By Vicki Johnson
Alvin Kiesel, a local pioneer in conservation farming practices, is this year's inductee into the Seneca County Agriculture Hall of Recognition.
Kiesel, 81, was a longtime supervisor of Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District, and he served two years as a director on the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and OFSCD's Land Protection Task Force.
"I spent 15 years on the county board and two years on the state board," Kiesel said. "It was a necessary thing and I felt we did a good job."
Kiesel said he was surprised when he learned he had been chosen for the honor.
"Jim Hoover's been after me ever since he got this award," Kiesel said. "They snuck up on me, I guess, and did it behind my back. I don't think I deserved it."
He was formally inducted Monday evening after the fair king and queen contest.
The 81-year-old said he became interested in conservation farming because of practicality.
"This farm is quite rolling and, of course, the hillside were always washing," he said. "I think I pretty much stopped the erosion problems as much as could be."
Kiesel started contour farming to hold the soil in place on hillsides.
"We put in a lot of grass waterways," he said. "It really took care of the erosion problems. We still have it. These hills like to wash."
He's been farming all his life on the same farm.
"He was born in the house up there," said his wife, Pat, referring to another house on the farm.
Kiesel graduated from Old Fort High School in 1950, and he and Pat were married Dec. 25, 1955. They have three children and six grandchildren. Son, David, is a partner in the farm, and daughters are Deanna Kiesel and Barb Roberts.
"I want to say that my family was behind me all the way," Kiesel said. "My wife was behind me and my three kids. If I went to a meeting, they took care of stuff here. I wouldn't have been able to do without them."
"Somebody had to milk the cows and do the chores when he wasn't here," Pat said.
Kiesel said he started raising livestock in 4-H at age 12.
"Merle Hunker got me started in that," he said. "He was kind of like a big brother I never had. We had brown Swiss (cows) and Chester White hogs."
Kiesel's first farming award came in 1964 when he was selected Outstanding Farmer by the Tiffin Jaycees.
"I was really proud of it and I thought I was doing a good job," he said.
He received the Good Year Outstanding Cooperator award in 1966 and was a finalist in the Ohio No-Till Farmer of the Year program in 1995.
"Our son David started farming with us and he's the one that really wanted to no-till," Kiesel said.
After they gained experience with conservation practices and no-till, he and David started teaching others in the early 1990s.
"We went to quite a few meetings other than our local meetings on no-till and told what we were doing," he said.
In addition to serving with SWCD, Kiesel was active on the Seneca County Dairy Service Unit and a member of the advisory council of DHI Inc. Milk Production Testing and the advisory council of Milk Marketing Inc.
"We were fighting for dollars and it was a tough battle," he said.
The Kiesels retired from the dairy business in 1992, and today the farm produces corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.
He also was active in Seneca County Farm Bureau.
"When I was on the Farm Bureau board, we met on Oil Street and we had the meetings upstairs," he said. "It's been a long time ago."
Today, he is a member and trustee of Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church. He is a 62-year member of Union Grange and serves on the executive committee.
Kiesel joins a group of more than 50 inductees since 1980 whose service to Seneca County agriculture has been honored.
"It's to recognize those who have helped to mold agriculture into what it is in Seneca County," said Darren Frank, organization director for Seneca County Farm Bureau, who is heading the committee. "I think it's important we keep it in the forefront in the county.
"It's just part of preserving the heritage of agriculture in the county," Frank said. " Those are some of the key people who have helped make agriculture in the county what it is today."
After a lull of several years in which no one was inducted, inductee Jim Gabel died.
"It was one of Jim Gabel's wishes to get this re-established," Frank said. "Blanche Lange took that to heart and took the time to get this re-established."
A committee of "eight or 10 people" have worked on the project this year.
"It was really fun to work with the committee," she said. "Everybody took a piece of the pie and everybody worked on their piece and it all came together quite nicely."
For example, she said, Eileen Gabel is working on a scrapbook and Jim Hoover is creating a display to place in the dairy barn during the fair.
The committee is hoping "down the road" to get a digital display system to enable a PowerPoint to be displayed at the Ag Center. The PowerPoint also could be used at other ag-related events such as the Farm Bureau annual meeting or the annual FFA banquet.
Frank said there's no need to wait until next year's deadline to submit a nomination.
"If they want to nominate them this year, we'll be happy to hold onto them (the forms) for them," she said.
She invited people to refer to the list of past inductees to check if a person they feel is deserving already has been inducted.
Pick up forms from Seneca County Farm Bureau office, Ag Credit's Tiffin office or Ohio State University Extension at the Ag Center.