Farm Bureau Celebrates Centennial, Recognizes Local Leadership
October 9, 2019 by Amy Patterson

Geauga County Farm Bureau members milled about St. Mary’s banquet hall in Chardon Sep. 26, snacking on local cheese and produce before sitting down to a meal of high quality local meats raised by local kids.

Geauga County Farm Bureau members milled about St. Mary’s banquet hall in Chardon Sep. 26, snacking on local cheese and produce before sitting down to a meal of high quality local meats raised by local kids.

“Part of the meat prepared tonight was from our 2019 Junior Fair livestock purchase, and putting your dues to work,” GCFB President Kevin O’Reilly told the group.

He set the stage for the bureau meeting by reminding those assembled they were celebrating the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

“A hundred years ago, a group of farmers came together to find solutions to problems facing agriculture,” O’Reilly said. “And here we are, 100 years later, still working together to do the same.”

Over dinner, members heard from Susan Crowell, recently retired editor of the “Farm and Dairy,” a weekly agricultural newspaper published out of Salem, Ohio. Crowell set her words of encouragement against the backdrop of a hike on the Appalachian Trail she took this summer with her daughter.

“Farming is like hiking,” Crowell said. “It can be lonely. You need people.”

Crowell encouraged farmers in the room to be flexible in planning for possible downturns, like those caused this year by a rainy planting season and international trade disagreements.

She also asked them to look around the room and understand fellow farmers are family.

Later in the evening, O’Reilly handed the gavel over to incoming President Kevin Holy, who, in turn, thanked O’Reilly for his hard work with a certificate of appreciation.

GCFB members voted to support proposed policy issues, including, at the county level, labeling locally-grown produce and providing assistance on nutrient management plans and best management practices.

State level policy proposals include encouraging training and education of county auditors to standardize oversight of the Current Agricultural Use Value program, which allows farmland devoted exclusively to commercial agriculture to be valued for tax purposes on agricultural value rather than market value.

State level policy goals also include a push towards localized water quality management, as opposed to what the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation calls a “one size fits all approach” to managing nutrient runoff and other water issues.

National policies endorsed by farm bureau members include changing the Food Safety Modernization Act to create levels of compliance based on acreage. The group also supports simplifying the H2A visa program to allow farmers to rehire past foreign national workers without having to submit paperwork to four separate agencies, and without penalties.

GCFB agreed to look more at a proposed local policy to support programs to reduce and eliminate Ohio’s opioid and drug epidemic after discussion on the efficacy of legislating sobriety.

The group also discussed support for merged fire districts in the county, to spread emergency equipment and personnel costs across townships.

Treasurer Bob Sage reported total assets of about $187,000, with a total 2018 income of $66,000 and expenses totaling $60,000.

Sage, who has served GCFB for over 33 years, was recognized as the Member of Distinction.

O’Reilly said Sage gave him his first agricultural job picking apples — an experience he said he shares with many others in the county.

County Recorder Sharon Gingerich was recognized for distinguished service, including her dedication to preserving the county’s bicentennial farms.

State reps. Diane Grendell (R-76) and John Patterson (D-99) addressed the group, with Grendell presenting a commendation on behalf of the state in recognition of 100 years of service.

“Farmers are the backbone of our county,” Grendell said.