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Elkhart County, Indiana, has one of few remaining ag societies

Elkhart County, Indiana, has one of few remaining ag societies
Ag Society still lives in Elkhart County and promotes agriculture there.

Once upon a time there may have been other "ag societies" in Indiana. Until someone proves differently, the only one still operating appears to be the Elkhart County Ag Society.

Related: Jeff Burbrink honored for outstanding contributions to Elkhart County

Made up of farmers and ag supporters from across the county, the Elkhart County Ag Society hosts an annual meeting each fall. This year the group recognized Dean and Kate Rink, Millersburg, as Farm Family of the year. Jeff Burbrink, Elkhart County Extension ag educator, was named winner of the Uncle Elmer award, named after Elmer Lehman, a long-time teacher and ag supporter in the county. He received the first award in 1978.

Two honored: Jeff Burbrink, left and Dean Rink were both honored at the Elkhart County Ag Society annual meeting earlier this year. Dean's wife, Kate, not pictured, was honored along with Dean as Farm Family of the Year.

Jean Williams, current president of the Ag Society, says the group recognizes outstanding farmers and agribusiness people, and even rural churches which have existed for 100 years or more. The group also raises money for scholarships.

The Elkhart County Ag Society dates to 1837, when county leaders in farming gathered and elected officers for a group. The group was actually authorized in 1833 by the county commissioners. The goal was to form a group for the betterment of agriculture.

The group has been inactive for short periods, but is very much alive and well today. Here are some interesting facts about the group:

• The Ag Society hosted the first county fair on the courthouse grounds in 1851.
• The first large county fair was held in 1874 at a different location.
• The Society folded up temporarily after the Cleveland Panic in 1893.

Related: 70 years and counting for Indiana Rural Safety Council

Elmer Lehman, Bob Wilson and W.E. Yeater reorganized the Ag Society around 1954, and purchased the current fairgrounds, along with the Elkhart County 4-H Group.

First farm family of the year was recognized in 1958, when Bert Cook was named.

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