Ohio Farm Bureau award winners illustrate breadth of agriculture


ABOVE: Matt and Rachel Heimerl, of Johnstown, won the Outstanding Young Farmer Award and will compete in the national contest at the AFBF annual meeting in Hawaii in January. The Heimerls raise hogs and manage a trucking business and feed mill on their Licking County Farm.

(Scroll down to see more photos of the award winners.)

COLUMBUS — “Agriculture has been my focus my entire life.”

Atty. Paul Wright’s comment while accepting his Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Dec. 1 could’ve been repeated by any of the other four Ohio agriculture leaders honored for their life’s passion during the group’s 93nd annual meeting.

In addition to Wright, Distinguished Service Awards were presented to longtime Nationwide agent Fred Pursley and community leader Howard Skiles. Judy Roush received the Agriculture Cooperative Educator Award, and Lindsay Hill was posthumously honored with the Agricultural Communicator Award.


Paul Wright’s career includes 29 years of service with Ohio State University Extension, as county 4-H educator, and later farm management and law specialist. He earned his law degree from the University of Toledo in 1978, and retired from Ohio State University in 1988 as an associate professor.

Today, he continues to practice law and is the founder of Wright Law Company LPA, of Dublin.

Wright has received numerous awards and recognition including the Distinguished Service Award from the American Agricultural Law Association and the Ohio State University Distinguished Alumni Award. He was inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2006.


When you consider Fred Pursley attended his first Ohio Farm Bureau annual meeting 61 years ago, in 1950, and that he knew Farm Bureau founding father Murray Lincoln, it’s not surprising that his life’s work merited the Distinguished Service Award.

Pursley graduated with a bachelor’s degree in vocational agriculture from Ohio State University in 1945 and was hired by the Hamilton County Farm Bureau in 1947. In 1956, he became a Nationwide Insurance agent, a job he continued until 1989. For several years, Pursley earned the Ambassador Award from the Warren County Farm Bureau for recruiting new members.

He has been involved in several community organizations including the Optimist Club and Lions Club and has been a volunteer for the Ohio Reads program.


Many years ago, when Howard Skiles was just starting farming near Bryan, Ohio, in Williams County, he recalls a car pulling into the drive, and two men getting out to encourage him to join the local Farm Bureau.

“Well, I didn’t know anything about Farm Bureau, and I couldn’t get rid of them, so I handed them five dollars,” and joined, Skiles said during his acceptance speech Dec. 1.

Since that day, Skiles assumed many leadership roles, serving on the local school board, county Farm Bureau board, Landmark Cooperative board, Ohio Farm Bureau board of trustees, as well as the Maumee Valley and state Resource Conservation and Development Boards. He has also served as a county commissioner.


Even during her acceptance speech, Judy Roush, winner of the Agriculture Cooperative Educator award, continued her “cheerleading” for ag education. She challenged the audience to commit to telling someone where food comes from — “tomorrow, or, at the latest, the next day.”

Roush, who works with her husband on the family’s farm in Pickaway County, helped organize and then worked for the Ohio Agriculture Awareness Council, promoting agriculture in the classroom around the state. In 1992, Ohio Farm Bureau took over administrative duties of the council, which brought Roush to the organization.

She was on Ohio Farm Bureau’s development team for the COSI on Wheels Agriculture Adventures mobile unit, which reached an estimated 482,000 students at 1,183 events.

Roush has held many leadership positions including president of the National Agriculture in the Classroom Consortium, and received an honorary state FFA degree and the VIP award from ABN Radio and Television.

Lindsay Hill

The Ohio Farm Bureau presented its Agriculture Communicator Award posthumously to Lindsay Hill, of DeGraff, who died last May in a traffic accident.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in agriculture communications, Hill started her career working for the late Ed Johnson of ABN. At age 25, Hill co-founded the Buckeye Ag Radio Network, which eventually acquired ABN. She later joined the AgDay and U.S. Farm Report television broadcast team and also served as co-host of Ohio Farm Bureau’s television program Ohio Farm and Country.

Hill was elected president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, the youngest person to hold this position, and was recently inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.

Accepting the honor on his daughter’s behalf, Lowell Hill said farm broadcasting and communicating was “Lindsay’s passion.”

“You know Lindsay loved agriculture and loved to tell the story of agriculture.”

Young farmer award

Matt and Rachel Heimerl, of Johnstown, won the 2011 Outstanding Young Farmer Award.

