Don Ralph, of Morral, and John Watkins of Prospect are two of four Ohioans who have committed their lives to working in, promoting and advocating for Ohio’s farm community. Ralph and Watkins will be honored Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, by the Ohio Agricultural Council, when they are inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame.
OAC will induct Ralph, Watkins, Bernard Heisner of Hilliard, and the late William Hoewischer of Sidney into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame during a special breakfast ceremony held in the Rhodes Youth Center at the Ohio Expo Center.
The 49th annual event will attract approximately 500 guests to honor these four professionals for their lifetime of service and dedication to Ohio’s agriculture community.
“Our Board is pleased to be honoring such a diverse group of inductees into this year’s class,” said Jenny Hubble, OAC president. “Each inductee stands out individually for his exceptional contributions to Ohio’s agriculture industry, but together they represent the passion, leadership and hard work evidenced by their collective decades of unmatched experience in farming and agriculture.”
The four inductees will join the more than 200 prior recipients named since 1966 when the program was incepted.
Agriculture has not only been Don Ralph’s livelihood, but his passion. As a second-generation farmer, Ralph works hard not only on his farm, but in Washington D.C. and Columbus, Ohio, where he advocates for the betterment of agriculture. Recently, Ralph has been serving as a strong advocate for improving the quality of Ohio’s lakes and waterways and educating the public about the possible causes and solutions of the toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie. Ralph’s farm has been recognized numerous times for its conservation efforts. In 2001, Ralph Farms received the Outstanding Conservation Operator Award from the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District. The farm also received the Buffer Ohio Award, which recognizes landowners who have done an outstanding job of applying and maintaining conservation buffer practices to the Ohio landscape.
Through the years, Ralph has served on numerous boards and committees at the state and local levels, including the Farmers Mutual Relief Association, Ohio Soybean Council, and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Board of Trustees. Ralph exemplifies the highest degree of leadership, passion and dedication to Ohio’s No. 1 industry – agriculture. John Watkins has served Ohio agriculture for more than 50 years and has positively impacted the lives of tens of thousands of young people preparing for a career in the farming community.
For 16 years, Watkins taught vocational agriculture, advised the local FFA chapter, and served as a mentor to hundreds of students. He then served as the Assistant Ohio State Supervisor for the Department of Vocational Education where he supervised approximately 100 Ohio vocational agriculture teachers.
In addition to his previous accomplishments in vocational agriculture, Watkins served 16 years as Marion County Commissioner. During this time, Watkins served as chairman on the Agriculture Committee of the Ohio County Commissioners Association where he helped shape county and state public policies impacting Ohio’s agriculture industry. Watkins has made a difference in the classroom, in educational administration and public service. His energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the Ohio agriculture community have provided great dividends to the state’s citizens.