WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — Fayette County farmer William Montgomery says that God has been “extremely good to me.”
As one of two recipients along with fellow farmer and retired Extension agent David Gerber inducted Tuesday night into the Fayette County Agriculture Society Hall of Fame, Montgomery reminded the audience at the ceremony about what happened 19 years ago this month.
“Probably some of you remember when some dumb farmer got caught in a grain bin?’ he asked. “Well, I was the dumb farmer.”
He reminded them that in those days, only about 10 to 20 percent of those who were trapped in a grain bin ever got out alive.
“I still remember after that happened and I got out, I almost froze to death because the soybeans were only about 36 degrees and I had been in there about an hour and a half,” he said.
He said they took him to the hospital in an ambulance, and, “For several years after that, anytime I went to that hospital, the people there said they were still finding soybeans there.”
The ceremonies, held at the Fine Arts Building on the Fayette County Fairgrounds, honored Montgomery and Gerber for their years of contributions to the agriculture community.
A joint effort between the Fayette County Extension Office and area residents, the Ag Hall of Fame finds and honors individuals in the county who have impacted the whole of the community. Whether through ideas or a long history of giving and teaching, the people inducted into the hall of fame embody Fayette County.
Since 2001, 48 individuals and couples have been named to the Fayette County Ag Hall of Fame. Montgomery and Gerber became 49 and 50 Tuesday night.
Montgomery, who was nominated by John A. Peterson, is the son of W. W. and Mae Montgomery. W. W. was the first OSU Agriculture Extension Agent in Fayette County and had purchased a farm, now named Montcrest Farms, on Snow Hill Road and moved his family there in 1934 because he thought the OSU Extension Service might close due to the depression. If he was going back to farming again, he wanted to farm here in flat, fertile Fayette County rather than where he grew up in Muskingum County.
He graduated from Washington High School in 1945 as senior class president. After high school graduation, he combined farming and attending Ohio State University, College of Agriculture for several years. He graduated from OSU in 10 quarters (Summa Cum Laude) with dual majors in animal science and ag economics. While at OSU, he was a member of the 1949 OSU livestock judging team, and a member and president of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Fraternity.
At the ceremony, Montgomery said that after graduating, he returned to the family farm. But in 1950, he was one of the first draftees from Fayette County for service in the Korean War. “I wasn’t happy about it,” he told the audience. The Army thought he would drive a tank in Korea. However, he used his agriculture background and schooling as a food inspector (meat, eggs, dairy products, and fish) for the First Army Quartermaster Corp., stationed in New York City working in lower Manhattan for nearly two years. Bart returned to farming with his father after his discharge from the army in 1952. They purchased a 325-acre nearby farm in 1954 for $212.50 per acre.
In 1956, he married Laurel Ford, daughter of the first Highland County OSU Extension Agent. Laurel was an OSU graduate and an elementary school teacher in Upper Arlington, Ohio. They had a son, Keith, born in 1958 and a daughter, Jan, born in 1960. Laurel died in 2015 after a courageous battle with cancer. During these early farming days, Bart was active in the Fayette County Farm Bureau, the Fayette County Landmark Co-op Association, Seldon Grange, the Producers Livestock Association, plus being a 4-H livestock club advisor for 25 years.
In December 2014 at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, he was awarded the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Distinguished Service Award. During all these activities, Bart and Laurel have traveled to every state in the Union, plus many European and Asian countries.
In introducing Gerber, fellow Extension Service staffer Rose Mirklewitz said she worked with him for more than 30 years and he was “an awesome professional who worked very hard.”
She said he was an awesome Extension educator who retired after more than 40 years of service, “And we miss him very much.”
Gerber said he thanked the Ag Society for the honor and talked about his years farming in the community and work with the Extension Service.
Gerber, who was nominated by Pat Brinkman, worked as a swine specialist from 1965 until 1995 and impacted many areas of the industry. He created the role of swine specialist in 1965, impacted swine production through enterprise business plan development, reproduction, nutrition, health, facilities and management and scheduling, and helped farm building construction through design, ventilation, concrete and insulation.
He served as Putnam County Extension Agent from 1955 until 1965. At that time he heavily emphasized livestock (swine, beef) structures. He also dealt in agronomics for plants such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets, tomatoes and small grains. At the Ohio State Fair, he was a Junior Swine Show Superintendent for 17 years, has judged agronomic crops and garden classes and has won a number of awards for melons, beans, pumpkins and squash.
The nominee also had many other life accomplishments. He developed “Pork Profits TV” with WOSU-TV and WBGU-TV for pork producers/consumers and videos for 4-H club members: Fitting-Showing and Care of Pig Projects. His military service includes U.S. Army (1953-1955) in Anti-aircraft Artillery Air Defense, Battalion Staff-Intelligence and Assistant Operation, Training Officer and he was honorably discharged as First Lieutenant. He is a Boy Scout Scoutmaster, a Washington Shrine Club member and also attends the First Presbyterian Church.
Master of Ceremonies at the event was Ag Hall of Fame Committee member Ronald Weade. Mel Wickensimer did the invocation and The Willow catered the dinner.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759.