Farm Bureau reflects on past, honors present

RAVENNA, Ohio – Sure, Farm Bureau has a rich history with lifelong members and devoted volunteers, but not all of them can prove it.

Ken Royer can.

Members attending Portage County’s annual meeting Sept. 30 were asked to bring their oldest Farm Bureau memorabilia. Royer, of Randolph Township, showed up with his new member agreement from Jan. 1, 1957.

All those years ago, Royer pledged to support Farm Bureau’s policies, which then included achieving a sound farm program, increasing farm income and having a loud voice in agriculture.

Although much of agriculture changed since 1957, Farm Bureau’s vision has not.

Gless gets glory. Two members in particular who hold true to that vision received Farm Bureau’s highest honor: the Distinguished Service award. Ray and Helen Gless of Rootstown, Ohio, took home that coveted distinction.

Proving her dedication to Farm Bureau, Helen came to the meeting although she just returned from her sister’s funeral the previous day and had to attend a school board meeting during part of the Farm Bureau banquet.

Ray and Helen have approximately 90 acres, which they’ve farmed themselves and also leased to other farmers. In addition, Ray is retired from Chrysler Corporation and is a World War II veteran. Helen is retired from the Rootstown Post Office.

They have three children, Raymond, Robert and Rose Marie Hart; and 11 grandchildren.

The couple plays an active role in Farm Bureau, as well as in their community, including Helen’s 30 years on the county school board.

Both are members of St. Peter of the Fields Church in Rootstown, where they teach classes. The also enjoy gardening and teaching others about agriculture.

Recognition. Another person still carrying the torch of Farm Bureau’s 1957 mantra is Organizational Director Joanne Menning. Menning was recognized for having all the committees in Portage County receive star awards.

Each of the four counties Menning oversees received the highest number of star awards possible.

Star award recipients included Gordon Weber, government affairs; Jim Donovan and Robert Winkler, safety; Fred Neiss, advisory council; Elaine Wagner, youth; Eleanor McConnell, information; Sue Kline, marketing; Peg and Ken Royer and Cal Brant, membership; Helen and Ray Gless, promotion and education; Aaron Harnar, ag ecology; and Gordon Weber, policy development.

Elections, policies. Trustees elected to two-year terms include Cal Brant, Gail Boldizsar, Wayne Biltz, Alan Loos, Ken Royer and Bob Ebie. Those elected to one-year terms were Karin Bergener and Aaron Harnar.

Bob and Midge Ebie and Aaron Harnar are delegates for the 2004 state annual meeting.

Proposed local policies include enforcement of trespassing laws, support of farmland preservation, education of local zoning officials for agricultural exemptions, intersection visibility and open-space conservation zoning.

Eliminating property tax to support school funding, firearms regulations and large license plates on all-terrain vehicles were included in proposed state policies.

On the national level, proposed policies include keeping Social Security funds intact, revising the H2A program, supporting the United States’ strength in World Trade Organization negotiations, limiting campaign financing and using reflective tape on all railroad cars.

Looking back. Although Ken Royer’s 1957 membership agreement was a flashback to Farm Bureau’s earlier days, it wasn’t the oldest memento at the banquet. Instead, Dan Kamburoff took home the memorabilia award for his 1938 issue of Farm Bureau Magazine.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)ˇ

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