The Stewardship Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the cultivation of sustainable agriculture, the Service Award recognizes outstanding service in support of sustainable agriculture, and the Advocate of the Year Award recognizes exceptional contributions to sustainable agriculture policy advocacy. The awards are announced each year as part of OEFFA’s annual conference. The following award winners have all played a vital role in advancing sustainable agriculture in Ohio.
2018 Stewardship AwardLarry and Cynthia Ringer, Stark Co.
Larry and Cynthia Ringer founded Ohio Earth Food in 1972 with Cynthia’s family, in the midst of the chemical agriculture boom. At the time, they were working on the vegetable farm of Cynthia’s dad and early organic farmer, Glenn Graber. After observing the benefits of kelp and concerned about the effects of conventional farming on the environment and human health, they realized there could be an emergent market for organic fertilizers, and started selling kelp products and rock phosphate. Larry and Cynthia started the company on the Graber farm in Hartville, where they’ve lived for more than 70 years. Today, Ohio Earth Food has expanded to sell custom fertilizer blends, feed supplements, natural pesticides, potting soils, and other products to customers throughout the U.S. They retired in 2010, but remain involved in the business as consultants. They have been active in OEFFA since its beginning. Larry served seven years on the OEFFA certification committee and has taught conference workshops, and Ohio Earth Food has been a fixture at every OEFFA conference trade show for nearly 40 years.
2018 Service AwardSean McGovern, Franklin Co.
Sean McGovern has been the National Outreach Manager at the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program since 2004. There, he helps to educate farmers and agricultural professionals about the results of SARE-funded farmer-led research projects; develop educational partnerships between organizations, educators, and producers; evaluate the impact of programs, and develop and improve SARE communications and database tools. Sean has worked at OEFFA since 1994, continuing as an OEFFA employee in his capacity with SARE. He was first hired by OEFFA as a part-time secretary, about a year after graduating from Ohio State University. As OEFFA grew, Sean’s title shifted to Executive Administrator and eventually to Executive Director. He worked to develop productive partnerships with Ohio State University Extension and advocated for the creation of a new Organic Food and Farming Education and Research (OFFER) program, leading to the first organic production research at OSU. He focused on providing affordable educational programs that OEFFA’s members wanted, growing the membership base, and putting administrative systems in place that facilitated future growth.
2018 Food and Farm Champion AwardSenator Sherrod Brown
Senator Sherrod Brown has been committed to sustainable agriculture and a leader in making positive investments in local food systems, community economic development, and public health. Senator Brown has consistently supported investments in local and regional food systems that contribute to farmer viability, create jobs, and improve public health. Through his introduction of the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act (S. 1947), we can fully develop the policies and programs that spur economic development in communities in Ohio and throughout the nation. Senator Brown’s farm bill advocacy efforts have supported more than 90 food system projects and resulted in more than $7 million dollars in investments in Ohio’s communities. He serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, where he has been instrumental in strengthening the farm safety net and addressing childhood hunger.
2017 Stewardship AwardMike Anderson, Delaware Co.
For 25 years, Mike Anderson of Delaware County has given his time and energy to Ohio’s organic farming community. He began his farming career at the Ohio State University demonstration farm, then housed at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, before managing vegetable production and field research for five years at the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware. In 2001, he started Sundog Specialty Crops in Sunbury, a certified organic farm specializing in produce and cut flowers. Today, Anderson co-manages Whitebarn Organics, a certified organic farm in New Albany. Throughout his entire career, Anderson has generously shared his time and expertise with other growers and with OEFFA. He served on OEFFA’s Board of Trustees in the 1990s, coordinating procurement of local food for the annual conference and planning farmer training workshops. Later, he served on the board of directors for the Pearl Alley Growers Association, on the administrative council of the NCR-SARE program, and on OEFFA’s staff as a Sustainable Agriculture Educator, helping organic and transitional farmers with their certification, production, and marketing questions. Anderson has hosted numerous farm tours and has led many workshops at the OEFFA conference and other events to share what he knows with other farmers and grow Ohio’s sustainable agriculture community.
2017 Service AwardHolly Harman Fackler, Fairfield Co.
2017 Food and Farm Champion AwardAlex Dragovich, Mud Run Farm, Stark Co.
2016 Stewardship AwardJim Croghan, Croghan’s Organic Farm, Clinton Co.
2016 Service AwardSylvia Upp and Steve Sears, Pike Co.
Sylvia Upp operated the OEFFA Certification program from 1991 until 2007, joined by her husband Steve Sears in 2003. Together, they managed the complex and challenging transition from the standards and processes developed by OEFFA’s grassroots certification program to federal oversight once the National Organic Program became effective in 2002. Their home and farm in West Salem, Ohio served as the headquarters for OEFFA’s Certification program, until it moved to a Columbus office in 2007. Prior to his certification role, Steve served on OEFFA’s board for many years, during a time when the organization was largely volunteer-run. During this time, Steve also operated a business called Ohio Farm Direct, one of the state’s first wholesale distribution services that delivered products from farms to consumers.
