By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
HAMILTON, Ohio — A special agricultural subcommittee hearing of the Ohio House of Representatives took place at the Butler County Fair.
The legislators heard from Butler County Farm Bureau members, 4-H and FFA representatives, a vocational agriculture instructor and the fair manager.
Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Hanover Township) invited the speakers to talk about their involvement with agriculture and the county fair because he wanted the Columbus legislators to learn about the local community.
“I wanted the speakers to share what they do, what is a normal day and what is the impact that government could have on them,” he said. “It was not to talk about legislation, but to listen to what people are doing. The benefit is that it is casual – no bills were being talked about, but often bills will result from this type of discussion.”
Rep. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) called it “an informative meeting about the importance of agriculture in Butler County and southwest Ohio, and the importance of 4-H and agricultural development programs that some local areas have.
“I already had a keen sense of the importance of these programs and agriculture in Ohio,” said Retherford, whose family owns a farm in the area. “This added to what I already knew and understood.
“I think it will help me to continue to push for policies that are good for Ohio’s agriculture and for the 4-H and the county fairs. They really build skills for future lives.”
Kelli Gerber and Karen Hiltbrand, both junior fair board members and students of Kellie Warner – agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor at Edgewood High School – testified about agricultural life as teenagers, said Warner.
“They talked about how growing up in agriculture has impacted their life,” she explained. “They talked about how it gave them a work ethic and helped them make so many connections for future careers, and the value of being close to family.
“Being involved in 4-H and FFA has taught them that when you take on a leadership role, it is not about running a meeting or planning an event. Those things are important, but it is more about the people you are able to influence through that role. To see them really understand a leadership role at that level is exciting.
“Hopefully we shared with the legislators what we need from them as our representatives and senators,” Warner said.
Julie Dalzell, junior fair coordinator, talked about the diversity of 4-H programs that appeal to not just farm kids but urban children as well; programs such as gardening, cooking and shooting sports, Derickson said.
Current and immediate past Farm Bureau presidents, Tim Hesselbrock and Gail Lierer respectively, told the legislators about their farm operations and the impact Farm Bureau has on what they do. Butler County Fair Manager Dan Martin, also the immediate past president of the Ohio Fair Managers Assoc., talked not only about the Butler County Fair but the challenges, mostly financial, facing all county fairs.
“The meeting was a good thing,” he said.