The Heimerls raise hogs and manage their own trucking business and feed mill on their Licking County farm. They have served as chairs of the Ohio Farm Bureau Young Agricultural Professionals Advisory Team, are both alumni of OFBF’s AgriPOWER Institute leadership program, the DuPont Young Leaders program and are members of the American and Ohio Soybean Associations and the Pork Producers Council.

The Heimerls also serve as agriculture spokespersons and are active as 4-H advisers. Both are graduates of Ohio State University.

The couple will compete in the national contest at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual meeting in Honolulu in January.

Story Continues Below Photos (click on photo to read identification)

Excellence in Agriculture

Scott and Tracie Isler, of Prospect, won the Excellence in Agriculture contest, and will receive an expense-paid trip to Honolulu to compete during the annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation in January.

The couple raises swine, corn, soybeans and wheat on their Marion County farm, where Scott serves as the swine production manager for the family enterprise. He is also heavily involved in improving swine genetics. Tracie is a second grade teacher.

The Islers are past chairs of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals Advisory Team, are graduates of the OFBF AgriPOWER Institute leadership program and have been involved with the Ohio Pork Producers, an assisted living beautification project and student mentor programs.

Both are graduates of Ohio State University.

Discussion meet

Shelby Brammell, of Kenton, won the two rounds of the state discussion meet held during the annual meeting and will now compete at the national competition in Hawaii in January.

The annual contest tests young professionals’ subject knowledge, problem solving abilities and personal and small group communications skills.

Brammell is a graduate of Ohio State University and now teaches agriculture and advises the FFA chapter in the Kenton school system.

County awards

Individual county Farm Bureau programming in the areas of communications, food and animal issues, organization and public policy were judged by county Farm Bureau member-volunteers.

Winners of the President’s Award, which signifies outstanding accomplishment across all program areas, were Carroll, Delaware, Harrison and Muskingum County Farm Bureaus.

The President’s Award Excellence Awards for Communications went to Ashland, Carroll, Coshocton, Defiance, Delaware, Geauga, Harrison, Logan, Pike, Scioto, Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

Food and Animal Issues Excellence Awards were presented to Ashland, Carroll, Delaware, Geauga, Hancock, Hardin, Harrison, Holmes, Logan, Morrow, Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

Receiving Excellence Awards for organizational work were Ashtabula, Carroll, Geauga, Hancock, Harrison, Holmes, Jackson/Vinton, Logan, Muskingum, Portage, Scioto and Stark counties.

Public Policy Excellence Awards went to Ashtabula, Carroll, Coshocton, Delaware, Geauga, Logan, Morrow, Paulding, Portage, Preble, Scioto and Tuscarawas counties.

In addition to the programming-based awards, nine county Farm Bureaus were recognized for new or unique activities. These include Ashland, Carroll, Darke, Hamilton, Harrison, Jackson/Vinton, Mahoning, Medina, and Shelby counties.

Trustees, officers elected

Steve Hirsch, of Chillicothe, was re-elected president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and will serve his first full one-year term after becoming president this past April during a special election.

Hirsch, who represents Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway and Ross counties, previously served as OFBF’s first vice president.

Sparky Weilnau, of Milan, was re-elected to represent members from Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron and Lorain counties, and has been elected first vice president.

Weilnau served as first vice president from 2004-06, then was re-elected to the position this past April during a special election. Previously he served as treasurer from 2001-03. He has served as a trustee since 1996.

Frank Burkett III, of Massillon, was elected treasurer, and remains District 9 trustee, representing Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties.

Burkett replaces Keith Truckor, who remains on the board but has retired as treasurer.

Newly elected trustees include Jeff Wuebker, of Versailles, who will represent Champaign, Clark, Darke and Miami counties; James W. (Bill) Patterson, of Chesterland, representing Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties; Lane Osswald, of Eldorado, representing Butler, Hamilton, Montgomery and Preble counties; Katherine Harrison, of Canal Winchester, representing Delaware, Franklin, Madison and Union counties; and Roger Baker, of Wooster, representing Ashland, Medina, Summit and Wayne counties.

Patty DeBruin, of Millersport, and Allen Miller, of Marietta, were both re-elected to the board.

State trustees who opted not to seek re-election were Steve Hess, who retired after 15 years on the board; Chuck Lausin, who served 11 years; Randy Leis who retired after 18 years; Bill Lowe, who served nine years; and Bob Slicker who retired after 12 years on the board.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.