Versailles FFA, Zimmer and Kings honored at Chamber event


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — The Darke County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Agribusiness Day Luncheon on Friday, March 31 to recognize agricultural businesses, farmers and those who advocate for agricultural. The event featured the presentation of the Agriculture Advocacy Award, Agriculture Achievement Award and Young Farmer Award. The guest speaker was Bruce Clevenger, associate professor, field specialist and farm management with The Ohio State University.

Brad Lentz presented the Agriculture Advocacy Award to Levi and Reuben King. He said, “Advocacy is very important because in the current world, I guess, most people are three or four generations removed from the farm.” The Kings operate King’s Poultry Farm and are part owners of a USDA processing plant. According to Lentz, King’s Poultry Farm uses a humane model to raise chickens that go to stores and restaurants in greater Ohio, including Darke County. The business also supports its hometown community by employing students interested in agriculture and offering fundraising opportunities for local organizations. Levi said, “Thank you. We appreciate this community. We were born and raised here. We really do appreciate the Darke County community and appreciate you all being involved with it.”

David Coons presented the Agriculture Achievement Award to the Versailles FFA. Coons said, “For decades, Versailles FFA has been recognized at both the state and national levels as a premier program. Dena Wuebker and now Taylor Bergman have helped more kids than we can count as they set off toward a future, toward a career in agriculture.” Coons shared the crowning achievement made this past year by being named the Model of Excellence Award winner at the National FFA Convention in October. He said, “It means Versailles FFA exemplifies all characteristics, all categories, growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture. Versailles FFA was pretty much national champions.”

Versailles FFA President Zoey Billenstein, said, “I’m honored to be president of such a successful chapter, but I think a lot of times our success is owed to such a supportive community that we have. I want to thank you for this recognition and also the support and help along the way to get to where we are.”

The final award was the Young Farmer Award presented to Phillip Zimmer by Taylor Dill. Dill said, “Phillip is a well-respected farmer, salesman, consultant and most importantly, a friend to many farmers in Darke County.” He raises corn, soybeans and wheat and has a hog finishing operation. In addition, Zimmer has a Pioneer Seed business and a crop insurance company. “Through the years, he has been a progressive farmer,” said Dill. She noted the award in previous years going to farmers that look at sustainable farming and pushing the farm forward to continually be better in every aspect of farming.

Zimmer gave credit to his family for their support, including his wife Haven, and his brother and sister-in-law, Charles and Krista Zimmer. “Farming has been a dream of mine since I was a child. It’s hard to be successful thinking you’re doing it alone.” Phillip got choked up when he began to talk about his brother, “I’d like to take a moment to recognize my brother and his wife, Charles and Krista. Without them, I don’t know where we’d be today. My brother and his wife joined Haven and I on the farm in 2015. They were a big part of the operation of the farm.” Charles and Krista were killed in a Darke County helicopter crash in June 2022. “We lived our childhood dream together,” he said. Zimmer concluded, “Agriculture is an amazing industry full of amazing people that all have stories. If you take the time to listen, you will see the greatness in people as a whole. Everyone has their struggles even when it looks like they have it all. We are all the same and should live our lives to the fullest and support your family, your friends and your community.”

Clevenger gave a synopsis of where agriculture is today and what’s in store for the future. He discussed how inflation is affecting farmers and gave some encouraging news. He pointed out that costs seemed to hit a peak last year and have leveled off going into this spring.

Clevenger also spoke about leasing law and the changes that have been made recently. He shared that if a contract does not have an end date, it will automatically roll over after Sept. 1. If the landowner wants to have an end date in the contract, it must be specified.

He also discussed farm drainage and the cost verses reward.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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