By JIM MAURER
Rex Cunningham and Fred Mengert, both vocational agriculture teachers and farmers, were inducted into the Hancock County Agriculture Hall of Fame during ceremonies Thursday at Brugeman Lodge at Riverbend Recreation Area.
Burnette “Buzz” Powell and Herb Wilson were also honored, posthumously, during the ninth induction ceremony.
The Hall of Fame presentations were made during the 27th annual Farmers’ Share Breakfast, hosted by the Agri-business Committee of the Findlay-Hancock County Chamber of Commerce.
The event was sponsored by agriculture-related businesses.
A grain and livestock farmer, Hancock County native Rex Cunningham graduated with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in agricultural education from Ohio State University.
He taught for 30 years at Arcadia and Findlay schools. He also served as an adviser for Future Farmers of America.
He moved to St. Lucie County, Fla., where he taught for a decade, then returned to the area and now farms more than 700 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans. Cunningham, 80, a Washington Township resident, also operates a sheep-breeding business with his son, Derek.
Rex Cunningham also has raised cattle and hogs.
Cunningham developed a cooperative education program at Arcadia, the first in the state. A common practice now, the program pairs secondary students with agri-businesses “to gain firsthand work experience while in high school,” Derek Cunningham said in the nomination application.
While at Arcadia, Rex also installed the school district’s first computer.
When he moved to Florida, he operated a vocational agriculture program following the framework of the program begun in Ohio. He developed a school-owned and operated farm which provided hands-on training for high school students, many from an urban setting with “little or no agricultural experience,” Derek Cunningham said.
Rex Cunningham also was a specialist in citrus canker identification with the Florida Department of Agriculture.
He has served with various county, state and Florida organizations. He is a 50-year member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, a professional agricultural fraternity. He also served as an Air Force officer.
As an educator, he “instilled the values for future agricultural success in his students. Many of his students have succeeded in the agricultural profession due to his ability to motivate and expand their educational horizons,” his son said.
Fred Mengert, 95, followed a similar path as a vocational agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser for 33 years at Arlington, Arcadia, Meeker and McCutchenville schools. He retired in 1975.
He has master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Ohio State University, and an administrative degree and principal certification from the University of Toledo.
Mengert owns a family farm with grain production, which utilizes a variety of conservation techniques.
He has served on county, state and national teacher organizations, and received an honorary national American Farmer Degree.
He also served on Arlington and Arcadia village councils, and as Arlington mayor.
He served four years in the Navy during World War II.
After retiring from teaching, Mengert traveled to 22 countries and viewed a variety of farming methods, said his daughter, Ruth Anne Musgrave, and son, Dean Mengert, in the nomination application.
“In 33 years of teaching, he only missed 13 days of school,” his daughter said in the application. “He always was involved in community activities and was willing to take on leadership roles,” she said. “He is still living in an independent living facility and continues to take care of his own business and daily activities.”
“He loved teaching young people and always offered them activities to improve their skills and leadership traits,” she said.
Burnette “Buzz” Powell was a dairy and grain farmer with about 60 Jersey cows and 459 acres, where he also raised tomatoes and sugar beets for several years. A Hancock County native, he retired from the dairy business in 1977.
He was also president and manager of Benton Ridge Telephone Co. from 1955 to 1986, when he retired as president but remained a director and chairman of the board until 1993.
Powell, 93, died Aug. 6, 2011. He lived in the Rawson area.
He showed dairy cattle at the Hancock County Fair, and helped farm a Good Shepherd United Methodist Church farm project west of Benton Ridge.
He was a member of the Northwestern Cooperative Sales Association for 24 years and a director for 19 years, and a member of the Northwest Ohio Milk Cooperative and the Northwestern Ohio Breeders Association.
He also was on the board of directors of First National Bank of Pandora, and Liberty Savings and Loan, Wilmington. He was on the board of directors of the Ohio Independent Telephone Association from 1974-1986, and served as president in 1975-1976.
At the Benton Ridge Telephone Co., he helped secure a Department of Defense contract and made trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with Pentagon personnel. The phone company incorporated W.A.T.C.H. TV Co. in 1991.
His daughters, Ann Stewart and Judy Shick, described Powell as a “positive, humble, hardworking, energetic servant and leader” in their nomination application.
Herb Wilson was a “pioneer and innovator” in poultry production, according to the nomination form submitted by his granddaughter, Jen Wilson.
A Hancock County native, he started with free-range chickens, then had several thousand in nests and finally had 10,000 in cages.
In 1965, he built one of the first poultry cage houses in the county. In 1968, he converted a building to a cage poultry house. He developed a motor route to sell the eggs to restaurants and grocery stores.
“He was able to recognize the safety and health benefits to chickens by using cages,” according to the nomination application.
He began farming with horses, then started using tractors in the 1930s. As a full-time farmer, he also raised sheep and cattle while crop farming about 400 acres.
Wilson, 73, died March 10, 1991. He lived in the Jenera area.
He was a member of county and state organizations, including Jenera Elevator Board, Hancock County Sheep Improvement Association, Hancock County Farm Bureau and Hancock County Farmers Union. He served as a board member for the Ohio Poultry Association for about 10 years.
He was a supporter of the Arlington Future Farmers of America and the Hancock County 4-H.
The “Herb Wilson Award” is given each year to a junior who is considered the outstanding Future Farmers of America member at Arlington High School.
He was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Jenera, and helped construct a new church in 1952.
“Herb loved nature and loved to hunt and fish. He belonged to several fishing organizations and went deer hunting every year. In the ’30s and ’40s, he was a taxidermist and the family still has many animals that he preserved,” according to the nomination application.
“Herb’s claim to fame was the innovative achievements in poultry production, and living and breathing the life of being a farmer,” according to his granddaughter.