It was my pleasure to present the 2014 Ohio Master Farmers Awards at the Conservation Tillage Conference in Ada last week. I appreciate the organizers of the conference giving me a segment of the program to honor these important leaders.
It was certainly appropriate that the awards were made at a meeting where much mention was made of the 4 Rs. That of course refers to the key principles of nutrient management that have been pounded into farmers and suppliers heads in recent months, the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the Right time and in the right place.
When the awards were first presented in 1926 Ray Kelsey, associate editor of the Ohio Farmer, described the men as "masters of the science of practical agriculture who can produce outstanding crop yields, who know the art of breeding livestock, who can build up the fertility of their acres and not ruin them for future generations, who can literally make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. They are leaders of their community, their county, their schools and churches, and their state. They are good parents, neighbors and friends and can be counted on in the front rank when any question arises pertaining to the rural life of their community or state."
I love to quote Kelsey because he said it so poetically and it's nice to think associate editors words can still ring true 80 years later. But I think today we might sum up the work of these farmers in more direct manner. Perhaps by saying they got where they are by following the 7 Rs. Right carrier path, Right choices for crop enterprises, Right timing with economic decisions, Right Stewardship practices, Right leadership for farming organizations, Right community service, and Right love of family.
If you know your history, you will understand the nation's farmers were facing a dire situation when this award program was first undertaken. Agriculture had already slipped into its own Great depression. At that time and an award to recognize what they did to feed the people was very welcome. The country needed strong farm leaders.
Today's situation is the total opposite. The agriculture economy is booming – doing much better than the nation's economy in general. Yet we all know how cyclical these things can be. The fact we are on a high is proof that we will someday slip to another low. The justification for recognizing the leaders who set an example for all of us is that we can always do a better job.
Call it the 7 Rs or whatever you want this year it is an honor to salute the 2014 Ohio Master Farmers: Marvin Thompson, from Payne, Frank Phelps from Belle Center and Brent Porteus from Coshocton. They are each excellent representatives of the standards of excellence in farming, family and community service that this award has stood for ever since it was created. They are farmers who have taken the role of leadership on themselves and provided great inspiration to this industry.