CANFIELD, Ohio — The Mahoning County Agricultural Society is pleased to announce the inductees for the inaugural class of the Mahoning County Agricultural Hall of Fame. Darrel A. Bacon, Chester Bedell, Vernon E. Crouse, Eldon R. Groves, J. Paul Good, William B. Phillips, David and Joanna Witmer, and Paul D. Witmer will be inducted Aug. 31, on the Concourse Stage near the grandstand at the Canfield Fair.
This is the first of annual awards that will be made to men or women, husband and wife teams and partnerships either as farmers or contributors through an agricultural-related field.
The Mahoning County Agricultural Society desires to honor and give public recognition to those who have brought distinction to themselves, have made outstanding contributions to their professions, and whose community involvement has served as a stimulus to others.
David and Joanna Witmer
In July of 1977, a train derailment virtually destroyed the Columbiana Milling Co. This created a loss of milling and grain handling to support the local agricultural community.
Beaver Township farmer David Witmer and his wife Joanna immediately saw the need to fill this void, and on July 10, 1978, they opened the feed mill and grain facility to be known as Witmer’s Feed & Grain.
Since that humble beginning, they added fertilizer and agronomy products in the early 1980s and continuously grew their grain handling by adding bins and new facilities to handle well over 2 million bushels of grain and manufacture over 100,000 tons of feed today. David and Joanna held a strong belief in our youth in agriculture, and to benefit all rather than some, they became the sponsor for the show shirts worn by all exhibitors in the market classes at the Canfield Fair.
Darrel Bacon was a successful grain and dairy farmer, and the co-founder of Green Meadows Soil Service in New Springfield. Through his farming and service to the agricultural community, Bacon made sure that everyone around him had the most opportunities to succeed, the best arena in which to perform and the most support that could be provided.
Bacon was the head advisor for the Springfield Booster Boys 4-H club for 62 years. Bacon was also a founding member of the market livestock club in Mahoning County and served as its treasurer for 40 years. Along with these and many other extension-related committees, Bacon was inducted into the Ohio 4-H Hall of Fame.
Along with his farming duties, Bacon served on numerous farm bureau committees and served 22 years on the Canfield Fair Board overseeing the junior fair activities.
Beyond his service to agriculture, Bacon was a Springfield Township Trustee, a volunteer fireman, a member of the board of education, where he also was the clerk treasurer, bus coordinator and cafeteria supervisor for Springfield Local Schools. Bacon also served as Sunday school superintendent for over 60 years.
Born in 1909 in Green Township, Groves grew up and became a well-known and respected Jersey dairy farmer on his 100-acre farm. By 1934, Grove’s talents in agricultural journalism were showcased in Farm and Dairy in a column titled “Seems to me,” and in 1942 Groves was named editor of Farm and Dairy, a position he held until 1982.
Groves was the farm reporter for WFMJ for 25 years and also wrote a column called “Over the back fence” for the Ohio Farmer magazine from 1949-1991. Throughout his career, Groves founded and was the editor for seven agricultural publications, and was a columnist for many other state and national agricultural publications.
Groves served as a Canfield Fairboard member from 1957-1979. In 1979, he was enshrined into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame as well as earned the honorary state degree from the Ohio FFA.
Born in Beaver Township in 1930, Good grew up on the family farm located on Route 224 at South Avenue. After college, Good joined his father in running Good Farm Equipment in Canfield. In 1963, Good started his career as the executive director for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service in Mahoning County. Later his position was enlarged to add Columbiana County.
Agricultural education was held in high importance to Good, and he was instrumental in planning the Mahoning County Joint Vocational School to be certain the curriculum would include agricultural programing. Good went on to serve on the board of education for the vocational school today known as MCCTC.
He was also passionate about telling agricultural stories and produced the “Good Report” on WBBW radio, airing each morning from his home.
Born in 1894, Crouse grew up on his Beaver Township farm where his family raised crops and sheep. Crouse was a member of the Canfield Fairboard for 28 years. He is credited with many ideas that have preserved the agricultural heritage of the fair, like building the first 4-H club building, the formation of the junior fair, youth day and the livestock parade.
Crouse was instrumental in starting the “Pig Iron Derby,” the high school band concert, shuttle bus service, the trailer campgrounds, Sunday church service, the quilting demonstrations and exhibits and moving the fair east toward the new race track.
Crouse held a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from Ohio State University and was very active in the granges in Mahoning County.
Born in Columbiana in 1906, Paul Witmer started farming and selling farm equipment in the 1920s. In 1929, Witmer and his father, I.B. Witmer purchased the farm on Green Beaver Road in Green Township. It was on this farm that Witmer began his Brown Swiss dairy operation as well as the John Deere dealership which would become one of the largest in the state.
The dairy farm came to be known as Rolling Meadows Farm, consisting of 300 acres and a herd of over 100 registered Brown Swiss Cattle. This farm is still being operated by the family today nearly 100 years later.
Paul Witmer and Sons dealership displayed machinery at the Canfield Fair from the 1940s until the mid-1990s. Many young ‘future farmers’ have memories of getting a farm toy at the fair. Witmer also shared his skills by writing a column in Farm and Dairy through the 1950s titled “Man on a Fence.” Witmer was active in the Ohio and National Brown Swiss Associations, where he served as president.
Born in 1924, Bill Phillips may be one of the most recognized names in Mahoning County agriculture. In 1956, Phillips began his 32-year career as the county extension agent in Mahoning County. Phillips was very active in providing educational opportunities for all aspects of farming.
Each year he would conduct hands-on programs for dairy farmers, fruit growers, landscapers and vegetable farmers as well as many other agricultural specialties. Bill, as everyone knew him, was always accessible to help everyone, be it in person, in classes, by phone, newsletter, in news articles or leading on-site tours.
Phillips is credited with organizing the annual urban farm tour, providing a platform for those from the city to tour local farms and gain knowledge of farming operations. His community service, activities, and honors are many and indeed distinguished, however, one of his most proud memories was his time serving in the Army Air Corp. in World War II.
Born in 1826, Chester Bedell’s family moved from New Jersey to the area now known as Berlin Township, Mahoning County, Ohio. Bedell grew up under pioneer conditions. While schooling was nothing like today’s standards, Bedell found ways to ensure his development and became very intellectually competent.
Bedell operated a crop and livestock farm in Berlin Township, and he made trips annually to Chicago to buy cattle. Bedell’s land ownership grew to about 1,700 acres, making him the largest land owner in Mahoning County.
Bedell was looked upon as a leader in the agriculture and livestock industries, and his old homestead was always open to extend a cordial welcome to the many friends of the family. Bedell’s farm was reported to have housed 1,000 sheep, 300 cattle and 100 hogs, along with numerous horses and fowl. He also operated a clay tile pottery in Berlin Township.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!