Columbiana FB members call for answers

LISBON, Ohio – Confusion and pressure for answers regarding the recent Columbiana County Farm Bureau personnel changes highlighted the group’s annual meeting Sept. 6 at Trinity Friends Church in Lisbon.

The county trustees’ decision to contract with the state organization, which went into effect Sept. 1, eliminated former organizational director Nancy Cope and secretary Renae Unkefer’s positions in the county office.

The county’s program is now directed by JoAnn Menning, organizational director for Stark, Summit, Portage and Columbiana counties. The Lisbon office has been relocated to the Nationwide Building located at 1000 Market Ave. North in Canton.

“We probably would have liked to keep it open, but we found that very few people actually climbed the steps to visit the office,” said Lucille Huston, county board president. The bulk of county business was conducted over the phone, she said.

How it happened. County directors met with members of the state board in early August to discuss linking with a full-time organization director.

Following that meeting, county officials met and voted unanimously to contract with the state organization for director services. At that time, a state personnel consultant advised the board to take action without consulting the county membership, Huston said.

The change expands the availability of services to five days a week, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Members had previously been able to contact the office only two days a week.

The switch also provides all members a toll-free phone number to reach Menning and other officials, and reduces county spending by at least $13,000 yearly. The savings increase will be used to increase and fund current programs.

“We would not have been good stewards of members’ money to not take this step,” Huston said.

At the annual meeting, she appealed to dissatisfied members who said they would drop their membership, to give the new system a chance.

“Change is scary and we don’t like to see it. We’re all going to want to just run home but we can’t do that this time,” she said.

Recognition and awards. The county board presented Charlie Harper, a 20-year Farm Bureau member, with its annual Distinguished Service award. Harper was chosen for his contributions to his community, county, and the agriculture industry.

A World War II veteran, Harper taught agriculture at the Columbiana County Career Center, was manager of Firestone Farms, and is a 54-year member of the Columbiana Rotary.

Eight leaders were also recognized during the banquet for attaining seven of a possible eight Star Awards, the highest level in the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Standards of Achievement Program.

Program coordinators honored were: Neil and Lou Ann Zehentbauer, advisory councils/young farmer program; Dale Lowmiller, commodity promotion and marketing; Renae Unkefer, information; Fred Hippely, membership; Suzanne Zehentbauer, promotion and education; Mike Gruszecki, public affairs; and Joyce Bailey, safety.

Of interest. State Farm Bureau trustees Jeff Zellers and Gale Betterly reminded members of the importance of grassroots efforts in the organization and reviewed key initiatives with the group.

Of special interest to the membership was information on dairy compacts and their effects on county producers. Betterly and regional supervisor Ken Walter provided more information and recommended county-level meetings to distribute more details.

Betterly also urged members to spread the word to schools and groups about the availability of COSI on Wheels, or COWS, a mobile educational unit that incorporates agriculture and science.

Policies and elections. Jim Hoppel presented a list of local, state and national policy proposals for members to review and vote upon. Recommendations approved by attendees are sent to the state Farm Bureau for possible consideration at the state annual meeting in December.

Eleven candidates were elected to the county board. Those members are: Jeff Wuthrick, Kent Baker, Neil Zehentbauer, Eugene Tripp, Gerald Smith, Mike Gruszecki, Russell Reight, Barbara Derringer, Joyce Bailey, Bob Herold and Fred Hippely.

Delegates to the 2002 Ohio Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting will be Joyce Bailey, Jeanne Rumburg, Fred Hippely and Jim Skeels. Susan Hippely will serve as an alternate.

About the Author

Former staff reporter Andrea Zippay wrote for Farm and Dairy from 2001 to 2009. More Stories by Andrea Zippay

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