Staying engaged: Zippy Duvall shares powerful message to Ohio farmers

American Farm Bureau president visits with Ohio Farm Bureau leaders

Zippy Duvall
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall stressed the importance of all Farm Bureau members to reengage with legislators to make their voices heard during the Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents’ Trip March 14. “If we disengage from this country, we will lose it,” he said. “If you don’t answer the call — nothing is going to happen.” (Catie Noyes photo)

WASHINGTON — One of the highlights for many Ohio Farm Bureau leaders, who traveled to D.C. March 13-15, was a surprise visit from American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.

(Duvall was elected in January of 2016, during the AFBF annual convention.)

He gave a speech that showed a lot of optimism for the future of agriculture under the new administration. He said he personally knows the nominee for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and said “he is a good man.”

But it was a personal story that Duvall shared with Farm Bureau members in the room that revealed a lot about his character. He reflected on re-engaging with his own spirituality and finding time to break away from the busy farm life and reconnect with a neighbor in need.

A neighbor in need

The neighbor had a son who was born with spina bifida. For months, Duvall had neglected to visit with his neighbor because there was just so much work to be done on the farm.

One day — after Duvall got word that the young boy was not doing so well — he had been doing his daily chores, but everything seemed to be going wrong that morning. When he came into the house that afternoon, he decided the evening chores could wait. He was going to visit his neighbor.

Zippy Duvall
Ohio Farm Bureau leaders listen to American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, who made a surprise appearance during the OFBF County Presidents’ Trip March 14.

When he arrived, paramedics and family were all gathered around the young boy as he struggled to breathe. Duvall just sat on the couch — “nobody knew I was there, but it wasn’t about me.”

When the young boy’s breathing was restored, the boy’s father turned to see Duvall sitting on the couch. He simply looked at Duvall and asked that they go somewhere. So they went out to the fields and picked up hay bales, “because it was what he wanted to do.”

As they were out in the field, the boy’s father turned to Duvall and said, “I’m losing my faith.” These were powerful words to Duvall, who had himself been neglecting his faith because farm life was just too busy.


Something in the way his friend spoke those words to him and the way he showed his gratitude for a friend and neighbor being there that day for him, really hit home for Duvall.

The young boy died not long after that visit, at the young age of 15. But from that day on, Duvall worked to find time to break away from his chores and be a better neighbor and restore his own faith in God.

He used this story to encourage Ohio Farm Bureau members to re-engage with their legislators to make sure their voice is heard. “If we disengage from this country, we will lose it,” he said. “If you don’t answer the call — nothing is going to happen.”

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan echoed those sentiments in his own speech to Ohio Farm Bureau members the next day. “…if you are not here sharing your concerns, sharing your stories, they’re not heard.”


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Catie Noyes lives in Ashland County and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture communications from The Ohio State University. She enjoys photography, softball and sharing stories about agriculture. Formerly a reporter for the Farm and Dairy, Catie is now pursuing her master's degree in education.


  1. What a heartfelt story and Mr. Duvall opened the closed mind’s of folks who put work ahead of God and sometimes family only harming themselves and loved ones. I honestly did not think this hit the farmers so that was news to me. My condolences go out to the father who lost his 15 year old as that is tough. My past job consumed me for 10 years and I also went through something similar, but at 65 I have the opportunity to mend the hurts I caused. I want to thank Mr.Duvall again for reminding all of us that what life is all about and work comes in at a distant number three.


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