Monday, March 18, 2013
Illinois Farm Bureau congratulates four
members who were named 2013 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer magazine. The four were
honored for their community service and farming abilities.
Recipients are Ron Bork, Piper City (Ford County); Neil Fearn,
Albion (Edwards County); Doug Scheider, Freeport (Stephenson
County); and Jim Sheaffer, Dixon (Lee County).
Candidates were nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders, and
agricultural Extension specialists from throughout the state.
GROWMARK Inc. is a financial sponsor of the award.
RON BORK'S ancestors have been farming in
the Piper City area for more than 140 years. He was raised on the
same Ford County farmstead he and wife, Celia, now call home.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1973, Ron
taught agriculture at Cissna Park High School. It was here he met
Celia, who was the music teacher. In 1986, Ron got the call to come
back to the farm. Ron's father, Harold, began gradual retirement
and worked with his two sons, Ron and Gene, until he passed away in
The Borks have dealt with a couple curveballs in recent years.
The first came in 2009 when a longstanding landlord suddenly wanted
out of land ownership.
Ron and Gene put together a bid and were able to buy the 400
acres, grain bins, and the home that serves as the center of the
operation. A second surprise came the following year when Gene
announced he was ready to begin retirement. Ron and Celia completed
the purchase last year.
They have since been joined in the farming operation of 2,800
acres by Jon Clark, who had been working for a local John Deere
dealership. The Borks have two daughters.
NEIL FEARN has sage advice
about the best decision of his life: "If you don't have a good wife
who enjoys farming, you won't enjoy farming. And if you're going to
do it, you've gotta enjoy it." Clearly, he and his wife, Debbie,
enjoy farming in their Southern Illinois community of Albion in
Neil began his farming career in the late 1970s, when he joined
Oak Leaf Farms, farming with his father-in-law, Leon Harris, and
brother-in-law, Mike Harris. Over time, Leon retired and today Neil
and Mike operate a partnership. Debbie works off the farm at a
local bank but is instrumental in record keeping and financial
analysis. In addition to double-crop wheat/soybeans and yellow
corn, they grow several hundred acres of white corn.
They added three semis, hauling for themselves and others, and
they've expanded their grain system with 180,000 bushels of
storage, scales, and a drive-over pit. They have put a range of
conservation measures in place to preserve the land and improve
production. They also plant cereal rye and rapeseed as cover crops
to prevent erosion and boost production.
Neil and Debbie are 4-H leaders, youth group leaders, and strong
advocates of their rural church's Fifth Quarter program.
DOUG SCHEIDER chose the
opposite path at a time when most Illinois farmers were divesting
themselves of livestock and focusing solely on row crops: He moved
heavier into dairying.
The Freeport farmer's dairy heritage began more than 150 years
ago when his great grandfather's family immigrated to the U.S.,
settling in Pennsylvania. A generation later, his paternal
grandmother's family moved to Illinois. Doug was raised three miles
west of the current farm's location. When Doug's father, Norman,
turned 40, he went back to college, and Doug found himself managing
After graduating from Illinois State University, Doug took a
teaching position in Dubuque, Iowa. He was still making trips home
to care for the farm. During this time, his father completed his
degree and became a pastor, but he contracted kidney disease and
died in 1979.
That same year, Doug moved home to Stephenson County and began
milking 60 cows in a partnership with wife Trish's parents, Ralph
and Maxine Babler. In 1983 Doug and Trish bought a 194-acre farm
from his mother, Kathryn. They bought a 154-acre farm just down the
road in 1988.
Today, Scheidairy Farms milks approximately 650 cows. Doug owns
840 acres and rents another 215 for the dairy's feed needs. Nearly
all of the acres are custom farmed.
JIM SHEAFFER believes in
getting family members involved. "We've always been a family that
did a lot of their own work, and the kids - including the girls -
all helped as needed," Jim explained.
Today, Jim and his youngest son, Kyle, operate Sheaffer Acres
Partnership near Dixon in Lee County. The operation includes a
Wyffels Seed dealership. His wife, LouAnn, has been involved since
day one. Son Steve helps out in the spring and fall and works at
1st Farm Credit Services. Jim earned the 1976 Illinois Farm Bureau Young Farmer Award, then
was named one of three 1977 American Farm Bureau Federation Young
Farmer Award winners.
He got his start with 40 acres purchased from his grandfather in
1971. Today, nearly 90% of the ground the Sheaffers operate is
owned by one of the Sheaffer family members.
Jim and Kyle formalized their partnership in 2007, bringing Kyle
in as a 30% owner in the operation. The Sheaffers took the original
12,000 bushels of storage that came with the farm and increased it
to 340,000 bushels. They also added a continuous-flow
"We built half of our grain bins ourselves … we were too cheap
to hire anyone else!" Jim laughs.
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