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Three people who have left indelible marks on the agriculture industry and Farm Bureau were honored by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. The 2023 Distinguished Service Award recipients are Bob Gibbs of Holmes County, Jerry Lahmers of Tuscarawas County and Virgil Strickler of Franklin County.
Honorees were recognized for lifetime achievements that benefited Ohio’s farming community. The awards were presented Dec. 7 in Columbus at the 105th annual meeting of Ohio Farm Bureau.
Bob Gibbs’ career as a farmer, Farm Bureau leader and U.S. Congressman has had an enormous impact on agriculture in the state and throughout the country. During his career, Gibbs has worked to address environmental, property rights and trade issues that impact production agriculture. He helped reform federal water resource policy, funded the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and assisted small communities’ access to affordable clean water utilities.
His career in public service representing northeast Ohio included six years in the Ohio House, two years in the Ohio Senate and 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Gibbs family farm, Hidden Hollow Farms in Holmes County, led to his Farm Bureau involvement, where he served on the state board of trustees from 1985 to 2001 and then as state president. He is the only former Farm Bureau president in the country to be elected to Congress.
Jerry Lahmers, a lifetime resident of Tuscarawas County, has had nearly 50 years of involvement with Farm Bureau and numerous other county and statewide boards and organizations.
He served at the county level as Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau president and public policy chairman and as a member of the membership committee. During Lahmers’ county Farm Bureau involvement, the county launched several successful programs. He also served three terms as a trustee on the Ohio Farm Bureau board of trustees, representing the interests of members in Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties.
The Lahmers family raises cow-calf pairs, operates a feedlot and raises grain, hay and pasture. Lahmers also was a food animal veterinarian for 29 years.
A native of Fairfield County, Virgil Strickler began his professional career as an agricultural lender before becoming the livestock and agricultural director of the Ohio State Fair in 1993.
He took the role of Ohio State Fair general manager in 2003 and is retiring in February as the longest serving general manager ever at the Ohio State Fair.
One of his greatest accomplishments at the fair was establishing the Youth Reserve Program, which is funded directly from winning bids at the Sale of Champions that exceed the cap for each species. The funds are then distributed among scholarships, the Outstanding Exhibitor Programs, showmanship, skill-a-thons, the state fair band and choir, 4-H, FFA and other youth activities at the fair. Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Expo Commission renamed the program for Strickler earlier this year.
Stickler has been inducted into the Ohio Fair Managers Association Hall of Fame, as well as the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame, among many other industry honors.
Candidates for Distinguished Service 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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