The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has named the 2020 recipients of its Stewardship and Service awards.
David Bell of Logan County received the Stewardship Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community, and Alan Sundermeier of Wood County received the Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary service in support of sustainable agriculture. The announcements were made February 14-15 in Dayton as part of OEFFA’s 41st annual conference, “A Climate for Change.”
2020 Stewardship Award Winner David Bell started a farming business with his brother Kevin in 1968, and has owned and operated Paul Bell & Sons, a 450 acre organic farm near Bellefontaine with his brother since 1972. He raises organic corn, beans, wheat, hay, oats, spelt, and beef. He started using organic practices in 1978 and has been certified organic since 1988.
A life-long Logan County resident, Bell was part of the family’s dairy farm business from a young age, until the dairy operation ended in 1998. In 2009, they began to rotationally graze Angus cross, Hereford cross, and Randall cross beef cattle.
One of Ohio’s earliest organic farmers, Bell initially began to adopt organic practices to improve the health of his dairy herd and provide them with a diet from crops grown without chemical pesticides and herbicides. He was also experiencing soil compaction and found that he couldn’t achieve diverse crop rotations because of chemical residues.
After the transition to organic, “The first thing we noticed was the ground tilled easier. We had more life back in the soil when we dug in it. We could get the shovel in the ground. More earthworm activity, more fungi, and that type of thing growing in the soil. So, we started building the life back up,” Bell told OEFFA’s Growing Right Oral History Project (find the 1 hour 20 minute interview here).
Bell is Vice President of OEFFA’s Board of Trustees, an OEFFA member involved since the organization’s earliest days, a regular OEFFA conference workshop presenter, and active in OEFFA’s Grain Growers Chapter. Prior to the creation of the National Organic Program and OEFFA certification staff positions, Bell served on OEFFA’s certification committee, reviewing applications and providing critical leadership. He also previously served as president of the Ohio chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association, prior to the creation of OEFFA’s Grain Growers Chapter.
“Bell has mentored many other organic farmers. If I wanted the answers to something, he was the person I could call and he wasn’t afraid to share his knowledge,” said 2011 Stewardship Award winner Ed Snavely of Curly Tail Organic Farm.
2020 Service Award Winner Alan Sundermeier is a Wood County Extension Educator and Program Leader in The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, based in Bowling Green. He specializes in sustainable agriculture, including cover crops, soil quality, organic grain production, and tillage. Sundermeier has provided strong support for organic agriculture within OSU and has worked closely with organic farmers throughout his career. He regularly attends and presents at OEFFA’s annual conference, offers trainings for organic farmers, and is active with OEFFA’s Grain Growers Chapter.
He has conducted extensive research on the certified organic land at the John Hirzel Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems Research Agriculture Incubator Foundation in northwest Ohio. In 2018, he received a two-year grant from the North Central Regional Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to study soil health reports. “It will help with water quality for everybody if we improve soil health. All of society can benefit. It brings it all full circle,” Sundermeier told the Sentinel-Tribune.
He is a certified crop advisor with the American Society of Agronomy, a former co-coordinator for Ohio’s SARE program, and a contributor to the Sentinel-Tribune, Farms.com, Ohio’s Country Journal, Ohio Ag Net, Corn and Soybean Digest, Ag Fax, and No-Till Farmer.
“Alan has a heart for organics and is our organic grain liaison to Ohio State University and OSU Extension. His passion for organics makes him a well-deserved recipient of the 2020 Service Award,” Shively said.
“Over the course of 40 years, this organization and the broader sustainable food and farm movement it serves have been built by the tireless efforts of farmers, conscientious consumers, educators, researchers, retailers, and others. It is breathtaking how far we’ve come, from a handful of folks with a shared vision to a societal-wide understanding of the economic, environmental, and social significance of local and sustainable food systems,” said Carol Goland, Executive Director of OEFFA. “David and Alan have made lasting contributions to this effort, and we are both grateful and pleased to be able to recognize these truly remarkable individuals for their hard work and accomplishments.”