Piper City farmer Ron Bork has been named a Master Farmer. The honors comes from Prairie Farmer magazine.
Bork farms in the Piper City area. He's one of four Illinois farmers selected as 2013 Master Farmers by the magazine, which has been involved in the honor of honoring farmers since 1925.
The four will be honored for their exceptional community service and farming abilities at a ceremony March 12 in Bloomington.
Also receiving the award are Neil Fearn of Albion in Edwards County, Doug Scheider of Freeport in Stephenson County and Jim Sheaffer of Dixon in Lee County.
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and agricultural extension specialists from throughout the state.
Prairie Farmer first offered the award in 1925, when Editor Clifford Gregory established it as a way to recognize Illinois farmers for something more than just farming skills. Prairie Farmer sponsors the Master Farmer awards program to recognize farmers who excel not only in farming but also in community service, family commitment and leadership.
Some Master Farmers serve in state and national farm leadership positions. Others chair prestigious boards or serve with honor at the highest levels of government. Still others build their farms or businesses to regional or national prominence.
Bork’s ancestors have been farming in the Piper City area for more than 140 years. Bork was raised on the same farmstead he and wife Celia now call home. Like most farm kids, he pitched in his fair share with livestock, planting, harvest and detasseling duties in the summer.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1973, Bork taught agriculture at Cissna Park High School. It was there he met his wife, Celia, who was the music teacher.
In the early 1980s, a friend from Bork’s teaching days contacted him about a new business venture. He was looking for a partner to purchase an ailing Curtis Mathes (a consumer electronics retailer) franchise in West Lafayette, Ind. Bork packed up the family, which by this time included two little girls — Holly and Kathy — and headed to Boilermaker central.
In 1986, Bork finally got the call to come back to the farm. His father, Harold, began gradual retirement working with his two sons, Ron and Gene, until he died suddenly in 2002, a few days after harvest.
The Borks have dealt with a couple curveballs in recent years. The first came in 2009. In the rush of harvest, Ron and Gene got a call and learned a long-standing landlord suddenly wanted out of land ownership. With the threat of taking it to auction, Ron and Gene rushed to put together a bid.
They were able to buy the 400 acres, grain bins and the home that serve as the center of the operation. They were happy to own the farm where he grew up, but it was a lot to bite off financially.
The second surprise came the following year when Gene announced he was ready to begin retirement. Gene was much more flexible on the purchase terms. Ron and Celia completed the purchase last year.
This is how Ron Bork found himself as a sole operator farming more than 2,800 acres in 2011.
He needed help. Luckily he found Jon Clark, who was working for a local John Deere dealership. With a strong passion for farming, Clark jumped at the opportunity to work with Bork.
All together, more than 300 Illinois people have been named Master Farmer or Honorary Master Farmer, including the four named this year.
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