By Dusty Sonnenberg
The organization famous for giving farmers a voice joined forces with the winners of “The Voice” for a night of music and celebration, all to benefit the 1920s Farm Bureau Office at Historic Sauder Farm Village in Archbold.
A concert featuring the group Girl Named Tom, made up of siblings Caleb, Josh and Bekah Liechty, was held in the 1920s Sauder Village Theater for a group of Ohio Farm Bureau leaders and members as well as employees of Ken-Feld Group (the event sponsor). Along with the concert, tours were given of the 1920s Farm Bureau office, and snacks were available from the vintage 1920s ice cream parlor.
The fundraising event was the idea of Fulton County Farm Bureau president, Mark Ballmer, and John Torres, Executive Director of the Maryland Farm Bureau, (former Fulton County resident) at a meeting in Washington, D.C. when they were talking about fundraising ideas, and also the incredible success of Girl Named Tom. The Liechty siblings grew up in Fulton County and took the country by storm on the television singing competition “The Voice” in 2021. The group was named the winner of the competition in December.
“The idea came up when I was on a Farm Bureau trip to Washington, D.C. and was visiting with John Torres about the 1920s Farm Bureau Office and fundraising ideas to help finish paying for the construction; then the conversation turned to the success that Girl Named Tom was having on ‘The Voice,’” Ballmer said. “We thought, wouldn’t it be neat if we could get them to have a concert back home and possibly use it as a fundraiser. Linda Bernath, Fulton County Farm Bureau secretary, went on their website, and reached out to see if they would be interested, and right away they replied that they would love to, and the ball was off and rolling. We contacted the folks at Sauder Village, and they were also 100% on board with the idea. Everyone was excited about the event and worked as a team to make it happen.”
The Fulton, Williams, Henry, and Defiance County Farm Bureaus originally planned the event for Jan. 27 but it was rescheduled for Feb. 17 after Chris Liechty, the singing trio’s father, passed away on the original date of the concert after a battle with cancer. He was a third-generation partner in the company which was sold to the Ken-Feld Group in 2004.
Girl Named Tom, the many volunteers, and the venue changed schedules to accommodate the new time for the event, even with some challenging weather conditions. The incredible performance of Girl Named Tom inspired a standing ovation and generated significant donations for the cause. With funds from this event, Fulton County Farm Bureau will be able to pay off the final bills for the construction of the 1920s office.
Agriculture has roots that run deep, and that is especially true in Fulton County which ranks 11th in the State of Ohio in total agricultural receipts. Those agricultural roots also run deep in the families that live there, including the Liechty family. Caleb, Josh and Bekah’s great grandfather Joseph Liechty started Liechty Farm Equipment in 1934 when he purchased a John Deere Dealership in Archbold. The trio also had a maternal grandfather who had a farm in Indiana that they would spend time at growing up. During the concert, the trio reflected fondly of their time spent on his farm and also growing up in Pettisville, a farming community in Fulton County.
“The entire event was beyond what we even hoped for,” Ballmer said. “Everyone enjoyed the evening and the group seemed to feel so at home as they performed. Even their Mom and Grandma were able to attend the concert, and that just made it feel like family for everyone there.”
Beyond the success of the concert, Girl Named Tom has had numerous firsts along the way to their incredible rise to national fame in 2021. It was the first time a concert had been held in the historic 1920s theater at Sauder Farm Village. During “The Voice” competition, it was the first time any act in the show’s history had 4 songs which they performed charting on iTunes music charts at the time of the competition. Caleb, Josh, and Bekah were also the first sibling trio to win the top prize of $100,000 and a recording contract. It would appear there are bigger achievements ahead for the talented trio from Pettisville and their hearts of service for their home community.