COLUMBUS — The American Farm Bureau Federation County Activities of Excellence (CAE) awards celebrate unique, local, volunteer-driven programs that serve as models of innovation for local program development, and Henry County was among five counties recognized this year.
Henry County was honored for the Farmer and Landowner Appreciation Dinner held Oct. 1, 2019. The event was held due to the slow planting season in 2019 due to record rainfall, causing a decrease in yield potential, which in turn, increased farmer stress. Local farm bureau members working in agribusiness and county Farm Service Agency staff began sharing stories of landowner and farmer depression due to the losses they faced and then planned the farmer and landowner appreciation dinner for members and nonmembers. The goal was to bring the agricultural community together to let them know they are appreciated, they have support options and they are not alone in dealing with the devastation.
Roy Norman, senior organization director for Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties farm bureaus, explained these awards are an opportunity for county farm bureaus throughout the country to submit programs they’ve worked on in their individual counties and they decided to submit the dinner for consideration.
“This is a program that we thought was really important given the year that 2019 was for our farmers,” Norman explained.
Norman said he’s proud of the award and recognition, not just for the farm bureau, but for county farm bureau president Nate Like and Dan Brubaker, who worked on the program.
“Dan was really instrumental in getting this program up off the ground and really opened up the door to bring a lot of other businesses, groups and community leaders into the program as sponsors,” Norman said. “It was just an outpouring of support for farmers, a chance to relax, a chance to share stories, a chance to find out information about how they could get help from the government with financial help and how they could get emotional and mental support from their friends, their neighbors and other agencies in the community.
“It’s really nice for the program to be recognized because it was all about trying to reach out and help the farmers,” he added. “Our feedback was really positive and really supportive of it and appreciative of all of the organizations and associations that went in and made the event possible.”
Norman said, to his knowledge, this is the first event that was held in Henry County to win the CAE award, although he noted the county has been recognized as participating in events hosted by other counties, such as the Breakfast on the Farm hosted in Fulton County.
The winning counties receive a grant to fund participation in the Farm Bureau CAE Showcase at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention and Trade Show in January. AFBF received more than 60 entries across all membership categories, with only 12 activities nationwide being selected to present at the convention.
Norman added the showcase will likely be a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will still give them the opportunity to share the program with other farm bureaus.
Because of the strong attendance of the event in 2019, Norman said they wanted to host a similar event this year, but they were not able to have the large gathering because of the pandemic.
“The hope is, with so many things with COVID, the hope is we’ll be able to come back next year and do a followup to it,” Norman said.
Additional CAE award winners from Ohio include Delaware and Pickaway counties for its Farms to Food Banks; Scioto County for its Conservation School is Cool event; and Tuscarawas County organized a Cows 2 Kids program.
“Once again, Ohio has more CAE winners than any other state,” said Melinda Witten, Ohio Farm Bureau senior director, leadership development. “We are always proud of the county farm bureau programming in Ohio, but we are thrilled to see five counties recognized at the American Farm Bureau level.”