This year’s distinguished service award at the Stark County Farm Bureau annual meeting went to Jim Tressel, a 13-year president of the county’s fair board.
Tressel and his wife, Nancy, own and operate a 123-acre farm and specialize in poultry. They have raised more than 2 million broilers in the last 17 years and also grow corn, soybeans and hay.
They have been married 49 years and are the parents of three adult children and eight grandchildren.
The Stark Farm Bureau presented the award Sept. 14 at the Hartville Kitchen. Members said Tressel “empowers the youth to strive for higher standards and to develop their strengths for their future leadership roles. He shows a positive and humble attitude and has earned respect as a leader in the community.”
Beyond his presidency, Tressel also has been a volunteer with committees and leadership roles at the fair for more than 30 years. He was part of the team who successfully secured grants for more than $610,000 for the renovation of the ten restrooms at the fair.
In addition to the fair and Farm Bureau, he has been active with Stark Soil and Water Conservation District, Crossroads Resource Conservation and Development Council, and his farm was selected for a tour for Israeli journalists and farmers in 2007.
In other matters, members approved Debbie Harsh as trustee in District II. Three at-large trustees were approved: Midge Brainerd, Kay Vaughan and Andy Wentling.
Five delegates were approved for the 2011 Ohio Farm Bureau annual meeting: John Brainerd, Midge Brainerd, Debbie Harsh, Jay Harsh and Andy Wentling.
The biggest topic of discussion was “the agreement —” a deal struck between Ohio’s farm groups and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation — to keep the Humane Society of the United States from submitting its signatures for a fall ballot initiative.
Pam Haley, Farm Bureau’s Northeast Ohio Women’s Trustee, said the agreement was a surprise even to herself, because she did not anticipate negotiating with HSUS, or that the parties would be able to agree.
She said the agreement ultimately saved millions of dollars in a campaign that preliminary polls showed, had about a 50-50 chance of succeeding — margins she explained where high risk.
A few disgruntled members shared their response to “the agreement,” one saying he absolutely opposed it and the state should have fought the activists, instead of conceding to what he called a minority group.
Cyndy Huntsman, who raises exotics at Stump Hill Farm, expressed frustration “the agreement” includes a recommendation to ban the keeping of exotics.
She estimated the recommendation could put her farm and others like it out of business — an economic loss to Ohio of about $2.5 million, she figured.
While some exotic owners may do it wrong, many others also do it right, she explained.
“We all have the black sheep of the family,” she said.
Haley took note of Huntsman’s arguments, but said the exotic portion of the agreement was not designed by Farm Bureau.
The assistant director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources — Rich Milleson — outlined some of ODNR’s programs for farmers and commended Farm Bureau for its work.
“This is democracy at its finest,” he said. This is the grassroots of all grassroots.”