Ag Leaders Honored at Banquet

Outstanding agriculture leaders were honored at the Ontario County Agriculture Appreciation Banquet on Friday, March 24, 2076 at Club 86, Geneva, NY. The banquet was a wonderful celebration of agriculture in Ontario County during National Agriculture Week. One hundred sixty (160) agriculture producers, educators, county officials, county supervisors, New State Senator and representatives of New York State legislators enjoyed the banquet. It was a special night – “Down Memory Lane”. The Jerome, Zimmerman, Kunes, and Lightfoote families shared memories of their loved ones and the history behind the establishment of each award. 

The Rodney Lightfoote Agricultural Viability, Leadership, and  Innovation Award serves as a memorial to Rodney Lightfoote (1920-2002), former Agriculture Program Leader of Cornell Cooperative Extension, one of the original founders of Ontario County Farm Bureau, farmer and friend of agriculture. Fred Lightfoote, cousin to Rodney told of memories of Rodney. The 2017 award was presented to Richard (Rich) Jerome. Rich Jerome is the 7th generation to operate the family farm. Rich’s dad changed the farm from dairy to grapes when Rich was in high school. Now it consists of a U-pick operation of raspberries and peas in the spring and grapes and pumpkins in the fall. Rich has been an active advocate for agriculture for over 30 years. He has been active in many leadership roles with the local, state, and national Farm Bureau. Rich and his wife, Mary were one of the top 3 finalists in the New York Farm Bureau Outstanding Young Farmer Competition in 1978. Rich was the first to receive the Paul Zimmerman Outstanding Young Farmer Award. Rich has been active in the promotion of the grape industry throughout the years. In an article in the Democrat and Chronicle on July 1988, Rich is quoted: “We’re living proof that a small, efficiently run farm operation with a specialized market can compete in today’s big fussiness agriculture.” This statement is still true today with the Jerome farm. In December 2008, Rich received the New York Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award to Agriculture. At the January 2018 New York Agriculture Society Annual Meeting, the Jerome Farm will be honored for being in the Jerome family for 200 years. 

Before announcing the Jackie Kunes Outstanding Woman in Agriculture Award, recipient, the Kunes Family shared memories of Jackie. These included her husband, Cliff Kunes, Sr.; Jackie’s sister, Martha; her children, Mike, Casey, Kathleen, and Julie. The Ontario County Farm Bureau established this award as a tribute to Jackie Kunes (1937-1977), the first woman president of Ontario County Farm Bureau, a distinguished and devoted leader in the industry, her family business, and the community. Jackie’s son, Casey presented the 2017 Jackie Kunes Award to Karen Rugenstein. Karen is a business woman, active in the farm management of her family farm, and a loving wife, mother and grandma. She started her career with USDA FSA as a Commodity Program Technician and with hard work and dedication is a Farm Loan Specialist. She also owns and operates a 25 head Simmental cow/calf herd with her family in Canandaigua. Karen was a 4-H member, then leader with her children and has continued her work as a 4-H Leader and 4-H Beef Superintendent at the Ontario County Fair. She is married to Randy and has two children, Becky and Amy. She raised her children with a deep appreciation of agriculture and now has three grandchildren, Grant, Addison, and Laramie who she shares her love of agriculture. 

The Paul and Peg Zimmerman Family presented a powerpoint of their memories of their parents. The family members present were two of their children, Carol and Jamie. The 2017 Paul and Peg Zimmerman Outstanding Young Farmer Award was presented to Hannah (Young) Worden. She grew up on a dairy farm in Clifton Springs. Hannah helped with calves and chores at a young age and then became very active in many facets of school, 4-H, Junior Holstein Association and was an Ontario County Dairy Princess. She was a semi-finalist in the Holstein Association’s National Distinguished Junior Contest. Her cattle have received National awards for classification and production. She graduated from Cornell University. She got a world view of agriculture with her travels internationally. Hannah works in her chosen field of dairy genetics for ABS Global as a Cornerstone Representative and Genetic Mating Service Specialist. She serves on the Ontario County Farm Bureau Board and is a member of the Ontario County Dairy Promotion Committee. Hannah and her husband, Matthew are partners at Will-O-Crest Farm where Matthew is herd manager. They have 2 children, Catherine and Emily. 

Rich Jerome shared memories of his dad, Ralph before he presented the 2017 Ralph Jerome Scholarship to Jaime Frederick. She attends Midlakes High School where she is active in the Agriculture Club, Cross country and track, National Honor Society, student council, and band. Jaimee is a 4-H member and Junior Dairy Leader. On her family farm, she is in charge of the herd health and has taken an interest in genetics in both the dairy herd and her own herd of goats she has been developing. She has been accepted at Morrisville and Alfred where she will pursue a major in animal science. 

Julie Maslyn, chairperson of the Ontario County Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee presented the Ontario County Farm Bureau Agricultural Citizenship Scholarships. This scholarship recognizes graduating high school seniors for their agricultural citizenship within their community. Their activities, promotional efforts and enthusiasm for the agriculture industry are recognized and encouraged, no matter what field of study they pursue. 

The 2017 Ontario County Farm Bureau Agricultural Citizenship Scholarships were awarded to Sara Kelly, Sara Fessner, Hammond Raes, and Katharine Wesche. Sara Kelly attends Canandaigua Academy. She plans on attending Hobart and William Smith College for environmental studies. She is a member of 4-H, enjoys horseback riding, running, and skiing. Sara believes every adult, young adult and child should be thoroughly involved in agriculture.

Sara Fessner attends Bloomfield Central School and is planning on attending SUNY Cobleskill for Conservation. She is very involved with the NY Beef Association and NY Junior Angus Association. She is a member of the Western Wranglers Livestock 4-H Club. Sara states that she is pursuing a career in agriculture because it’s imbedded in her jeans, figuratively and literally.

Hammond Raes attends Midlakes High School. He is looking at attending a SUNY school for an agriculture business degree. He is an outstanding wrestler at Midlakes. After college, he wants to return to the family farm and continue farming with his father, uncles, and cousins.

Katharine Wesche attends Red Jacket High School. She plans on attending SUNY Cobleskill in the fall and pursuing a degree in livestock studies. Katharine is a natural leader in the many activities that she participates in. 

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County, Ontario County Farm Bureau and Ontario County Agriculture Enhancement Board are collaborators of this annual event.

Outstanding agriculture leaders honored at the recent Ontario County Agriculture Appreciation Banquet including (left to right back row: Karen Rugenstein, Jaimee Frederick, Katharine Wesche, Richard Jerome, Hannah Worden. Front Row: Hammond Raes, Sara Kelly, Sara Fessner)

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