Hall of famers remind us that agriculture is more than farming

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Ohio Ag Hall of Fame inductees
The 2016 class of inductees into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame include (L-R) Jack Fisher, retired executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation; Dick Isler, retired executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council; Tim White, veteran ag journalist and retired editor of Ohio Farmer; and Keith Smith, retired director of OSU Extension, whose award was accepted by his children Briana Smith and Austin Smith. Smith was unable to attend the Aug. 5 induction ceremony at the Ohio State Fair. (Susan Crowell photo)

I attended the Ohio Agricultural Council’s Hall of Fame Breakfast Aug. 5 at the Ohio State Fair to honor this year’s four inductees: Jack Fisher, who just retired after 20 years as executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation; Dick Isler, who served more than 40 years as executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council; Dr. Keith Smith, who retired last year as director of the Ohio State University Extension, a role he held since 1992; and Tim White, who started his career in ag journalism at Ohio Farmer, then wrote for Successful Farming, and the Columbus Dispatch, before rejoining Ohio Farmer in 1991 as editor. He retired in 2015.

These men helped build a better ag world over the course of their careers, and we’ve all benefited.

As I skimmed the booklet that listed the previous inductees and their area of expertise, I was struck by the enormity of what these people collectively contributed to agriculture in the Buckeye State and beyond. They were farmers, educators, researchers, horticulturists, administrators, communicators, government leaders, veterinarians, conservationists, inventors and geneticists. Farm and Dairy’s own Elden R. Groves, who was editor for more than 40 years, was enshrined in 1979.

Dick Isler, Hall of Fame(As an aside, if you get a chance to visit the state fairgrounds, be sure to go inside the new Cardinal Hall, home to the ag hall of fame. It’s a beautiful facility that has a new interactive, electronic display of the hall of fame winners over the years. You can touch a screen to read more about an individual’s accomplishments. Very cool.)

Earlier this summer, I had the honor of writing the biographies of the Columbiana County Agricultural Hall of Fame enshrinees for 2016, a task I’ve willingly done since the HOF was created in 2000. This year’s inductees were Jim Baer, Walter Boyd, Wilma Lippincott and Art Rudebock — two farmers, an auctioneer and a conservationist and tree farmer.Columbiana County ag hof 2016 inductees

Again, very different roles within agriculture, but each contributed hugely. There are many in your own counties just like them.

There is no one path to a career in agriculture. No matter what an individual’s skill set is, there is some job within the industry — the community — that matches it. We need engineers, food scientists, bug fanatics, lawyers, teachers, marketers, policy gurus, even community activists.

“There’s a wonderful world of agriculture out there that students can jump into,” said hall of famer Keith Smith in his video acceptance speech. And he’s right.

This morning, I also picked up the August issue of the Jersey Journal, and read some of the highlights from their recent annual meeting. During the meeting, Charles Ahlem, dairy farmer and co-founder of Hilmar Cheese Co. in California, received the breed association’s Distinguished Service Award, and some of his comments emphasized what I’m trying to say:

“I see a lot of the youth out here tonight, a lot of you uncertain of your future. You can be just as important or more valuable than being on the farm to the Jersey breed by being that chemical engineer finding those new uses for the proteins that we have. Or being a professor teaching new ideas to develop, like genomics.

“When I came home, we had a guy named Dennis Erpelding who was our Jersey Cattle Club field man. He’s now worldwide leader for Elanco in governmental affairs. He’s one defending the industry to preserve our use of antibiotics. That could be any one of you. Maybe you’re not on a farm, but you can serve a much more valuable role if you have that ability to serve.”

Don’t get me wrong, we need growers and farmers. We need the boots out in the barns and in the fields. They are the most important link in the food and farm chain. But they can’t do it alone — never have, never will. We need the best and brightest in all of ag’s connections.

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By Susan Crowell

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