2020-2021 Ohio Golden Owl Award winner

Ayersville High School’s Don Hammersmith selected as Ohio’s
Golden Owl Award grand prize winner and ‘Ag Educator of the Year’

Agricultural teachers play an essential and selfless role as they work to prepare future generations for successful careers. After recognizing 10 exceptional Ohio teachers as finalists through the Golden Owl Award, Nationwide, in partnership with the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio FFA, selected Don Hammersmith, agricultural teacher at Ayersville High School, as Ohio’s 2020-2021 “Ag Educator of the Year.”

Hammersmith was formally recognized as the Golden Owl Award grand prize winner during the Ohio FFA State Convention. In addition to the title of Ohio’s Ag Educator of the Year, Hammersmith received the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy and Ayersville High School received a $3,000 Nationwide-funded donation to further its agricultural education efforts.


Hammersmith’s nominations described him as humble, dedicated, and selfless. One nomination read, “He works tirelessly to provide opportunities for his students to succeed in whatever path they choose.” Another one states, “Since he took over the program nearly 30 years ago, he has been able to produce dozens of State degree winners as well as dozens of National degree winners through FFA. Our students benefit greatly from Mr. Hammersmith’s program. He is a true educator and is vital in our small community’s lifeblood.”

As the No. 1 insurer of farms and ranches in the United States¹, Nationwide established the Golden Owl Award with its state partners to shed light on the contributions of Ohio’s leading agricultural teachers and provide additional resources to support their programs.

“With deep roots in agriculture, Nationwide is proud to recognize the men and women who are making a difference in our communities as they help students pursue their passions,” said Brad Liggett, Nationwide’s president of Agribusiness. “We’re honored to recognize the contributions of teachers, highlight the growing need for their services, and supply additional resources to help provide students with optimal learning experiences.”

Nationwide supports the future of the ag community through meaningful sponsorships of national and local organizations. In conjunction with the Golden Owl Award, Nationwide is donating $5,000 to each participating state’s FFA, including the Ohio FFA, to further support the personal and professional growth of students, teachers and advisors alike.  

The Golden Owl Award is the result of a partnership between Nationwide, the California FFA, California Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers, Farm Credit Illinois, Indiana FFA, Farm Credit Mid-America, the Iowa FFA Foundation, New York FFA, New York Farm Bureau, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania FFA, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Compeer Financial.

 ¹ Source: A.M. Best Market Share Report 2019
Having opportunities to attend leadership institutes, advocate for rural Ohioans on the state and national level, facilitate young ag professionals events, and serve in a variety of leadership positions have helped my skills grow exponentially.
Sara Tallmadge's avatar
Sara Tallmadge

Ashland County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
I was gifted the great opportunity through an Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Youth Pathways grant to run a series of summer camps here. That really expanded my vision of what ‘grow, maintain, sustain and explain’ could actually be.
Jim Bruner's avatar
Jim Bruner

Mezzacello Urban Farms

Farming for Good
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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