ABOVE: Congratulations to the new class of inductees in the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame (from left): Dr. Chuck Lifer, Dr. Don Myers, Micki Zartman, and Dr. Bobby Moser.
Scroll down to see more photos from the Aug. 3 ceremonies at the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame enshrinement.
COLUMBUS — The large banquet room in the Rhodes Center on the Ohio State Fairgrounds was awash in scarlet and gray spirit Aug. 3, as all four of the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame were recognized for their role in building the state’s agriculture from the halls of Ohio State University.
This year’s enshrinees were Dr. Chuck Lifer, who guided an Ohio 4-H program that doubled its membership during his tenure as state 4-H program leader; Dr. Bobby Moser, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State; Dr. Don Myers, who retired as state OSU Extension agronomy specialist and is known as “Dr. Alfalfa” and a key mover of no-till farming acceptance in Ohio; and Micki Zartman, who married her love of education and agriculture in the Scarlet and Gray Ag Day, which she founded at Ohio State.
And the interesting thing is that two of these inductees, who both ended up with the highest of academic degrees, had no intention of going to college after high school.
Both Knox County native Chuck Lifer and Wayne County native Don Myers say it was their high school vocational agriculture teachers who encouraged — no, make that pushed — them to apply to Ohio State.
“I had no plans to go,” recalls Lifer, “but to get him off my back, I said I’d go for one quarter.”
Likewise, Myers was pestered by his “very insistent” teacher that he go to Ohio State. The teacher got the application, helped Myers round up the necessary information, and the young student was so close to the application deadline that he had to drive the forms to the Columbus.
“That changed my whole life.”
Lifer, who went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in agriculture and Extension education from Ohio State, started his service with OSU Extension as an agent in Monroe County.
Then, at age 31, he became the youngest 4-H state leader in the nation, with a focus of expanding and improving 4-H programming. His research and leadership led to a nationwide development of youth programs by the USDA and the federal Extension service. And it was his vision that created the first 4-H center in the nation, first housed in Ohio State’s Ag Admin building, and today in the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.
Also during his tenure, 4-H membership doubled, and the level of the Ohio 4-H Endowment Fund quadrupled.
In 1999, he was inducted into the Ohio State 4-H Hall of Fame and in 2002, the National 4-H Hall of Fame.
Like Lifer, Myers started his career as an Extension agent out in the county, but also quickly climbed through the ranks and retired as state Extension agronomist.
Known as “Dr. Alfalfa” (his license plate reads simply “ALFALFA”), Myers used his expertise in forages to help foster a new concept in crop production — no-till — here in Ohio, and worldwide, working with the state’s first no-till plots in the early 1960s.
The concept slowly caught on. “They started to come by the carload, then by the vanload, then the busload,” Myers said of the field plot visitors.
The conservation practice has helped reduce soil erosion and lower production costs, and improved agriculture as a whole.
Dr. Bobby Moser is probably the most respected voice of OSU’s ag college, having served as its dean since 1991, the longest tenure of any active ag dean in the nation and the longest tenured dean at Ohio State. Prior to being appointed dean, he was director of the then-Ohio Cooperative Extension Service
Moser, who announced his retirement last September, holds degrees in animal science and swine nutrition.
Under his leadership, researchers affiliated with the college have attained a more than 200 percent increase in grant awards and developed more than 80 patents. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Food Innovation Center, the building of the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, and the new Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Research facility on the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center campus in Wooster.
“Truly, his career has been a calling,” said OSU President E. Gordon Gee in a videotaped statement during the induction ceremonies.
Even after his successor is named, Moser intends to remain in Ohio and work with special projects at the university.
“One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was coming to Ohio,” Moser said.
When Micki Zartman’s husband, dairy scientist Dr. David Zartman, joined Ohio State’s faculty, it was a natural extension for her to look for ways to use her formal training in child development and link it to her love of agriculture.
She started by convincing the Ohio State powers that be to offer tours of the dairy farm to school children. Then, in 1999, she nurtured that seed into a full-bloom event, the Scarlet and Gray Ag Day at Ohio State, which brings elementary students to campus to learn more about agriculture.
This year, more than 650 students attended, and more than 200 Ohio State students volunteered as hosts, instructors and organizers.
Recently, she has been working to encourage Ohio high school students’ participation in the World Food Prize Youth Institute.
Portraits of the new enshrinees were unveiled during the ceremony and now hang in the Rhodes Center at the state fairgrounds.