AgriPOWER Class VII session 5: Agvocating with local government, schools

by Shelly Detwiler

Local government is not new to me. My dad was a county commissioner for eight years and my husband a township trustee for four. As familiar as I am with local government, this session of AgriPOWER had some great takeaway points.

At this session my classmates and I were educated on how local government works, from the the grassroots level, to township government to county government and local schools. It is amazing to me how township and county governments are so much alike but so different across the state.

Development is always a primary concern in any area. In my world, suburbia is encroaching and affecting all the schools and government have to offer while in this eastern, more rural part of the state, the oil and gas industry along with its support businesses are making an impact locally. Budgets need to cover services that most take for granted such as roads, bridges, cemeteries, employees, property, safety and the court/correction system. Foster care also is covered in the county budget. Who knew? Grants can be applied for and used for specific projects and help expand local budgets.

AgriPOWER Class VI graduate Jenny Meyer discussing school funding and school boards during the Class VII session.

School systems have their own set of concerns. They continue to educate the next generation on shoestring budgets even as the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that Ohio’s current way of school funding is unconstitutional. School districts’ wish lists include more funding, a corrected funding systems, new technology and new construction. AgriPOWER Class VI grad Jenny Cox has taken her involvement to heart and was recently elected to her local school board. She hopes to make a positive difference in both her local school district and vocational school. Her biggest shocker after 21 days in office is what you can do versus what is perceived you can do.

Amanda Miller, assistant prosecuting attorney of Tuscarawas County, challenged us to “Let’s correct crazy!” I loved this! She explained that as the gap between people knowing and respecting rights declines, we need to jump into the crazy mix and help bring stability in this crazy world of ours.

One tour stop this session was Schoolhouse Winery in Dover. I love the diversity of Ohio’s agriculture. Schoolhouse Winery is producing over 5,000 gallons of wine a year. From juice to glass, it takes three to six months depending on how you like your wine, sweet or dry. Schoolhouse Winery grows a small amount of grapes and tries to supplement a high percentage with Ohio juice. Wine has become big business in Ohio, and Schoolhouse continues to grow with it. I loved the marketing and naming of their wine. We topped off the evening with pizza while enjoying a glass of Detention, Teacher’s Pet and Scholar Red, just to name a few.

This session we also focused on the oil and gas production in the eastern part of the state. Before we headed out on the tour, Dale Arnold, director of energy services at the Ohio Farm Bureau, began with a brief overview of the energy business. It was eye opening to find that most energy companies in Ohio and probably the country need to overhaul their infrastructure which costs billions of dollars, trickling down to consumers. Companies are going to need to diversify their energy sources as current systems are retired, refitted and upgraded or decommissioned. Eastern Ohio has become a boom in recent years in the oil and gas industry. Four local farmers shared photos, experiences and knowledge of how the industry has affected them and their farms. Increased income has given new meaning to the word planning to the farmers for 30, 40,or 50 years in the future.

As we end our time in AgriPOWER, it is up to us to become strong agriculture advocates. We have been given the tools and information to find where we can make a difference. Local governments and schools can be a great way to start. My classmates and I are finding our strengths and will go make things happen.
Apply for AgriPOWER Class VIII by April 15.

Read more from other AgriPOWER Class VII participant

Session 1 blogs

Vicky Shaw discussed her experience in the program’s first session learning about her strength and picking up public speaking tips.

Angela Shoemaker discussed her experience in the program’s first session and learning to step out of her comfort zone.

Session 2 blogs

Chris Kick blogged about interacting with the media and being an effective spokesperson.

Sara Campbell wrote about using storytelling in conversations with consumers and visiting Turner Farms.

Session 3 blogs

Josh Henderson blogged about truly having a voice in Washington.

Libby Bender shared her experience meeting with the authors of the EPA’s WOTUS rule and meeting with her congressman.

Heidi White wrote about learning more about trade at the New Zealand Embassy.

Session 4 blogs

Lara Staples wrote about learning what state government and the people who run it are really like.

Stephanie Leis blogged about the speakers from session 4 and their connection to agriculture.

Jenny Meyer discussed inspiration to share her story more.

Session 5 blogs

Jeff Adams blogged about learning more about tax law and CAUV.

Shelly Detwiler wrote about local government, school funding and oil and gas production.

Session 6 blogs

Matt Schlegel wrote about some of the  peanut and cotton harvesting equipment the class saw on their trip to South Carolina.

Steven Ruggles shared what he learned about vegetable farming in South Carolina and the similarities and difference between vegetable farming and grain farming.

Jami Willard of Columbus wrote about the whirlwind tour of South Carolina’s agriculture that Class VII experienced.

Session 7 blogs

Elaine Beekman of Wellington blogged about this final session not being the end of the learning from AgriPOWER.

Kayla Jones of Newark wrote about volunteering at Highland Youth Garden during the final session.

Mandy Way of Chillicothe blogged about her experience in AgriPOWER reviving her passion for agriculture.


Meet other Class VII graduates.


AgriPOWER is an elite training program designed to help participants become community leaders and advocates for agriculture.