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Four individuals who have made significant contributions to agriculture and Farm Bureau were honored by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. The 2021 Distinguished Service Award recipients are Dr. Tony Forshey of Licking County, Belinda Jones of Franklin County, Randy Leis of Montgomery County and Keith Stimpert of Franklin County.
Each honoree was recognized for lifetime achievements that benefited Ohio’s farming community. The awards were presented Dec. 9 in Columbus at the 103rd annual meeting of Ohio Farm Bureau.
Throughout his 27 years as a practicing veterinarian, Tony Forshey made invaluable contributions to the betterment of the swine industry. He focused on herd health and disease prevention, rather than simply treating sick animals. He was so well respected in his profession that he was named Ohio’s state veterinarian and chief of the Division of Animal Health for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Through his leadership in that position, Forshey, in partnership with Ohio Farm Bureau, helped create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and was a charter member.
Belinda Jones was born and raised in southern Ohio, and she never forgot her rural roots as she forged a career at the Statehouse in Columbus. She earned her undergraduate degree in public relations at Capital University then went to work at the Statehouse for Speaker Vern Riffe while finishing her law degree at Capital Law School at night, all while raising a family.
For more than 30 years at the Statehouse, Jones was known as a hardworking and smart advocate. She put roots down in agricultural law while serving as corporate counsel for The Scotts Company and finally as legislative counsel for the Capitol Consulting Group. Jones passed away in February at age 56.
With two sesquicentennial farms in one family, Randy Leis’ passion for carrying on the legacy of his family’s farm is matched only by his enthusiasm for volunteering in his community, focusing on his farm, church and Farm Bureau. His pathway in agriculture started in 4-H and then took him to Ohio State University, where he earned two degrees. Leis credits his initial Farm Bureau involvement to former Executive Vice President Bill Swank. He said, “Bill Swank was passionate about Farm Bureau, and his passion was contagious.” Leis first became involved in Farm Bureau in 1975 when he served at the county level. His journey culminated with service on the state board of trustees from 1993 to 2011 representing members from Butler, Hamilton, Montgomery and Preble counties.
Keith Stimpert began his professional journey as a Farm Bureau organization director in southwest Ohio in 1978 and in 1981 joined the organization’s communications staff. In 1987, while also serving as director of commodity activities for Farm Bureau, Stimpert became executive director of the Ohio Soybean Association and served in that position for nine years. During this time, he helped found the Ohio Soybean Council and served as its first executive director. He worked with producer boards in establishing programs to build soybean profitability. From there, Stimpert was named vice president of government affairs at Ohio Farm Bureau where he was responsible for coordinating the organization’s overall legislative agenda, a position he held for 16 years. In 2011, he was named senior vice president for the Organization Department and was responsible for leadership development, IT, member benefits membership and field operations. Over his four decade career, Stimpert has built strong relationships across Ohio agriculture and beyond.
Candidates for the awards are nominated by Farm Bureau volunteers, county organizations and state leaders.
Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission is working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities. Learn more at ohiofarmbureau.org.
This is a news release for use by journalists. Questions should be directed to Ty Higgins, 614-246-8231 or [email protected].
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