Chamber recognizes achievements, advocacy in agriculture

By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

March 23, 2014

GREENVILLE - Longtime Darke County farmer, Francis Byers, 92, was awarded the 2014 Agricultural Achievement award at the Darke County Chamber of Commerce annual Chamber Ag Day.

The Agricultural Achievement Award is typically given to a producer who is actively involved in agriculture production and the food chain of Darke County, said Matt Aultman, Darke County Chamber of Commerce agriculture committee chairman.

“Our recipient today is an avid agriculturist from Darke County who has supported agriculture in many ways,” Aultman said as he introduced Byers who was born and raised in Darke County, growing up on his family farm in Van Buren Township.

Byers earned his first rosette in 1939, a year before he graduated from Monroe High School, and since then, he has won more than 250 rosettes, as well as hundreds of exhibitor ribbons in his 74 years of participating in the Great Darke County Fair. He has also earned the distinction of Grand Winner of all displays at the Ohio State Fair, Aultman shared, along with Best Display for vegetables and fruit at the Great Darke County Fair.

The Great Darke County Fair was a common thread between the Agricultural Achievement Award and the Agricultural Advocacy Award that was also awarded, as the Darke County Agricultural Society, better known as the Fairboard, was the recipient, being the “oldest continuous organization promoting agriculture in Darke County,” said Tony Roberts, incoming agriculture committee chairman for the Darke County Chamber of Commerce.

The Darke County Agricultural Society began in 1853, and provides Darke County (and those who come from all around the country) with nine days of agricultural promotion, education for youth and community fellowship, Roberts said.

“They’re one of the hardest working organizations for agriculture, and they work hard all year long,” Roberts stated.

Both Byers and the Darke County Agricultural Society received recognition from Ohio’s legislators, including Representatives Richard Adams and Jim Buchy, who both reminisced about their memories of the Great Darke County Fair.

“I can still remember, with great satisfaction, the degree to which we anticipated coming to the Great Darke County Fair,” Adams commented. “…It hasn’t continued to be the great fair that it is by luck or a matter of chance, it’s a matter of a board who gets the job done, as well as the people of this county who support the fair.”