Columbiana County Ag Hall of Fame members J.T. Brooks, Henry A. Halverstadt, and Charles J. Gause.

About 15 years or so ago, I had the honor to sit on the selection committee for the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame. It wasn’t easy — so many qualified applicants, so many dedicated individuals.

But it wasn’t their farm inventions, nor their livestock genetics knowledge, nor their conservation commitment that impressed me the most. What amazed me was that these individuals who were leaders on the farm, or in ag research or education, or in agribusiness — and whose lives were extremely busy just reaching that level of accomplishment — had equally impressive resumes of community service off the farm.

School boards, public service, church leadership, youth development, education, Grange, Farm Bureau, national organizations, international mission work. You name it, these individuals were as committed to serving and leading others in nonfarm endeavors as they were to their excellence in agriculture.

I thought about that revelation again last night, as the Columbiana County Ag Hall of Fame committee met to select this year’s inductees. I’ve worked with the committee since its first ceremony in 2000, writing the bios for the awards, and the annual ceremony. Now an “ex-officio” member of the committee, I meet with them throughout the year to solicit applications, review candidates and make the final decision.

The same commitment to community service is true of these local ag leaders, as it was for the state leaders. And that’s important to the selection committee.

It’s not enough to be a good farmer — there are lots of really good farmers. What elevates an individual to true hall of fame material is a commitment to agriculture, seen through membership and leadership in farm groups and the agricultural community, AND a willingness to lead, to serve, in the community at large.

Here in Columbiana County, Ohio, we’ve saluted farm folks like Chuck Gause (1909-1995), who was known for his IH equipment dealership and skill as county commissioner. But what he’s really remembered for is the 4-H tractor club he started and led in the 1950s and ’60s. More than 1,200 young people learned equipment safety and maintenance under his tutelage over the years.

Or Henry A. Halverstadt (1857-1933), who farmed 155 acres back then (which was large!) and had a wheat yield of 40 bushels/acre, more than double the national average, in 1931, and was the first from Columbiana County to join the Hundred Bushel Club with his corn.

But he also poured his time and energy into the Grange, served as deputy state master, and helped form seven new granges. He also helped found the Salem Township Rural Telephone Company and served as its first president.

We’ve also honored J. Paul Wilms (1911-1994), who owned a nursery from 1937 to 1967, helped found the International Plant Propagators Society, and developed a new variety that bears his name: Juniper andorra compacta ‘Wilms’. But he also served on the local school board for 16 years, was a 32nd degree Mason, and served on the boards of three local banks.

And then there’s John Jacob Bowman (1779-1864), one of the early settlers of the area that became Columbiana County. He first cleared 53 acres for a home and farm, and then bought more land until he owned 529 acres. He served as county commissioner and then associate judge of the circuit court from 1817 until 1838. But he also recognized other needs of the growing region, and donated the land for the Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, helped build a school and even taught part-time. When the Cold Run dam, which supplied water to the Sandy Beaver canal, collapsed, Bowman was credited with saving great loss of life by riding down the valley, warning residents to evacuate.

Thinking of others. Thinking of building or restoring a community. Thinking of the next generation. Of education. Of those less fortunate. Thinking, and then doing something beyond the farm to build a better world, without thought of reward or personal gain.

That’s the hallmark of a hall of famer. And a bar set high for the rest of us to try and reach.

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.
Susan Crowell
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