By Doug Graves
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four Ohioans who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of Ohio’s agricultural community will be honored later this year by the Ohio Agricultural Council (OAC) when they are inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The honorees are Dr. Leon Boucher, of Dublin, Ohio; Steven C. Drake, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, of Lancaster, Ohio; and Duane Stateler, of McComb, Ohio.
“We’ll honor them for their lifetime of service and dedication to Ohio’s agricultural community,” said Chris Henney, president of the OAC and president and CEO of the Ohio AgriBusiness Association. “Through their advocacy, mentorship and conservation efforts, the contributions to the agricultural industry of the 2022 class have been recognized across local, state, national and international levels.”
Boucher died this past spring at the age of 100. He dedicated his life to imparting knowledge on others, especially when it came to matters involving agriculture.
He grew up on a farm in Green Springs, Ohio, and attended Old Fort High School. There he was a member of the FFA and 4-H. His agriculture teacher saw his potential and completed an Ohio State University application on his behalf. Boucher was offered a four-year Sears Roebuck scholarship in agricultural education. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and saw plenty of combat action. He received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
After serving in the U.S. Navy for six years, he returned home where he worked simultaneously for OSU and Hilliard High School as an educator at the Student Teacher Training Center and Vocational Agriculture program respectively. He taught agricultural education at Ohio State from 1964-1984.
For three years Boucher served on the U.S. Agency for International Development Team, developing teacher training programs in agricultural education in Indiana. As a professor at OSU, Boucher oversaw the agricultural education student teacher program and served as the editor of the Ohio Agricultural Education News.
Boucher is a three-time College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alumnus, earning degrees in agricultural education in 1942, 1954 and 1964. He was also instrumental in developing clean water systems and sustainable agricultural practices across the state.
Steven C. Drake passed away this spring as well. He was 77.
Drake’s contributions to the agriculture industry in Ohio and the United States continue to resonate today. As executive vice president of the American Soybean Association, Drake coordinated a grassroots campaign to help establish the soybean checkoff in Ohio and across the country, providing funding for expanded soybean research, improved practices and market expansion.
In 1992, he started Drake & Co. Among his clientele was the National Christmas Tree Association, which had been showing a steady decline in live Christmas tree sales across the country at the time. Thanks to his new grower marketing efforts, sales rebounded in three years and have grown continually since. He was also instrumental in developing the Trees for Troops program, which supplied live Christmas trees to troops overseas.
He attended Ohio State (1962-1968) and upon graduating, his career included working as a reporter for the Associated Press, communications coordinator at OSU and executive vice president of the American Soybean Association.
Drake was an active volunteer including president of the Agricultural Relations Council and founder of the Fellowship of Christian Farmers International. He received the Meritorious Service Award from the National Christmas Tree Association and the Distinguished Service Award from the Livestock Publications Council.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt is a champion for food security and anti-poverty. She has spent more than 35 years fostering innovative, effective and cross-sector collaborations targeting food insecurity.
As a lobbyist (then executive director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks), Hamler-Fuggitt stood firm in her conviction that hunger is not a partisan issue, working to implement effective hunger relief legislation, and securing annual budgetary dollars to allow Ohio’s foodbanks greater ability to procure food. She was also instrumental in developing direct relationships with the Ohio agricultural community, including farmers and commodity partners. Among her many accomplishments was the development of the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program, a nationwide model for directing surplus agricultural products to food insecure community members. Since its inception, the program has rescued hundreds of millions of pounds of Ohio-grown foods.
Duane Stateler is a tireless advocate for Ohio’s farmers and has dedicated his entire life to agriculture.
Growing the family farm from a 100-sow farrow-to-finish operation to the contract production operation he has today, Stateler’s devotion to the pork industry is paramount. Through his involvement in the National Pork Producers Council and Ohio Pork Council, he has been at the forefront of many influential conversations with elected officials at the state, local and national level. His ability to have transparent conversations with political influencers has paid dividends to the pork industry in the areas of African swine fever, global trade, cultured meat, gene editing, and proposition 12, to name a few.
As a farmer in the Western Lake Erie Basin, Stateler knows first-hand the challenges agriculture has endured regarding water quality. Always ready to be part of the solution, the Stateler farm joined the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms project in 2016, opening their doors to thousands of visitors to observe the conservation practices designed to improve manure and nutrient management.
The four will join 241 prior recipients named since 1996 when the program was created.