Another first. March 18 was the first time I attended the annual Kansas Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker meeting and banquet without my personal master farmer. Jim and I were one of the six couples honored as the class of 1999 in spring 2000.

Kansas Farmer magazine announced the 2010 masters in its March issue. This year's winners are Mike and Jeanene Brown, Colby, Ronald and Elaine Dunbar, Richmond, Jarold and Linda Hayden, Concordia, Arnold and Alda Hildebrand, Stafford, David and Pamela Reisig, Russell, and John and Phyllis Wilkey, Sterling.

I bet you wonder how master farmers are selected. I'll try to give you a brief history.

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. Initially, the program was sponsored by Kansas Farmer magazine and recognition was given to individuals rather than farm couples.

In 1953, Kansas State University, through the Cooperative Extension Service, assumed responsibility for handling the details of selecting master farmer couples and planning the recognition banquet.

Selection of the couples is accomplished through the K-State Research and Extension administrative area. Local councils and districts submit nominations, and the associate director appoints a committee to pick one couple from each area, plus two couples at large.

Master farmers and farm homemakers are shown to possess the high standard of achievement that has made Kansas farming what it is today.

Hope that helps you understand this special honor for farmers in our state.

I thank Harold and Virginia Kraus for giving me a ride; that way I didn't have to travel or eat alone. When we arrived at the Courtyard by Marriott Convention Hall in Junction City, we were too early to check in.

We greeted master farmer and farm homemaker friends and went to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for lunch. It's a nice place to eat -- good food with the atmosphere of home cooking and gracious waiters.

The interesting array of antique farm items on the wall was a perfect topic for now-a-day farmer discussion. I heard many "I remember when Dad used that" comments.

After the afternoon meeting, we were able to check into our rooms. Due to some adjustment in room assignments, I was given a suite. Wow, I've never spent the night in a suite before (spacious room, separate bedroom, kitchenette, two TVs, even an outside veranda). We laughed at this odd situation -- a single person in a party room.

At the banquet, P.J. Griekspoor, editor of Kansas Farmer magazine, opened the evening with the "Top Ten Reasons You Might be a Kansas Farmer." I can only remember one of them: "If you take your wife out of town to get tractor parts and call it a vacation, you might be a Kansas farmer."

Griekspoor introduced all the honored guests, and Sid Natter, president of MFAssoc., recognized the class of 1985 for membership for 25 years. Robert and Jo Eva McClellan of Rooks County were the only couple present.

The banquet meal was followed by a video production of the class of 2010 couples. It was a special showing of their interview, family and farm practices.

It's difficult to explain all that happened in the fun-packed day. We shared news and compared lifestyles with new and old friends. Plans are being made for the Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker Summer Social, "Discover Kansas."

This year we will gather in northwest Kansas on June 9 and 10. Thomas and Wallace County Master Farmers/Master Farm Homemakers will be our hosts.

I'm looking forward to this summer event. Last year, Jim was ill during the Cloud and Washington County "Discover Kansas" day and we missed it.

Everything I do, I wish Jim was here to share it with me. Things have changed, but I'm thankful I have good memories of happy times we shared to help me through the rough times.

Opal Flinn, Ellis, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.