Four individuals were inducted into the Fulton County Agricultural Hall of Fame on Monday, Aug. 19.
The annual event recognizes selected farmers or agribusiness leaders from the county who have committed 25 or more years of service to the agricultural industry in the county, state or region.
This year’s winners will have a permanent plaque hung in their honor at the Merchants Building at the Fulton County Fairgrounds. Their plaques and biographies will be hung during the Fulton County Fair in the Hall of Fame Pavilion, just south of the Fulton County Junior Fair Building. Each honoree will receive an identical plaque for their home from 2019 sponsors Curt and Jeanne Johnson.
The 2019 Fulton County Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees are:
• Posthumously, William “Bill” Hoops of Pettisville, German Township. Hoops gave a lifetime of service as a dairy farmer and agricultural youth mentor. As a dairyman, he was awarded various prizes for milk production and quality from the local and state associations.
He was one of the first and few farmers that safely and effectively started custom applying anhydrous ammonia nitrogen to corn in the area. Custom farming allowed for reduction in equipment cost.
Hoops helped start the Pettisville 4-H Club, and was supportive of the local FFA chapter. He was a member of First Church of God in Wauseon and Gideons International, and was involved with the boards of WPOS Christian radio station, Pettisville FFA Alumni, the Dairy Association, and the Defiance Production Credit, now Farm Credit.
• Lee Leininger, Cottonwood Vale Farms, a 400-acre dairy, corn, soybean, wheat, and alfalfa farm in Fayette. He is involved with the Fulton County Dairy Association and the National Red/White and Holstein associations.
In his dairy career, Leininger developed five generations of nationally-respected red/white and black/white Holstein cows – both high in type and milk production components.
In 2014, Leininger was named the premier breeder at the Spring Dairy Expo Red/White Holstein show in Columbus, Ohio. He was an early adopter of sexed semen technology which, when applied to his cows, helped him achieve a very high conception and heifer calf rating. Lee also adopted artificial insemination and embryo transfer technologies as they became available.
Leininger has exhibited dairy cattle for 55 years at the Fulton County Fair, and has helped many 4-H and FFA dairy members by mentoring, providing equipment, loaning dairy stock, and offering expertise.
He has been a member of the West Franklin United Methodist Church and Fayette United Methodist Church, volunteered time for Fulton County’s Breakfast On The Farm events, and worked hard to provide opportunities for youth to participate in the agriculture industry through 4-H, FFA, and farming activities.
• Dr. Emerson D. Nafziger’s impact on Midwestern crop production has been felt through his corn and soybean research, academic writing, and Extension education to farmers and with students throughout the Corn Belt. He earned agronomy degrees from Ohio State and Purdue universities, and eventually his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, where he spent the majority of his career.
Since 1993, Dr. Nafziger has been a Professor of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois Extension. He is responsible for programs in corn, soybeans, and small grains, where he delivers programs to producers, crop advisors, and students. Dr. Nafziger turns agronomic data collected from applied research in the eastern Corn Belt into tools that help producers better manage crops by predicting responses to crop inputs. He created a data-driven nitrogen rate calculator, an online resource that assists producers in improving nitrogen management for corn in most of the largest corn-producing states.
Additionally, he has authored the book “Modern Corn and Soybean Production,” currently used by several local Ag Ed departments, multiple community colleges, and several land grant universities. It is considered one of few exclusive books on corn and soybean production in the nation. Dr. Nafziger has also written numerous journal articles, and completed research projects related to corn and soybean production.
He has instructed local farmers at the Annual Northwest Ohio Corn and Soybean Day and at the Conservation Tillage Conference. He is a member of several national agronomy societies and has been recognized on the national level with several industry and academic awards.
• William R. Schmitz of Lyons. He has a 60-plus year career as a farmer, leading him to endeavors in drainage, excavating, specialty crops, row crops, and agricultural fabrication, among others.
Schmitz was a pioneer in laying some of the first plastic drainage tile in the 1960s, and eventually was one of the first to use lasers for tile installation. He has helped neighboring farmers dig ponds for water solutions on their farm fields, in livestock barns and for a domestic water source. He also designed and built special row mulchers for a John Deere six-row planter to make garden-like seedbed for sugar beets.
Schmitz continues to help fabricate fertilizer toolbars. In 1947, he was awarded the Outstanding Tomato Grower Award by the Campbell’s Soup Company, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s he continued to be a top tomato grower. Schmitz’s operation has grown to be one of the largest in the county, focusing on corn, soybeans, and wheat.
He has served on Our Lady of Fatima Church Council, and is a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Assumption. He has opened his home to the local 4-H club for many years, served on the Evergreen School Board and and one campus committee.
Since 1983, there have been 148 honorees inducted into the Fulton County Agricultural Hall of Fame. Inductees are selected by the Hall of Fame Committee in July after applications are reviewed.