to raising soybeans, the couple also farms wheat, corn, silage, grass hay, Sudan grass and alfalfa. On the livestock side, the Zwonitzers also raise beef cattle.
Jim and Sharon both graduated from Atchison County Community High School and were members of Brush Creek 4-H. Jim has a degree from Kansas State University in agricultural education and taught vocational agriculture for seven years before farming full-time with his father in 1972.
Sharon was a 4-H project leader for several years in gardening, pets and foods. She is a self-proclaimed farm “gofer” and fills in wherever needed. She also worked in a small café in Horton and Everest for 25 years.
The couple grows certified soybean seed Hoegemeyer Hybrids and sells Lommix, a protein and energy supplement for cattle. Bill and Sharon use various conservation practices on their farm, including terracing, reduced tillage, and herbicide and crop rotations. They have always attended county and area extension meetings about crop and livestock production to stay informed on the latest production practices and technologies.
For more than 40 years, Jim has served in numerous roles with the Kansas Soybean Association. He is in his 10th year serving on the Kansas Soybean Commission. He is also a member of the Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Wheat Association and is on the local water district board. Jim and Sharon are often found working at the soybean booth at the Kansas State Fair.
Jim and Sharon are members of the Zion Lutheran Church in Everest, where they volunteer in different capacities. They are avid gardeners and have always raised a huge garden each year with their family.
Selection of Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker couples is accomplished through K-State Research and Extension administrative areas. Local councils and districts submit nominations, and the associate director appoints a committee to pick one couple from each area—northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest—plus two couples at large.