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Former OFBF presidents hope to extend leadership in public office
Gibbs running for U.S. Congress
Bob Gibbs remembers in the 1970s when a neighboring farmer stopped by to talk to him about joining Farm Bureau.
Gibbs, a former city kid who had just started his Holmes County hog farm, had never heard of the organization. As the two sat at the dining room table discussing the benefits of membership, Gibbs was thinking of how to tell the man he wouldn’t be able to afford the hundreds of dollars it must cost to join.
When he found the dues were a fraction of what he expected, “I couldn’t get my checkbook fast enough,” he said.
The next year Gibbs and his wife volunteered to work membership; he later became county president, was elected to the state board of trustees and eventually was elected Ohio Farm Bureau’s president.
From there, he successfully ran for seats in the Ohio House and Senate and is now running for U.S. Congress.
“We can blame Farm Bureau for all of it,” he laughed, recalling his various leadership positions.
“What was helpful to me was the Farm Bureau experience and being exposed to public policy and being exposed to all the issues at the state and federal levels,” he said.
And while he was focused on building his hog operation, “It was Farm Bureau that got us involved in the community.”
“One thing I did learn: working together we can get a whole lot accomplished,” he said.
Gibbs is one of two former Ohio Farm Bureau presidents running for elected office this fall.
Peterson running for seat in Ohio House
Fayette County farmer Bob Peterson, a longtime county commissioner and OFBF’s immediate past president, is running for a seat in the Ohio House.
Much like Gibbs, Peterson felt it was important to get off the farm and get involved.
“There were needs that needed to be filled. With support from friends and family, I was encouraged to go out and make a difference,” he said.
Peterson also values the first-hand knowledge of the legislative process that he gained through his leadership of the organization.
“By working together, and by people coming together we can get good things accomplished for agriculture, for our country and for our state,” Peterson said.
He said common sense and a strong work ethic are valuable qualities that farmers bring to the public policy process.
“You can make a difference. Your voice can be heard. I think you have a duty as a citizen in a democracy to vote, express your opinions,” he said.
Gibbs said he never had an agenda; he simply “saw something that needed to be done. We worked together like farmers do.”
He too credits farmers with common sense, saying they are grounded in reality.
“It’s especially important for farmers to be engaged, pay attention and get involved in their local community and stand up for what you think is right,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re going to get squashed.”
Gibbs and Peterson also say that their experience with Farm Bureau honed their leadership, problem solving and communication skills.
“All of that was great training to serve the people in government,” Peterson said.
And Gibbs noted, whether on the farm or with public policy, when farmers see something that’s broken, they want to fix it.
“When a volunteer membership worker comes and talks to a future Farm Bureau member, there are all kinds of possibilities,” he said. “Make of it what you want to make of it.”