Fred and Donna Martz Scholarship honors professor’s service, encourages sustainable agriculture

The $1,000 scholarship is on track to be awarded to one recipient this summer.
Professor Sallee Purcell introduces herself at a breakfast introducing a new scholarship for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources on Thursday morning at Cafe Berlin. Professor emeritus Fred Martz is responsible for funding the scholarship.

Shuffling into the large back room of Café Berlin, the waiter carried a plate stacked with a few pancakes and searched the 14 faces in the room before locking onto one.

“I don’t know your name, but you look like a Fred,” the waiter said as he set the plate in front of professor emeritus Fred Martz.

Martz, along with a group of community members, professors and graduate students interested in sustainable agriculture gathered Thursday at a monthly meeting to eat breakfast and share updates about work in their fields.

Martz shared that work for the Fred and Donna Martz Scholarship, a new CAFNR scholarship in his name, was slowing down, giving him more time to focus on a sustainable living committee at his church.

“It just shows us all the connections there are to sustainable living,” Martz said of the church organization.

After more than 50 years as a professor and professor emeritus at MU, including time spent on various research projects, Martz decided to create a $1,000 scholarship to honor all 14 members of his family who have also worked at MU and to encourage students to study sustainable agriculture.

Martz said he has been working on the new CAFNR scholarship, the Fred and Donna Martz Scholarship, named after him and his wife, for over a year. The scholarship is on track to be awarded this summer to one recipient studying animal science, agronomy or soil science. Students must additionally be enrolled or set up to take a sustainable agriculture course to be eligible for the award.

“I hope it will encourage students to study sustainable agriculture,” Martz said. “I hope that it will attract attention from college administrators that this is important and viable, and I hope it will lead to the development of a more significant sustainable agriculture program in the College of Agriculture.”

Martz said his passion for sustainable agriculture was shaped, in part, by his childhood years spent on a farm that practiced conservation. He helped to develop MU’s first sustainable agriculture class five years ago and has helped grow the program, which now offers three courses to a growing number of agriculture majors emphasizing in sustainable agriculture. Martz lives on a 450-acre farm that continues viable farming practices.

“I’m reminded of the environment,” Martz said. “I’m reminded of this every day and this makes it very meaningful.”

Jill Lucht, senior policy analyst at the Institute of Public Policy in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs, said she views Martz as a community builder — someone who connects “building food” and “providing food.”

“He’s just a warm, welcoming introduction to sustainable agriculture for people,” Lucht said. “It’s just really nice to be connected to someone who practices what we all are preaching.”

Joan Benjamin, associate regional coordinator for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, said Martz’s willingness to share his ideas about sustainable agriculture makes such practices easier for the community to implement.

“I am really glad that Fred and his wife put together this scholarship, because that’s the kind of thing that will get students interested in this kind of work,” Lucht said. “The scholarship is going to help students with their future and that’s going to help all of our futures.”

Martz said he thinks more sustainable agriculture will emerge in the future.

“I think society and the agriculture interests will get more involved in these kinds of things,” Martz said. “If I didn’t feel that way we would have never started the scholarship fund.”

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