BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Martin Barbre is the recipient of the Illinois Corn Growers Association’s top award, The World of Corn.
ICGA leaders honored Martin for his service to Illinois corn farmers at ICGA’s annual meeting on Nov. 21 in Bloomington.
The World of Corn award goes to individuals, organizations or businesses for making significant contributions to the corn industry. The special award, now in its 34th year, was created to recognize the global importance of corn and specifically honor individual pacesetters that have made Illinois a leader in the corn industry.
“I am proud to give this lifetime achievement award to my friend and neighbor, Martin Barbre,” said Matt Rush, family farmer and ICGA president.
“Martin is a farmer that has simply made himself available to Illinois corn farmers, built on the learning opportunities he was offered and continued saying yes. As a result, he has accomplished many things, all of them focused on helping corn farmers in Illinois and in the U.S.”
“To be honored by your peers is just tremendous to recognize all of the things that I’ve done,” Barbre said.
“This was a pleasant surprise. I was caught off guard. I hadn’t come to this meeting in two or three years and then my buddy, Roger Sy, said, ‘Let’s go to the meeting.’ I know he had the word ahead of time.’”
Barbre grew up on the family farm in Carmi, graduated from Carmi Township High School and received an ag business degree from Southeastern Illinois College.
After returning to the farm, he eventually served more than 10 years on the ICGA board and eight years on the National Corn Growers Association Board.
“I joined the ICGA board in 1995 as a director. In the early 2000s I got into leadership and in 2005 I was president of ICGA. I then spent a little time with the NCGA on what they call the Action Teams. I chaired the Biotech Team for three years. I was then fortunate enough to be elected to the NCGA board in 2010 and ended up being NCGA president in 2014,” Barbre said.
He followed that with an appointment as administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency in April 2018 and served in that capacity until January 2021.
Barbre owns and operates Chestin Farms LLC with his son, Brandon, in southeastern Illinois, where they grow corn and soybeans. The two are actively working toward Barbre’s retirement and Brandon’s opportunity to manage the farm in whole.
Barbre credits his years of service and the ability to serve corn farmers to Brandon’s willingness to do more on the farm, take on more responsibility and manage while Barbre was away.
He also celebrates this honor with his wife, Gayla, and grown children, Misty Gwaltney, Brandon Barbre, Courtney Thompson, Whitney Knight and Shayle Knight.
The World of Corn honoree was asked why he believes it’s important to become involved in organizations like ICGA.
“If we don’t do it, nobody is going to do it for us. Agriculture has to defend itself and has to represent itself and people have to do that. I’ve always been one who enjoyed talking to people and working with people, so it just kind of came natural for me to get involved in these things and back the industry,” Barbre said.
There are several possible opportunities for the ethanol industry ahead that could be opened with proposed Next Generation Fuels Act and aviation fuel potentials.
“This is one of the reasons I think Illinois Corn and National Corn has been so successful is we work with other groups outside of just corn in agriculture. The ICGA and NCGA work very closely with the U.S. Grains Council, building demand wherever it’s at,” he said.
“This is where we’re looking for demand right now. They’ve identified this as a place we need to work on demand. There will be other ideas in the future, different ideas, but it’s all about building demand. Just like any industry that has a product to sell, you have to have a buyer. Trade, ethanol and livestock are our three big markets and we’ve got to keep on growing all of them.”