Several years ago, I had the privilege of helping select a class of inductees into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame. A new group of influential individuals is enshrined each year during the Ohio State Fair. It’s been so long ago, I don’t even remember who was selected to be honored that year.
The one thing that sticks in my mind, however, is the level of community service and church involvement that ran deep in nearly each application. I remember thinking, “How could these successful individuals on the state, and even national level – inventors, pioneering farmers, educators – still find time to fulfill commitments in their own little communities?” There were movers and shakers who still were Sunday School teachers; there were bigwigs who cared enough to serve on tiny school boards; and there were agricultural giants who still served little ones as 4-H advisers.
Local pioneers. I was reminded of that observation this summer as I helped the Columbiana County Historical Society and the Columbiana County Agricultural Society write the biographies of the individuals selected for induction into the county agricultural hall of fame created in 2000. From the applications completed by friends and family members, I get an insider’s peak at the lives of seemingly ordinary individuals who worked quietly to accomplish some extraordinary things.
Last year, I remember being overwhelmed at the accomplishments of Edmond Lippincott, who founded Lippincott Dairy in 1913 to give area dairy farmers a closer outlet – and better price – for their milk. He set up a milk processing dairy, a milk purchasing station and established a milk delivery route. During the Depression, he traveled the long distance from Minerva to Columbus to compete against much bigger dairies with his dairy products – often winning. In those early years, his own farm’s herd competed at the Carroll County Fair – but the family had to drive them to the fairgrounds on foot.
The unseen accomplishments, however, are what stood out in my mind. Lippincott extended a long helping hand to many. As a township trustee and bank director, he often used his own money or influence to help a widow, an orphan or the poor.
Ralph Papania, one of this year’s Columbiana County Agricultural Hall of Fame enshrinees, would load up his produce during the Depression and take it to Pittsburgh to sell, but often sold it for less than the cost of the basket and, on the way home, would give away what he could not sell. Later, he was never too busy to lend a hand or share his farm resources to youth groups like 4-H, FFA or the Boy Scouts.
Working for others. Another 2002 inductee, Frank Bowman, looked beyond his farm and worked hard to improve roads in the early 1930s, and worked tirelessly to bring electricity to rural areas in Elkrun Township. We take roads and electricity for granted these days, but there are people like Bowman in your hometown, too – quiet people who cared and took the time to get involved in something that would improve the lives of his friends and neighbors.
It’s easy to be cynical today in our rush, rush, rush society and our stressed-out, schedule-driven lives. We can’t make a dent in the “system” today, everything’s too messed up. How can one person make a difference? Those old guys just had more time than we do today, we justify. Life was easier, simpler back then. Let someone else do it now. I don’t have time.
Most people, says Kent C. Nelson, former CEO of United Parcel Service, “end up losing out on the biggest prize of all. That prize is the joy of being an important part of something much larger than yourself. It is the comfort of knowing that your actions will touch the lives of others in a positive way. It is joining with other people in working toward worthwhile goals. It is a prize that has nothing to do with winning or making money. It has everything to do with life.”
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