Farewell To A Local Agricultural Icon

bruce-johnsonStephenson County, Illinois — I was saddened to learn of the passing of prominent local ag leader I. Ronald Lawfer of Stockton on December 18 at the age of 82. I came to know Ron shortly after I became the Farm Bureau manager in Carroll County in September 2001, when he was still serving as our 89th District State Representative.

I quickly came to realize that he was a man of conviction and passion, holding agricultural and conservation issues especially near to his heart. Ron’s extensive obituary, posted at www.hermannfuneralhome.com, chronicles the numerous accomplishments of his life of service on many levels.

Ron and his wonderful wife of 61 years, Pat, have always been in the midst of agricultural life in northwest Illinois, and their son Ron and his wife Julie followed in dad’s footsteps last year when they were named Prairie Farmer “Master Farmers” following Ron’s honor in 1985.

I always knew that any encounter with Ron and Pat would be cordial and rewarding, and Ron’s fire burned hot for agricultural issues and preserving the integrity of our industry in the face of challenges.

The gates of heaven have swung wide open for a great man who left a lasting impression on me and a legacy of positive impact in the ag community – God’s peace to the family and friends who mourn his passing, and a well-deserved rest from his labors for Ron.

Momentum builds for HCC ag program
I had the privilege of being invited to serve on the newly formed Highland Community College Ag Advisory Committee, and our first meeting on December 20 was an invigorating and inspiring experience.

Ag department head Justin Ebert has lit a spark in the program since coming on board two years ago, and the numbers and successes reflect that fact.

The unduplicated headcount in the ag program in the fall of 2012 was 47 students, and that number grew to 72 in the fall of 2015. There are currently 60 full-time students pursuing either an ag transfer option, an Associate’s degree in Ag Management, or an ag certificate in Ag Production. Additionally, the Dairy Judging Team led by Kristi Dinderman has really shone in recent competitions and is drawing attention far and wide.

Justin, along with Dean of Business & Technology Scott Anderson and HCC President Tim Hood, joined in a discussion with six area ag leaders as we covered a variety of topics concerning the path ahead.

I’m extremely proud of the emphasis that Highland’s leaders are placing on agriculture program offerings, and I look forward to many more productive sessions as we work together to build an even brighter future.

The concept of establishing HCC as a regional hub for ag education opportunities for all ages is very encouraging – watch for more good news to follow!

At the conclusion of the session, Stephenson Service Company General Manager Jay Kempel presented a check to Justin for $10,000 representing mutual support from SSC and its parent company GROWMARK. Jay had nominated the HCC ag department for consideration for GROWMARK’s new Enduring Commitments program, which will match a local member company’s contributions to a deserving non-profit entity up to $5000. Thanks to SSC and GROWMARK for their support!

New energy and focus on fair board
I continue to be thrilled with the new level of energy and vision exhibited by the members of the Stephenson County Fair Board as we work on plans for the 2017 fair. President Jeff Becker issued a challenge to all of the standing committee chairs at the November meeting to have every committee meet prior to the December 22 meeting to get established and set the course for their work ahead.

I’m happy to report that I think we have achieved that objective, with lots of productive and focused discussions taking place. I am chairing the Building and Grounds Committee and serving on several others, and I am looking forward to seeing the action plans developing. Be sure to mark your calendar for the fair on July 6-9 with lots more details to follow in the coming months!

Applications sought for Summer Program Assistant
For the twelfth year SCFB will be employing a Summer Program Assistant to help out with a busy summer filled with a variety of projects and activities. Candidates for this paid position should have at least one year of college under their belt and must have reliable transportation and insurance, and a farm background is helpful but not required. Applications and details are available at www.stephensoncfb.org or at the SCFB office, and deadline for applications is January 31, 2017.

SCFB board leadership
The Stephenson County Farm Bureau Board of Directors met on December 19 and elected its new leadership team for the 2016-17 year. Steve Fricke from Freeport was elected to another term as President, and Jon Rosenstiel from Pearl City was tabbed for another term as Secretary/Treasurer. Dan Scheider from Freeport was elected as the new Vice President to succeed Chad Bremmer, who retired from the board in November after 12 years of service. Newly-elected director Scott Brenner from Freeport joined the board after being elected at the annual meeting to succeed Chad on the board. I want to express my sincere thanks to our outstanding board for their service and dedication.

Holiday reminder
The SCFB office will be closed on Monday January 2 in observance of New Year’s Day and will reopen for business on Tuesday January 3 at 8:00 a.m. – have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

Bruce Johnson is the Manager of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau.

Leave a Reply