The revived Ohio Master Farmer Award got off to a great start this month. As subscribers know, the names William J. Richards, Terry Lee Swaisgood and Brian H. Watkins were engraved on plaques and presented to the well-deserving honorees the past two weeks. We decided to split the ceremonies to match the presentations to the appropriate venues. The Conservation Tillage and Technology conference in Ada this week was the site for the presentation to Richards and Watkins. Bill Richards, former chief of the Soil Conservation Service, spoke at the Ada conference on the history of no-till. So it was a natural place to present him with his award. Brian Watkins and his dad and brother farm in nearby Kenton, so even though Brian lives in Worthington now, we thought Ada would be a handy place to give him his award. Unfortunately, Watkins took a shot to the eye while playing basketball the night before the awards. His nephew Trent was kind enough to step in and accept on his behalf.
Again subscribers have seen that our beautiful plaques feature a bronze molding of the historic medallion that was bestowed on Master Farmers when the award was first established in 1926. The image features a proud farmer standing at sunset with the reins of his horse in one hand and the faithful plow in the other. It never occurred to me as I was announcing to the gathering of 900 or so that Bill Richards “the grandfather of no-till” that the bronze image might carry some irony with it. Richards chuckled when he saw it and recalled trying to tape a large “X” over such a symbol when he was with USDA. “It did not go over well with the secretary,” he noted.
Later in the program Bill did reveal that his first attempt at one-pass planting was a four-row corn planter pulled behind a five bottom plow circa 1960. It didn’t work well, he said. So he tried again with a set of coulters behind the tractor and the planter following them. He even applied the anhydrous in the same pass and noted it was one of his best innovations.
He also said he really liked the plaque. I’ve wracked my brain for a more appropriate image to depict today’s Ohio farmer, but can’t really come up with anything. You guys are just too diversified a group to settle for a single enterprise or feature to represent the whole of agriculture. That said, if you have any ideas I would be open to hearing them. Meanwhile I think the historical reference is still a good one.
I presented the award honoring Terry Swaisgood at the annual meeting of the Federation of Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Terry’s widow Maxine is an employee of the Ashland SWCD and Terry was well known to most of the 300 or so folks in the audience. They all stood and applauded as Maxine came forward to accept the award. Her humble acceptance brought many to tears. It was a clear reflection on the respect so many in the agricultural community have for the dairyman who was tragically killed last August while painting the local church.
All in all it was a good start or restart. I hope you will consider nominating a neighbor or family member or a farmer you admire for next year’s Ohio Master Farmer Award. The nomination form can be found here at FarmProgress.com. Or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me 740-654-6500 and I will send you one.