The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association awarded David Bell of Logan County, Ohio, with its 2020 Stewardship Award, and Alan Sundermeier of Wood County, Ohio, with the 2020 Service Award during the organization’s 41st annual conference, “A Climate for Change,” Feb. 14-15 in Dayton.
The stewardship award recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community, while the service award honors extraordinary service in support of sustainable agriculture.
2020 Stewardship Award winner. David Bell started a farming business with his brother Kevin in 1968. Heh 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 lifelong 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, the family 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, providing the cows with a diet from chemical pesticide- and herbicide-free crops. He was also experiencing soil compaction and found that he couldn’t achieve diverse crop rotations because of chemical residues.
“The first thing we noticed was, the ground tilled easier,” Bell told OEFFA’s Growing Right Oral History Project, after the transition to organic methods. “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 is vice president of OEFFA’s board of trustees, an OEFFA member involved since the organization’s earliest days and a regular OEFFA conference workshop presenter, and he is 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, before 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 Ed Snavely of Curly Tail Organic Farm, the 2011 Stewardship Award winner.
Dave Shively, an organic farmer and former president of OEFFA’s Grain Growers chapter, echoed this sentiment. “Dave is an asset to the Grain Growers chapter with the knowledge he has gained through his 40-plus years in organics. He has given his insights to new growers transitioning to organics.”
2020 Service Award winner. Alan Sundermeier is a Wood County Extension educator and program leader in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, based in Bowling Green.
He specializes in sustainable agriculture methods, 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 training sessions for organic farmers and is active with OEFFA’s Grain Growers chapter.
Sundermeier 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,” Sundermeier told the (Bowling Green) Sentinel-Tribune. “All of society can benefit. It brings it all full circle.”
He is a certified crop adviser with the American Society of Agronomy, a former co-coordinator for Ohio’s SARE program, and a contributor to Corn and Soybean Digest, the Sentinel-Tribune, farms.com, Ohio’s Country Journal, Ohio Ag Net, 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,” Shively said. “His passion for organics makes him a well-deserved recipient of the 2020 Service Award.”
Organics have come far quickly
Carol Goland, OEFFA executive director, 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.
"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.”