2015 Stewardship AwardBill Dix and Stacy Hall, The Brick Dairy Farm, Athens Co.
2015 Service AwardJohn Sowder, Franklin Co.
2014 Stewardship AwardKip and Becky Rondy, Green Edge Organic Gardens, Athens Co.
2014 Service AwardEd Perkins, Sassafras Farm, Athens Co.
2013 Stewardship Award
Mardy Townsend, Marshy Meadows Farm, Ashtabula Co.
Mardy Townsend raises grass-fed beef cattle at Marshy Meadows Farm in Ashtabula County, near Windsor, Ohio. Marshy Meadow Farm’s land has been certified organic through OEFFA since 1996 and the beef herd is in transition to organic. Townsend graduated from Wilmington College in 1978 with a degree in animal science and biology and received a master’s degree in agronomy from Ohio State University in 1997. She was a horticulture agent at the OSU Extension Geauga County office from 1994 to 1996. Townsend has served on the OEFFA Board, along with two stints on the North Central-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program Technical Review Committee. She is a founding member of OEFFA’s Lake Effect Chapter and has hosted several OEFFA farm tours.
2013 Service Award
Rev. Charles Frye, Ashland Co.
Rev. Charles Frye served on the OEFFA Board for more than 30 years and has held both the President and Vice President offices. Frye is a retired United Methodist Church pastor who served local churches for 37 years. Frye began his involvement with OEFFA after spending seven years of his ministry life involved with the Rural-Urban Gardening Project, creating community gardens by encouraging collaborations between diverse communities. He and his wife, Rev. Nancy Hull live on 40 acres in Ashland County, which includes a garden and 40 heirloom fruit trees, blueberries, and asparagus plants. Frye and his wife are the parents of a blended family with nine living children and fourteen grandchildren. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Kent State University in 1955 and a master’s in theological studies from Perkins School of Theology in 1958.
2012 Stewardship Award
Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia, Peach Mountain Organics, Greene Co.
Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Greene County have farmed organically at Peach Mountain Organics since 1992, growing certified organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, mushrooms, hay, and greenhouse plants. They sell their products at the Yellow Springs Farmers’ Market, local restaurants, and grocery and health food stores. Peach Mountain Organics has two farm sites and one half acre greenhouse location in Spring Valley, Ohio. Altogether, the operation is 43 acres, more than 25 of which are certified organic. Doug and Leslie have helped organize group seed and potato orders for other farmers and grown organic bedding plants for other growers, hosted farm tours, presented OEFFA conference workshops, and were involved in the creation of both OEFFA and the Federation of Ohio River Cooperatives.
2011 Stewardship Award
Deborah Stinner, Wayne Co.
Edward Snavely, Curly Tail Organic Farm, Knox Co.
Dr. Deborah Stinner is a retired research scientist and administrative coordinator for the Organic Food and Farming Education and Research (OFFER) program at The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio. Stinner’s research specialty is organic farming systems, with a focus on specialty small grains for artisan bread and pasta products. She helped found the OFFER program in 1998 to provide science-based information to Ohio’s organic farmers. Today, OFFER is internationally recognized as a leader in organic farming research and maintains 50 acres of certified research land and 20 organic field experiments.
Ed Snavely owns and operates Curly Tail Organic Farm, a 114 acre farm in Fredericktown, Ohio. One of Ohio’s longest continuously certified farms, Snavely has been certified organic since 1989 and raises pastured pork and feed for livestock. Snavely has been a member of OEFFA since 1989 and currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Grain Growers Chapter Representative. He has served as President of the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) Ohio Chapter, and also as a former board member of OCIA. Snavely has hosted numerous farm tours; spoken as a featured presenter at OEFFA, OCIA, and American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) meetings; and has been an honored delegate at the first and second Slow Food Terra Madre conferences in Italy.
2010 Stewardship Award
Mike Laughlin, Northridge Organic Farm, Licking Co.
