Honoring Yvonne Lesicko with Ohio Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award is many years too early. Lesicko might have received this award upon her retirement after what should have been a long and distinguished career. But fate had other plans when she passed away unexpectedly in June.
Lesicko might have had many more years of service to give, but like many of her fast-paced endeavors, she packed a career’s worth of accomplishments in her 11 years with the Ohio Farm Bureau. Reforming CAUV’s taxation of farmland, passing agritourism legislation, advocating for trade and farm programs, negotiating for fair and common sense water quality solutions and navigating the Lake Erie Bill of Rights legal complexities are just a few of the major issues she was involved with or led the charge to address. During the early months of 2020, she led OFBF’s work on a Farm, Food and Agribusiness COVID-19 Impact Survey. And she took on helping with farmer mental health projects as the burdens and stresses of the farm economy took a toll on the emotional health of many.
Her Farm Bureau journey began after she earned her master’s degree in public administration from Ohio State University. She was recruited by former Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Bill Swank and took a position at Farm Bureau in 1994 as a full-time staffer in the then government affairs department. Her experience in covering telecommunications led to a job offer from Cincinnati Bell in 1997, where she worked for the next 15 years as director of government relations. During this time she also served as president of the Ohio Lobbying Association. She came back “home” to Farm Bureau in 2012.
Lesicko’s connection to agriculture began on her family’s farm and seed processing plant in Huron County. “At 13 I told my dad that I was going to run the farm,” she said. He had another idea: “I need you to go fight the EPA for me,” she quoted her dad, Clayton, as saying. “Even at that age I got the bug.”
In 2016 Lesicko was promoted to Ohio Farm Bureau vice president of public policy. It was a job that suited her well. Lesicko would have been successful advocating for any number of groups, but because of Farm Bureau’s work with members and its focus on young people, Farm Bureau gave her a platform — a stage you might say — where she could shine. Whether it was arranging for speakers at an event, guiding a nighttime monuments tour in Washington, D.C. or working with students, Lesicko shined brightest when she was front and center with members. What was not fully realized until she was gone was that not only was she a respected colleague, but she was also a teacher who mentored hundreds. She packed a lot into her 48 years. Her husband, Scott and son, Oscar, were everything to her. Her siblings were her best friends.
Her best piece of advice that she shared most often illustrated her energy and enthusiasm: Don’t wait to be asked. Show up. Get involved. Say what you want.
“It’s not a person’s natural inclination to jump into something that is not in their comfort zone,” she said. “And talking to an elected official for a lot of people is not in their comfort zone, until they realize it’s just another person.”
“I am living my story in terms of the fact that I am doing what my part is,” she said in an interview. “The part where I fit well with agriculture. I love that I don’t ever now think that I’m not in production agriculture so I’m not really a farmer. I hope that I’m being an amazing advocate and I hope that my contributions were to the overall agriculture community and the overall agricultural economy. It might not be production agriculture but I hope someday I can look back and be like I made a difference. That was pretty cool.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation has established the Yvonne Lesicko Memorial Fund. For more information about the fund or to make a donation