OFBF’s best programs

Buckeye Farm News

Last year marked the start of a new awards application process that emphasized the importance of having OFBF’s three program areas — communications, public policy and organization — work together on projects. Presidents of the five county Farm Bureaus that received  OFBF’s top honor of the President’s Award recently shared insight into the success of their programming along with a couple of the 43 Farm Bureau volunteers who judged last year’s entries.

The leaders of the five winning counties all said the success of their programming relied heavily on strong support from volunteers and staff. They spent countless hours researching, organizing and evaluating their programs and sometimes incorporating ideas from other county Farm Bureaus into their own events.

Several of the counties have been getting ideas by looking at the awards applications that are at www.ofbf.org.

Vickie Powell, a Division 2 communications judge, said she was impressed by the amount of work some  counties put into planning and executing their programs and explaining it in the applications. Herb Eglie, a Division 5 public policy judge, said he was surprised to find that he was mostly in agreement with the other judges on selecting the top three counties and the President’s Award winner. Judges gave the highest scores to the counties that had effective events and did well explaining them.

Below is a breakdown of the President’s Award winners’ programming from last year.

Pike Co. – Division I

Pike County had a lot of success with its Agriculture Awareness Day and most of its award application focused on that event. The event reached out to more than 500 third-graders and dozens of teachers. Young Farmers and several Nationwide agents participated, along with many agriculture agencies, county commissioners and state park representatives. Participants were asked to be Farm Bureau members. The Our Ohio brand was promoted through a display and presentations of local producers with samples of their products. The event received extensive media coverage and featured a nametag contest and essay contest, with the winners being recognized before hundreds of their peers and county officials. The contest winners’ entries and pictures of the event were then displayed at the Pike County Fair.

 “If you look at all three program areas, a lot of things are tied together with our Agriculture Awareness Day. I like the way it all works together. It does require a lot of planning, though. We’ve done this for 11 years and it’s the biggest thing we do in our county. I’m seeing kids graduating now who remember going through it,” said Tim Williams, president of Pike County Farm Bureau.

Carroll Co. – Division II

John Davis, president of the Carroll County Farm Bureau, said his county’s awards application focused on several activities to give a more comprehensive look at the overall programming. The application also included photos and descriptions of works in progress such as a four-county Leader Education and Development Program and “Tailgate to Touchdowns,” a tailgate party at a football game.

 “We made a laundry list of our key events and incorporated them into our application. You’ve got to keep good records of everything you do to make it easier to write the application. It was a real team effort,” he said.

 The county Farm Bureau did a lot of marketing of Nationwide and Our Ohio, including a fair book that promoted the brand at the Carroll County Fair. The Farm Bureau is a member of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee and helped hold a “Business After Hours” at the Ed Long Farm with more than 100 chamber members in attendance. Other major activities that Farm Bureau had a major presence in was a county Drive-It-Yourself Tour with 532 in attendance, Ag Conservation Expo, which drew 1,200 people, and Adopt a Teacher Program, which had 250 children participate.

Richland Co. – Division III

While Farmers’ Share Breakfasts are a fairly common promotion, Richland County Farm Bureau held its first one last year, drawing 600 people with help from 50 volunteers. A lot of the county’s award application focused on this event.

 “This was the first time we did this and we weren’t sure how successful it would be because several other counties do this,” said Fred Cooke, president of the county Farm Bureau. “But it was a huge success, especially for being our first. We tried to take a different approach with ours.”

 Instead of charging the amount of money farmers make from a typical breakfast, the event was free and residents were asked to make a donation for local food banks. More than $800 was collected. The Shelby FFA made a  wall poster that detailed the farmer’s share of breakfast costs and posters of agriculture statistics were displayed. Our Ohio placemats and displays were used and the Our Ohio television show was broadcast. The event recruited new volunteers, educated consumers, incorporated Nationwide Insurance and strengthened relationships with local and state leaders.

Tuscarawas Co. – Division IV

The Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau also incorporated several key events into its awards application and detailed not only the success of the programs but what improvements could be made. One event that the county became involved in was the Forest Heritage Festival. Farm Bureau was a major participant and contacted the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory for a kit that made a bat from bark. More than 8,600 visitors attended the festival and 600 bags were handed out with membership information and Our Ohio materials. The event raised $86,500 for Akron Children’s Hospital.

Another successful activity was “Field Trip Without a Bus,” which brought agriculture to the classroom for 180 fourth and fifth grade students. An Our Ohio video on soybeans was shown and various ag groups provided hands-on activities.

 “We took on an organized effort early on. We’ve got more project ideas than we can do. The key is to build on it and plan it properly; you can’t just throw it out there,” said Jerry Lahmers, Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau president.

Mahoning Co. – Division V

Mahoning County Farm Bureau detailed a few successful programs at length in its award application. The first was its presence at the Canfield Fair. About 120 Farm Bureau volunteers helped run the group’s activities. The Our Ohio barn masterpieces were displayed and TV media followed  the voting results. Farm Bureau personnel and shuttle drivers wore Our Ohio/Farm Bureau shirts.

 The county  also hosted the dedication of Agland Co-op’s upgraded grain and drying equipment. State and county leaders attended the dedication. Part of the following news coverage was about how Farm Bureau works with members in the agriculture industry and legislators. Farm Bureau also was asked to help set up a buy fresh/buy local information tent, solicit farmers to sell produce and  distribute the Mahoning Valley Agri Guide at the Youngstown State University Festival of Arts.

“If you come up with an idea, you need to follow through with it. Each year the challenge is to find creative ideas,” said David Kenreich, Mahoning County Farm Bureau president. “We have a strong youth program and we try to involve them as much as possible.”

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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