2023 Ohio Farm Bureau Annual Meeting

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

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

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.  

Virgil Strickler

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].

Editors: Photos of Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Lahmers and Mr. Strickler are available for download.

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

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
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
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
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
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

Suggested Tags: