COLUMBUS — Three leaders in Ohio agriculture received the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Distinguished Service Awards Nov. 29 during the group’s annual meeting.
The honorees are conservation champion Dave Brandt, ag educator Bill Diley and public servant Steve Maurer.
Dave Brandt, of Carroll, Ohio, grew up on a family farm and was active in 4-H and FFA. He served in the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. Upon his return he began farming, raising dairy cattle, hogs and crops.
He became active in the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District and later was employed to help farmers develop conservation plans and learn no-till techniques.
He takes his message about the value of reduced tillage, cover crops and development of healthy soils to farms throughout the United States and welcomes visitors to his farm to see the latest research in conservation measures.
Among his many awards are Ohio Agriculture Man of the Year, Ohio Conservation Farmer of the Year and the Friend of Public Education.
Bill Diley, of Fayette County, is best known for his more than 36 years as vocational agriculture instructor in the Miami Trace school system. His FFA chapters regularly attained top 10 status in Ohio and received the National Gold Emblem Award on numerous occasions.
He has helped guide the success of the Fayette County Fair for 46 years, and was the Ohio State Fair’s junior fair dairy superintendent for 22 years and assistant superintendent for its senior fair for 24 years.
He also is involved with the family dairy farm, which has been an influential part of state and national American Jersey Cattle Association activities.
Working for farmers
Steve Maurer is a longtime public servant associated with Ohio’s agricultural community. He grew up in rural Shelby County and is a graduate of Ohio State University.
He started his public service at age 22, when he was elected mayor of Botkins. He later served in the Ohio Senate, chairing the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Economic Development. One of his legislative accomplishments created the state’s Agricultural Linked Deposits program.
He is a past director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture and also served as the agency’s assistant director. He twice served as executive director of the Ohio Farm Service Agency, first under U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, and now under Secretary Tom Vilsack.
During the annual meeting, Brad Heimerl of Johnstown won the state discussion meet. The annual contest tests participants’ subject knowledge, problem-solving abilities and personal and small group communications skills.
This year’s topics included farm labor and immigration policies, and strategies to keep young people in agriculture.
Heimerl won a $1,000 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Jan 13-16, where he will represent Ohio in the national competition.
Heimerl is a member of Licking County Farm Bureau, where he serves as a county board trustee. He works full-time on his family’s farm where they raise grain crops, beef cattle, pigs and operate a trucking fleet.
The other finalists were Christen Clemson of Cortland, Jon Hensler of Jackson and Lynnsey Schemerich of Orient.
Also recognized during the OFBF convention were the group’s Outstanding Young Farmer, Erik Scott of Georgetown and its Excellence in Agriculture Award winner Greg McGlinch of Versailles. Scott and McGlinch’s awards were announced in October.
Both will represent Ohio in competition at the AFBF meeting.
The work of county Farm Bureau leaders and volunteers was recognized through County Achievement Awards.
County Farm Bureau programming in the areas of communications, food and animal issues, organization and public policy were judged by county Farm Bureau member-volunteers from throughout the state in early November.
Winners of the President’s Award were Carroll, Delaware, Harrison and Tuscarawas counties. The President’s Award signifies outstanding accomplishment across all program areas.
Gold Awards for Communications went to Crawford, Jefferson, Tuscarawas and Van Wert counties. Silver Communications awards went to Brown, Erie, Henry and Medina counties.
Bronze awards went to Carroll, Hancock, Harrison and Wayne County Farm Bureaus.
Food and Animal Issues Gold Awards were presented to Carroll, Franklin, Harrison and Tuscarawas counties.
Silver Awards went to Hancock, Paulding, Putnam and Wayne counties. Bronze Awards went to Allen, Butler, Muskingum and Van Wert counties.
Organizational Gold Awards went to Butler, Carroll, Harrison and Tuscarawas counties. Silver winners were Hancock, Huron, Jefferson and Van Wert counties.
Winning Bronze were Highland, Medina, Paulding and Ross County Farm Bureaus.
Public Policy Gold Awards went to Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties. Silver winners were Butler, Hancock, Paulding and Putnam counties.
Bronze winners were Delaware, Erie, Huron and Van Wert counties.
Collaboration awards. In addition to the programming-based awards, a special award was provided to counties who worked collaboratively to accomplish shared goals. The Collaboration Award was presented for three local projects.
Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas County Farm Bureaus were recognized for a project that helped recycle farm plastics and another that focused on protecting property rights during oil and gas leasing.
Paulding and Van Wert County Farm Bureaus were recognized for their Kids Dream Day and Farm Tour, which focused on connecting the community to local farmers.
Officer, trustee elections
Steve Hirsch, of Chillicothe, was re-elected OFBF president during the annual meeting.
Hirsch also represents Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway and Ross counties as the 15th District trustee, and is a 19-year member of Ross County Farm Bureau.
Hirsch, who holds a degree in business administration from the University of Dayton, farms with his father, brother and cousin producing apples, peaches, grapes, strawberries, raspberries and other crops. They also operate a retail farm market and a cider pressing facility.
Sparky Weilnau of Milan was re-elected first vice president. He also serves as trustee for District 3, representing members from Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron and Lorain counties.
Weilnau produces popcorn, field corn, soybeans and wheat, and is a 36-year member of Erie County Farm Bureau. Additionally, Weilnau was an Erie County commissioner, township trustee and is a member of the Erie County Planning Commission.
Frank Burkett III of Massillon has been re-elected OFBF treasurer, and also re-elected to the group’s board of trustees, representing Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties.
Burkett, in partnership with three uncles, co-owns and manages Clardale Farms, Inc. He received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Ohio State University with a major in agricultural systems management and a minor in agricultural economics.
Newly elected to the board are Cy Prettyman, of New Bloomington, representing Crawford, Marion, Morrow and Richland counties; and Eddie Lou Meimer, of Mount Gilead, who will serve as a women’s trustee, representing 24 counties in northwestern Ohio.
Re-elected to the board are: Daryl Knipp, of Lindsey, representing Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood counties; Bill Patterson, of Chesterland, representing Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties; Paul Davidson, of Newark, representing Coshocton, Holmes, Knox and Licking counties; Jim Swingle, of Philo, representing Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Perry counties; Tim Williams, Piketon, representing Jackson, Pike, Scioto and Vinton counties; Joyce Payne, Waterloo, representing Athens, Gallia, Lawrence and Meigs counties; and Pam Haley, West Salem, representing 20 northeastern Ohio counties as women’s trustee.