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  • Last modified 112 days ago (Feb. 1, 2018)

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Ag-ceptional!

While National FFA Week is coming up, there’s no reason to wait to celebrate yet another set of feathers in the cap of county agriculture.

Word comes to us this week that three of our high school ag teachers — Mark Meyer of Marion, Sonya Roberts of Hillsboro, and Laura Klenda of Centre — were honored by their peers Saturday at the Kansas Association of Agricultural Educators symposium in Lawrence.

Those peers include community college and university professors as well as adult educators from across the diverse realm that is ag education today.

Klenda was named young teacher of the year, and Roberts was recognized with teacher in community service award.

Agriscience teacher of the year was fitting enough for Meyer, but there was more. He also was named the association’s teacher of the year.

We’d like to believe the only reason there weren’t more accolades tossed Marion County’s way was that association felt it just wouldn’t be fair to everyone else if we claimed them all.

All five county districts can point to legacies of stellar ag educators, and the fruits of their labors have found their way into every corner of agriculture, right here at home and around the state and country. From farms to laboratories and veterinary clinics to boardrooms, their students have found success.

In one sense, that success isn’t all that surprising in a county that counts among its ag professionals numerous state, regional, and national leaders in agriculture organizations. When it comes to beef, wheat, corn, and others, producers around the state and country have looked to Marion County for strong leadership, and they’ve found it.

When a candidate for governor announced last fall that he was conducting an ag forum in another part of the state, I called him to let him know he was headed to the wrong place if he wanted the best. I rattled off the names and organizations that quickly came to mind, and he was rightly impressed.

I admit to being a willing, over-the-top, totally biased homer in proclaiming that there’s no better county in the state for quality contributions to agriculture than ours.

I’ve been saying for a while that there ought to be some way for the county to capitalize on all this expertise, something to bring others here to learn from the best. I haven’t figured out what that would be, but that’s not surprising given that I’m still a greenhorn when it comes to anything beyond, “That’s a tractor,” or “That’s a field,” or “That’s a cow,” which until recently would have been my all-encompassing term for heifers, steers, bulls, and calves. I have a lot to learn.

Not all in agriculture is rosy. Depressed prices, costly high-tech equipment, restrictive foreign markets, and expansive regulation make up the short list. Others could readily add to it.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that the spirit of the pioneers who settled the county 150 years ago still resides in our farmers and ranchers, bolstered by all those in our co-ops, veterinary clinics, extension office, implement dealers, schools, financial institutions, and so many others who support them.

So when three local ag educators win state awards, I’m happy to turn that into an opportunity to extol some of the great aspects of agriculture right here at home.

Congratulations, Mark, Sonya, and Laura, for being the most recent reasons why we should be proud to say, “We’re from Marion County.” Let’s all see what we can do to keep that list growing.

— david colburn

Last modified Feb. 1, 2018

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