Sometimes seeing an old friend and reliving some of the times you shared together in an earlier day can really pump you up. I feel that way after seeing Quentin Williamson at the Purdue University Forage Day near Cambridge City last week. Chatting with him for a few minutes and recalling former times together made the trip worthwhile, even if I hadn't snapped nay pictures or taken any notes. I did those things, and they will show up on the Web site and in Indiana Prairie Farmer in due time. But it's the warm visit with an old friend that I remember most vividly.
Williamson, now walking with a cane but still able to pilot a tractor around his son's farm, even help clean his son's milk parlor on the farm near Economy, has been a fixture at soil conservation and forage-related events in Indiana for several decades. He's now retired twice from soil conservation work, but he still believes in it greatly. What he believes in and enjoys most, though, are the people - he's always got a big grin and a hearty hello for someone he knows. And after decades of promoting conservation through tours and meetings in east-central Indiana, he knows plenty of people.
Quentin and I go back to my early days as a writer, when I was involved with the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District. Back then this district had a 120-acre no-till demonstration farm. Quentin brought a carload of Wayne County folks over to see it, and they decided they would try their own. The Johnson County plot only lasted three years, but Wayne County's plot went on for 20 years, covering 35 acres, yielding up all kinds of information about what did work and didn't work, and serving as a setting for a summer tour that drew more than 250 people many times. The pork roast lunch catered by the Drake Family at the old Williamsburg School after the tour probably didn't hurt the draw. But many seemed to just want to soak up the information.
Quentin and I began visiting farms together. He would suggest farms where I could get stories, and I've met some great people and written many helpful stories based on the experiences of Wayne County farmers because of it. Dale Kirtley was one of the first we visited, and last year I returned to Dale's place as he was honored as a Master Conservationist.
Whenever we spent a day together, three things were certain- I would get several story leads, although not always what I set out to get. We would have a few laughs, like the time Quentin backed the government-issued car over a big rock in a farmer's yard. Fortunately, he gunned it off of it and the car was in one piece, but it was too tempting not to give him a hard time.
And we always found good food - usually at out-of the way places I wouldn't go in unless I was with someone who verified it was a great place. We visited the Copper Kettle in Wayne County (not the famous one in Morristown) many times. We must have run off so much business for them, because they finally closed. In search of other good food, we found Lumpkins, where I enjoyed one of the biggest tenderloins I've ever had anywhere.
Quentin was recognized last month by the Soil Conservation society of America for his career at spreading the word about conservation. He received a national award at their meeting in Dearborn, Michigan.
Awards are nice, but memories are better. Williamson is just one example of Hoosiers in agriculture who are characters, but who use their personality to be ambassadors for agriculture. Meeting him the first time was a blessing, and a boon for those who've read countless stories he's helped assemble. Seeing him last week was pure joy. After all, when you boil it all down, it's people and relationships that count most.
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