Ricketts Farm Inc. was presented the first “Agriculture Business of the Year” award Monday morning at the eighth-annual Groundhog Day Breakfast, sponsored by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and McDonald’s of Fayette County.
Chamber president Julie Bolender made the presentation to Gene Baumgardner, who owns Ricketts Farm with his wife Jo, in front of a large crowd at the Fayette County Fairgrounds’ Mahan Building.
“We’re extremely excited to add this award this year and being able to honor those who do so much for our community,” said Bolender.
Baumgardner said it’s been a thrill to be in Fayette County.
“I’m from a house that had 10,000 cars a day go by to a house that has five cars a day go by,” he said. “The friendliness and the quality of the people down here has been wonderful in welcoming us to the community.”
Baumgardner added that Jo was unable to be at the breakfast Monday due to “being under the weather,” and then recognized his crew who were in attendance.
“These are the people who make Ricketts Farm, I just kind of lead the team and let them do what they need to do,” he said.
Ricketts Farm Inc. came to Jefferson Township in Fayette County from Fairfield County in 2004, with Gene and Jo making it their home in 2006. They have diversified the farming operation over the years by selling seed, chemicals and fertilizers, and also planting non-GMO soybeans and non-GMO corn, according to the Ricketts’ bio.
In the late 2000s, they sold some of their corn crop for silage to local dairies and started to do custom work for them. This expanded into planting other forages, including rye and triticale, and also using wheat acres for summer dairy manure application and then planting oats for another forage crop in the fall.
In 2018, a feed grinding operation was installed and the non-GMO corn is now ground into flour for dairy feed. One hundred and 50 acres of barley were planted in October and will be malted for use in the craft beer industry. By doing all these practices and also planting cover crops, they work to be good stewards of soil, water and all natural resources.
Prior to the presentation of the first Agriculture Business of the Year award, Ed Helt and Elaine Stalsworth of the Fayette County Honor Guard presented the colors and National Anthem. Tony Garren, pastor at Fayette Bible Church, gave an opening prayer before a delicious breakfast catered by The Willow Restaurant in Washington C.H. was served.
Following breakfast, Nick Epifano, the owner/operator of McDonald’s of Fayette County, spoke about the McDonald’s relationship with local and national farmers.
“Without you we would not have the vital ingredients to make the great McDonald’s food,” Epifano said. “The American farmer enables us to serve the 45 million customers safely every day in the United States McDonald’s Restaurants.”
“In Ohio, there are 615 McDonald’s restaurants made up of about 90 percent of individual owner/operators like myself employing over 47,000 Ohioans,” he continued. “Matter of fact there are 91 independent owner/operators in Ohio like myself. Like all of you, we know how important it is to reinvest back in our communities and support our partners, especially the Ohio farmer.”
On a yearly basis, McDonald’s purchases the following amounts of product from Ohio: 93 million pounds of corn, 29 million pounds of flour, 35 million pounds of soybeans, 26 million pounds of wheat, 24 million pounds of soybean oil, five million pounds of sugar, and 706,000 gallons of milk.
Epifano also introduced two engaging and compelling speakers, Bruce Boguski and Andy Vance.
Boguski is an author, motivational speaker, trainer, columnist and media personality well-known for his ability to inspire others to “do the impossible.” According to his bio, he knows first-hand the attitude and skills required to overcome physical and mental challenges.
At age 18, Boguski was paralyzed as the result of an automobile accident. While doctors were wondering whether he would ever walk again, he was busy recuperating. Two years later, he had regained full use of his body and went on to become a two-time state champion in racquetball, a football and baseball coach at Van Buren High School and the men’s and women’s tennis coach at the University of Findlay.
Today, Boguski is president of “The Winner’s Edge,” a peak performance consulting firm in Findlay, Ohio. He has become an internationally-known presenter on motivational tactics and mental toughness training for education, sports, business and life.
During his speech Monday, Boguski emphasized the “power of belief” and how far it can take you as an individual.
“The power of belief is to develop affirmations to start believing in yourself,” he said. “If you don’t know what an affirmation is, it’s one of the first things that I teach my business clients and my athletes. An affirmation is a positive statement that you say to yourself over and over again. It’s always done in first-person, present tense like it’s already happening to you. Here’s my favorite affirmation: ‘I am always calm and confident under pressure.’ People always laugh at me and say, ‘Come on. Are you telling me that by saying good things over and over it’s going to change your life?’ No! You change your actions!”
Vance, the second guest speaker, communicates today’s issues in the agriculture and food retail industries through powerful storytelling, according to his bio. He helps audiences learn how to understand the often distinct perspectives of farmers and consumers. He has presented to hundreds of groups in agriculture and related professions, and been called upon to moderate discussion panels for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the National Association of Farm Broadcasting and several land-grant universities.
Vance began his career in farm media as a college intern in Columbus and spent 10 years as a broadcast journalist at WRFD-AM, the Buckeye Ag Radio Network and ABN Radio. He earned the Horizon Award from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting in 2005, and with his team won multiple newscast and news service awards. During his time behind the microphone, he became a noted authority on the use of digital and social media in agriculture.
In 2010, Vance made the transition to print media when he joined Feedstuffs as a contributor and blogger. Today, in addition to writing, podcasting and speaking, he designs multi-platform campaigns for advertisers reaching an agricultural audience via Feedstuffs, National Hog Farmer and BEEF Magazine.
Born and raised in Highland County, Vance lives outside Columbus with his wife and daughter.
“I want to say to you as members of the community, what you do is important as the employers and the leaders in this county,” said Vance. “It’s vital that you continue to do the things that you’re doing here, gathering together and trying to figure out how to advance the conversation. Rural communities are in trouble all across the country. And it’s up to you as the leaders here to make sure that this one continues to be a beacon for success and growth.”
Toward the end of the event following a series of clues, Trevor Patton, the director of marketing and communications at Washington Court House City Schools, was revealed to the “mystery groundhog.” The mystery groundhog is a tradition where a well-known member of the community dresses up like a groundhog and his/her identity is revealed at the end of the event. Former “mystery groundhogs” include Robin Beekman, Bill Berry, Jeff Shaw, Wilma Coulter, Daniel Roberts, Shirley Pettit and Bev Mullen.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352.