Lindsay and I spend a few days last week in Cincinnati with members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation at the organization’s Annual Meeting. The annual gathering of members, delegates, officers, and staffers serves a few functions, most critically the adoption of policies that guide the organization from one year to the next. Farm Bureau members gather each Fall in County Farm Bureau policy meetings to adopt and advocate policies at the local, state, and federal level, and those policies pertaining to the Ohio Farm Bureau and potentially the American Farm Bureau “policy book” are forwarded on by delegates from each county to this Annual Meeting. It is a truly grassroots effort, and having covered policy sessions at all three levels of Farm Bureau membership, it is an impressive and fairly well-oiled process.
In addition to the setting of policies, delegates elect their Trustees and Officers each year. The organization is governed by a Board of Trustees, each of whom represent roughly three or four counties in their Districts. These Trustees set the agenda for the elected officers and professional staff in terms of how the organization will function, and what priorities they will pursue in the coming year. President Brent Porteus of Coshocton County was reelected to his second term as the organization’s highest elected leader; he’s done a tremendous job so far, and follows in a long line of outstanding farmer leaders of the Federation.
While the business of the organization is paramount to the members and staff, the Annual meeting is also a time to recognize the achievements of individual members and associates. Lindsay and I are both honored and humbled at being presented Ohio Farm Bureau’s Excellence in Agriculture Award, particularly because we’ll join Outstanding Young Farmers Brandon and Julia Weber of Jackson County and Discussion Meet winner Cassie Palsgrove of Pickerington in representing Ohio at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers competition at the AFBF Annual Meeting in Seattle next month. While I was both shocked and excited about the opportunity to carry Ohio’s banner to the national competition, I was even more honored that we shared the stage with a number of truly distinguished individuals recognized for their lifetime of service to agriculture. A few truly stood out in my mind.
My old friend The Honorable Jim Buchy of Darke County received Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award. Buchy served 18 years in the Ohio legislature and never once missed a vote. Following his tenure in the statehouse, he served four years as Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. A champion for the free enterprise system, his family has been in the meat and food processing business for more than 200 years.
Esther Welch of Ashland County is a legendary farm reporter, and has been an ag journalist for a number of publications, including Farm Bureau’s Buckeye Farm News. She has served on numerous state and national agricultural organizations and is a past Ohio Ag Woman of the Year, and was enshrined in the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame earlier this decade.
Another dear friend, Micki Zartman, received OFBF’s Agricultural Educator of the Year Award for her work in educating inner city youth about food and agriculture. The founder and namesake of the Scarlet & Gray Ag Day at The Ohio State University, Micki and her student volunteers teach Columbus area middle schoolers where their food comes from, and the importance of Ohio farms. She is a truly amazing woman.
These friends are an example and a motivation for those of us with a passion for telling the farm story. Being recognized on the same stage with living legends in our community was an honor and a privilege. At the same time, it set the tone in my mind of leaving a lifetime legacy of service above self. These farm advocates are the example of how each of us can use our own talents, skills, and resources to enjoy a successful life while making a positive impression in the community, and on agriculture as a whole.