This Week’s Column: Ohio, Birthplace of Agricultural Leaders

One of Ohio’s many claims to fame centers on the number of Presidents of the United States claiming the Buckeye State as home. Eight of our 44 Presidents hailed from Ohio, although it’s been 85 years since Warren G. Harding passed away, ending his tenure as Commander In Chief. In recent years, however, Ohio became a cradle of leadership in another way, as literally dozens of Ohio farmers and agribusiness professionals assumed positions of national leadership within our industry.



Earlier this week Lindsay and I enjoyed the Ohio Soybean Industry Banquet. A gathering of members and supporters of the Ohio Soybean Council and Association, the dinner recognized some outstanding soybean farmer leaders. Tom Brown of Marion County stood as one of several leaders recognized for outstanding service; Tom retires this year from nearly five years on the United Soybean Board, the national soybean checkoff’s governing body. Tom’s recognition gave me pause to consider the Brown family’s commitment to leadership in farming; Tom spent half a decade as a leader of this national soybean organization while his brother Randy is in his second term on the National Pork Board, the pork industry’s checkoff organization. These brothers run an impressive corn, soybean, and pork farming operation, sustaining at least two generations of the family that I’m aware of, and do so while serving extremely important roles on national boards in their respective industry organizations.



The Browns’ amazing record of service, however, is not an isolated occurrence in our state. Take farm partners Mark Schweibert and Rick Fruth of Northwestern Ohio: these two outstanding farmers manage well over 2500 acres in their family farm organization while simultaneously serving on the Boards of Directors of the National Corn Growers Association and U.S. Grains Council, respectively. While Mark serves on the NCGA Board, Rick assumed the Chairmanship of the Grains Council this year, adding even more responsibility (and national and international travel) to his list of “chores” on and off the farm.



Like Rick, Rob Joslin of Shelby County assumed the top spot in a national farm organization this year, assuming the title of President of the American Soybean Association at the organization’s Board of Trustees meeting this week in St. Louis. Rob’s spent numerous years on the ASA Board, and is in his third year as an officer. While he’s spent countless hours away from the farm in his service, he and his wife Ellen continue to operate a great family farm. By the way, Ellen has spent several years on the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Ohio’s soybean organizations, too.



I guess Lindsay and I want to be a little like the Joslins, as it turns out. While I’ve been honored to serve on the Board of Directors for the National Agri Marketing Association this year, my beautiful bride was named President-Elect of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting a few weeks ago at our National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. She spent 2009 as NAFB Vice President, and will take the gavel as President in 2011. Her leadership is really taking NAFB great places in advancing the profession and business of farm broadcast journalism.



Lindsay isn’t alone in holding a Presidential title. Marcie Williams of Croton serves currently as President of American Agri-Women, the national coalition of farm and agribusiness women, and Steve Robinson of Union County is President of the National Association of Conservation Districts, representing America’s 3,000 conservation districts and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. There are literally dozens of other Ohio men and women serving on Boards of Trustees, and holding positions of leadership on various committees and task forces.



The unifying theme I’ve found in studying these outstanding men and women is their passion and proficiency, their competence and their confidence. Each displays a passion for farm families and a proficiency in their own profession. They all evoke a competence in their own farming and business operations, together with a confidence necessary to assume the mantle of leadership. There’s just something about Ohio in today’s agricultural community; I’m proud to call these outstanding leaders neighbors and friends.