Mike Laughlin and his family operate Northridge Organic Farm, a 20 acre certified organic farm, producing a variety of seasonal produce, specializing in heirloom tomatoes and Tunis sheep. Laughlin has been a part of OEFFA since the 1980s. He served as the certification committee chair for three years and helped write OEFFA’s first standards for organic certification. Laughlin founded OEFFA’s Heart of Ohio Chapter, and served as the chapter’s president twice. From 2005 to 2009, Laughlin served as President of OEFFA’s Board of Directors. Today, he serves on OEFFA’s Board as an At-Large Representative.
2009 Stewardship Award
Rich Tomsu, Rich Gardens Organic Farm, Athens Co.
Rich Tomsu, with wife Ann Fugate, own and operate Rich Gardens Organic Farm. Certified organic since 1989, Tomsu raises a variety of vegetables, including garlic, using biointensive farming practices. He has been a vendor at the Athens Farmers Market since the 1980s and has been instrumental to its growth. In 2002, Tomsu received the Ohio Small Farmer Award from the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District for the conservation practices on his farm.
2008 Stewardship Award
Stan Gregg, Gregg Farms, Knox Co.
Stan Gregg’s agricultural heritage stems from deep roots in Knox County where he and his wife Wilma are the sixth consecutive generation to steward the family plot. With the exception of three years during service in WWII as a Air Corps pilot, he spent his entire life on Gregg Road tending to diversified crop and livestock operations. Building and incorporating organic matter into the soil, and implementing corn, hay, soybean and small grain rotations with grazing lots for livestock, Gregg became certified organic in 1985. Gregg passed the farm to his son, Randy and wife Nancy, who maintain organic certification on one of Ohio’s first certified organic farms.
2007 Stewardship Award
Molly Bartlett, Silver Creek Farm, Portage Co.
Mick Luber, Bluebird Farm, Harrison Co.
Molly Bartlett, and husband Ted, owned Silver Creek Farm, which was first certified organic in 1989. On this 75 acre farm, the Bartletts raised vegetables, blueberries, mushrooms, sheep, and poultry. Farm products were sold to restaurants and grocers, at farmers markets, and through a CSA Bartlett started in 1991. In 2007, the Bartletts retired to Florida and sold their farm to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, ensuring the land will continue to be farmed sustainably. Bartlett has served as OEFFA’s Board President, helped create the OSU Sustainable Agriculture Team, and served on the advisory committee of USDA SARE’s Sustainable Agriculture Network.
Mick Luber of Bluebird Farm raises certified organic vegetables and flowers, specializing in lettuces and garlic. A long-time member of OEFFA, Luber served on OEFFA’s first Board of Directors and as President for two years. He purchased OEFFA’s first computer and published the organization’s first newsletter. He also helped write OEFFA’s first set of organic standards, years before state or federal standards were established. Luber continues to serve as an organic farm inspector.
2006 Stewardship Award
Harv and Pat Roehling, Locust Run Farm, Butler Co.
Harv and Pat Roehling have raised certified organic vegetables on Locust Run Farm since 1987. The Roehlings have been actively involved in OEFFA for more than 20 years. During that time, Harv has served on OEFFA’s Board of Directors as Treasurer, President, and Vice President and Pat served as Secretary. The Roehlings were instrumental in forming OEFFA’s Miami/Oxford Organic Network (MOON) Chapter and Harv continues to serve as the chapter’s president. The Roehlings have led workshops at OEFFA’s conference and hosted farm tours. Additionally, the Roehlings were instrumental in forming the OSU Sustainable Agriculture Team, developing the Center for Small Farms at the Farm Science Review, and served as part of the farmer advisory group for the OFFER program at OSU. Pat Roehling passed away in 2008.
2005 Stewardship Award
Rex Spray, Spray Farms, Knox Co.
Rex Spray was Ohio’s first certified organic farmer, and an early pioneer for sustainable agriculture, inspiring a whole movement of organic farmers in Ohio. Spray grew certified organic soybeans, corn, wheat, hay, and beef cattle on 680 acres. He also built a bean cleaner and grain cleaner, to prepare and bag beans for tofu, adding to the farm’s profitability. A tireless innovator and one of Ohio’s greatest examples of profitable, sustainable farmers, Rex Spray received the NCR-SARE 2006 Patrick Madden Award. He passed away in December 2011.
2001 Stewardship Award
John Hirzel, Hirzel Farms, Wood Co.
John Hirzel was a firm believer in organic and sustainable cropping systems. He was president of Hirzel Farms, part of Hirzel Canning Company and Farms, from 1963 until his death in 2000. Hirzel began doing organic trials in 1978 and in 1982 he certified 450 acres of the farm. His organic farming grew to 820 acres in 1996, pioneering large-scale organic vegetable production in the state. He was one of the founding farmer advisors of OFFER and an important early supporter of the Agroecosystems Management Program (AMP).