It’s hard to find anything more inspiring than the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame breakfast held every year at the Ohio State Fair. The event is sponsored by the Ohio Agricultural Council and attended by around 500 leaders of the state’s No. 1 industry. It is not only a chance to salute the four honorees, but a time to say hello to so many who have spent their careers serving agriculture along with the movers and shakers influencing the industry today.
I was pleased to be invited by Robert Teater, former director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and his wife Dorothy to support Larry Vance, who was inducted in the hall for his long time work in soil and water conservation. I was honored to be joined at our table by Chuck Ingraham and Norma Pitts as well as Gary and Diane Mast and David Hanselmann, chief of ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources.
However, I was just as humbled to be able to applaud for Fred Dailey, who served as director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture for 16 years, Guy Flora, publisher of The Shepherd and a nationally recognized leader in the sheep industry and the late Mary Lou Pfeiffer Saunway, who turned her expertise at speaking to the Farmer’s Institute into a career in radio broadcasting.
Although Mary Lou is the only one of the honorees I have not known personally, I learned something new and interesting about each of inductees as I listened to the excellent presentations of their life work created by the council with excellent narration by ABN owners Andy Vance and Lindsey Hill. Mary Lou’s son and daughter talked with great admiration for their multi-tasking Mom. In a day when farm wives had more than enough to take care on the farm she drove 55 miles a day to do her radio show at WRFD, sewed clothes for her daughter and served as substitute Mom for many of their friends. I liked the comment that Mary Lou would bristle if someone said they were “just a farm wife.” She knew how much that life entailed.
As a former inexperienced shepherd myself, I was surprised to learn the Guy Flora was the son of college professor with little farm experience, but a love of animals to guide him. He built his career from the purchase of 4-H lamb by his son. From there he went on to be Ohio’s representative to the nation in the sheep industry. He said he had sold plenty of lambs to help kids get started in 4-H, but humbly admitted he would not be considered a club lamb producer.
I have known Fred Dailey from his days as the executive director of the Ohio Cattleman’s Association, just as the group was expanding with the benefit of a check off program. I have sat in the cockpit as he flew us to North Bass Island to learn about the wine production there and I have seen him interact with hog producers and cattlemen on a trade mission to Costa Rica helping to sow the seeds that blossom in to future business relationships. I admire Fred as a serious and dedicated leader who has never been afraid to follow his farm-based, family-valued instincts.
Larry Vance has been and inspiration to all who have worked with him and I have benefited greatly from the enthusiasm he has brought to all things related to conservation. Larry thinks things through and gathers input before coming up with a plan that always manages to hit the target. The innovations at the Lawrence G. Vance Soil and Water Conservation Park at Farm Science review are the perfect example. Generations of farm families will proudly remember their legacy as resource stewards whenever they visit the site.
However, my favorite was his creative inspiration to “Dunk the Drought” at the Farm Science Review circa 2002. Larry and I put on our swim suits and took a plunge in the dunk tank for farmers and others happy to fling some pitches at the target. Larry is always one to dive right in.
On behalf of the publication and all its subscribers, job well done by all. Thank you and congratulations.