Portage Co. SWCD: With this man, there’s laughter

KENT, Ohio – If you would’ve walked into the Portage County Soil and Water Conservation District annual meeting Oct. 6, you might have thought you were walking onto the set of Comedy Central.
Rather than praise award winner Carl Rufener, they roasted him instead.
Stories about his great business skills: Never opening a single bill, never balancing his checkbook, never cleaning his desk. But still managing to run a profitable farm.
Stories about his great people skills: Falling asleep in the front row during an inspirational speech by an Olympic gold-medal winner. Of course his friends in the conservation district snuck out, leaving him alone in the by-then empty auditorium … but not before they took pictures.
Stories about his great farming skills: Swearing by a new bath to help injured cows that he finally admitted probably ended up hurting more than helping.
“You don’t have to make this stuff up when it comes to Carl,” said James Bierlair, district coordinator. “It just happens.”
New honors. But despite these humorous stories, Carl Rufener left such an impression on these people that they decided to upgrade their annual Outstanding Conservationist award to a Distinguished Service award specifically to honor this man.
Rufener is wrapping up his final year on the board, after serving for three decades. That makes him the longest-serving board member since the district’s inception in 1947, when Rufener’s father, Carl Sr., was a founding member.
With the district, Rufener logged almost 2,000 hours attending various conservation meetings. He also served as chairman for 21 years.
Rufener, however, isn’t only promoting conservation practices to others, he also practices them on his 1,400-acre grain farm in Suffield, Ohio.
“I’ve probably learned more from being on the board than you’ve learned from me,” he told the group.
He was one of the first farmers in the county to try no-till farming and now all of his fields are done this way.
“I’d quit farming before I’d quit no-tilling,” he said.
It saves on fuel costs and it’s better for the land, plus it’s easier, he laughed. He has also installed waterways and water control structures.
In addition, Rufener has a milk hauling business and does custom combining and harvesting.
Education. In other conservation news, district educator Jennifer White said school programming remains strong, even with the schools’ tight budgets.
This year, more than 20 local classes adopted a stream in Portage County and agreed to monitor it twice a year for macroinvertebrates.
In addition, teacher workshops on soil erosion, storm water management and water quality are expanding, White said.
She also congratulated Ravenna High School for being the county’s highest-scoring school in the area Envirothon, where 400 students from more than 80 schools in northeastern Ohio participated.
Portage County also hosted the state Envirothon in June at Hiram College.
In other news. Coordinator Bierlair said the district helped install several concrete pads this year and more than 250 acres have been planted using the district’s no-till drill. Bierlair said the district may consider selling the drill next year.
The popular tree seedling packet program sold more than 46,630 trees and shrubs to area residents. And in the fish stocking/white amur carp program, 2,888 fish were sold.
More than 1,000 fifth-graders participated in the annual conservation poster contest. Andrea Knapp, from Waterloo Primary, won first place. She was followed by Hannah Sane, second; Emily Harsh, third; Rachael Kolke, fourth; and Ashley Fortson, honorable mention.
Four $250 Mason McConnell Book Scholarships went to Kimberly Huter, Thomas Gaydos Jr., Luke Spisak and Crystal Cherry.
Kenny Rufener and Warren Tisher were elected to the board.
Geauga County extension ag educator Randy James gave a talk on “Why do cows learn Dutch?”
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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