The man who helped make the Purdue University Agronomic Research Center, formerly known as the Purdue Agronomy Farm, what it is to day passed away Oct. 8 at the age of 90. He led the research farm as superintendent from 1949 until his retirement in 1986.
Originally from an 80-acre family farm in Knox County, Oscar William 'Ozzie' Luetkemeier became a leader and a fixture in Agronomy Research. His responsibilities included figuring out how to find enough space for at first, dozens, and later hundreds of researchers and their graduate students to carry out various research projects and crop testing ventures that needed to occur at the farm near West Lafayette.
When he began his tenure, the farm he took over was a 374-acre general purpose farm. When he retired, it was a 714-acre outdoor lab considered amongst the best in the U.S. Today, under the leadership of the man who came after him, Jim Beatty, the farm consists of more than 900 acres.
One of his favorite activities was hosting visitors to the farm. Those that kept such records say he averaged hosting about 50 groups per year, including some 10 to1 5 groups of international visitors. He did all this without the benefit of the Beck Ag Center, a $5 million, world-class agronomic research and meeting center, completed at the Agronomy farm just a few years ago.
He was responsible for planning the drainage and many other internal features of the farm that make it still a very desirable research site today. He was in charge when wheat breeders and soybean breeders at Purdue turned out many varieties that went on to become widely grown across Indiana and elsewhere in their day.
Those who don't remember him from his days at the Agronomy farm may remember him as the person who came to the Indiana Farm Management Tour nearly every year. He would pull a lawn chair out of his car, since the opening discussion at these farms, especially in the early days, were held on a hay wagon under a shade tree, with the audience left to stand or sit as they liked. Ozzie chose to sit.
He will be remembered as one of Indiana agriculture's own who made a tremendous contribution to the further development of agriculture in this state, country and around the world through his work in supporting professors who did breakthrough research during the years.