Ohio Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award winners included (seated, L-R) Esther Welch, of Ashland County; Sarah James, of Butler County; and Jim Buchy, of Darke County. Micki Zartman of Franklin County received the group’s Agricultural Educator Award.
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CINCINNATI — One called her marriage a “Farm Bureau merger.” Another said her daughters called her “Mrs. Farm Bureau.”
As Ohio Farm Bureau President Brent Porteus read the lists of volunteer efforts and leadership accomplishments of this year’s Distinguished Service Award winners — Sarah James of Butler County, Esther Welch of Ashland County, and Jim Buchy of Darke County — it was clear to see why the trio was honored.
The “grand dame” of Ohio’s ag communicators, Esther Welch was recognized for her role as a reporter to local newspapers and contributor to farm publications, including Successful Farming, and currently as editor of Ohio Holstein News, as well as her leadership as a Farm Bureau volunteer.
The Welch family operates U-Dean Farms near Polk, in Ashland County, and the family has long been linked to the Ohio Farm Bureau.
In her acceptance speech, Welch presented the OFB with a group photograph that included her father-in-law from the 1949 state annual meeting. And Welch called her marriage to Eugene a “Farm Bureau merger,” saying the romance blossomed at Farm Bureau youth council activities “when there was very little youth activities and a lot of square dancing going on.”
Welch has also served as a volunteer and leader for Buckeye Dairy Boosters, Ohio State University Extension and advisory council and OARDC support committees, Ashland County Board of Education and Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center Board of Education, all while volunteering in various Farm Bureau leadership roles.
Welch has been recognized for her commitment to the agriculture community with many other awards, including: the Ohio State University Dairy Science Hall of Service award; World Dairy Expo Dairy Woman of the Year; Ohio Holstein Association Distinguished Service Award; and enshrinement in the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Jim Buchy of Darke County, president and CEO of Buchy Food Service, served 18 years in the Ohio General Assembly where he held several leadership roles including the assistant majority floor leader, assistant majority whip and majority whip.
He was a key mover of S.B. 141, the original bill to transfer oversight of permitting livestock operations to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
“I eat, sleep and drink agriculture,” Buchy declared in his acceptance comments.
Sarah James of Butler County served 37 years as an active volunteer for the Butler County 4-H program. She also served as a committee member, president and secretary of the county Extension Advisory Committee, and has received the Ohio 4-H Meritorious Service Award and is enshrined in the Ohio 4-H Hall of Fame.
James has also been an active member of Butler County Farm Bureau for more than 42 years, providing so much time and leadership to the group that her daughters called her “Mrs. Farm Bureau” while they were growing up.
She served on the board of trustees, as advisory council chairperson and chair of the county women’s committee. She also originated the Butler County Ag in the Classroom program.
Ag educator award
Micki Zartman of Franklin County received the Ohio Farm Bureau’s 2009 Agricultural Educator Award.
She founded Scarlet and Gray Ag Day at Ohio State University in 1999, which is an outreach program that brings elementary students to campus to learn about agriculture.
In the past 10 years, more than 6,000 elementary students have participated, and more than 1,000 Ohio State students have been involved.
She has been honored by numerous Ohio State affiliated clubs and organizations for her dedication to enhancing awareness of and appreciation for the agricultural industry, and in 2007, the event was renamed the Micki Zartman Scarlet and Gray Ag Day.
Brandon and Julie Weber of Jackson County won the statewide Outstanding Young Farmer award. The eighth generation farmers raise tomatoes in high tunnel greenhouses, as well as other vegetables and pumpkins. They also host farm tours, and created a corn maze and other agritourism events on their vegetable farm.
In addition to the Webers, finalists included Kyle Brown, of Marion, and Jay Holden, of Mount Orab.
The Webers will represent Ohio in the national competition in January.
Cassandra Palsgrove of Pickerington won the farm group’s 2009 Discussion Meet. Other finalists were Pam Haley, of West Salem; Andrew Spiker, of Adamsville; and Kelly Staley of Fredericktown.
Palsgrove, who teaches agricultural education at Bloom Carroll High School, won an expense-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Seattle in January to represent Ohio in the national contest.
The contest tests participants’ subject knowledge, problem-solving abilities and personal and small group communications skills.
Excellence in Agriculture
Andy Vance and Lindsay Hill of DeGraff won the Excellence in Agriculture Award, which recognizes individuals under 35 who are involved in farming but whose primary occupations are not farming. The couple owns and operates the ABN, Ohio’s oldest agricultural radio news network.
Other finalists in the Ohio contest were Scott and Tracie Isler of Prospect, Matthew and Kristin Reese of Baltimore and Chip and Shannon Yochum of Leesburg.
Vance and Hill will represent Ohio in the national Excellence in Agriculture Award competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Seattle in January.