Farmer and 4-H adviser Jacki Johnson, and farmer and Hancock County Fairgrounds Operations Manager David Thomas were inducted Thursday into the Hancock County Agriculture Hall of Fame.

During ceremonies held in Brugeman Lodge at Riverbend Recreation Area, grain and livestock farmer Frank Egner and financial adviser and livestock farmer P. Mark Pepple were inducted posthumously.

In addition, Mitch Welty, grain manager of Legacy Farmers Cooperative, won the United Way of Hancock County Agricultural Leadership Award.

The hall of fame recognizes Hancock County community members who have made outstanding contributions to agriculture.

Johnson was inducted in 1996 to the Ohio State Fair Swine Hall of Fame and in 2017 to the Hancock County 4-H Hall of Fame. She has been a lifelong 4-H adviser.

“My motto for life is, we need to inform folks about agriculture. We are too many generations removed from the farm,” she said as she accepted the honor. “We need to keep informing those who do not have that relationship with a family member, a neighbor or whatever that’s involved in agriculture, because if we don’t, too many people will take things for granted.”

A graduate of Arlington High School, Johnson grew up on a dairy farm and has been active in farming as well as raising purebred Hampshire hogs for many years.

Johnson has served as the Hancock County Junior Fair coordinator as well as secretary/treasurer of the Ohio Hampshire Swine Association.

She had a huge role in the new pens project for the swine department at the Hancock County Fairgrounds.

She was a hostess for the first historical barn tour, and served as a member of the Hancock County Pork Producers and a member of the Ohio Pork Council, where she served at Bowling Green State University Football Days.

Thomas has been operations manager at the Hancock County Fairgrounds since two weeks before the August 2007 flood.

He refused to let that flood disappoint Junior Fair exhibitors.

“David, along with the Senior Fair board, rallied 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America) and the farm community to ensure that the fair went on as scheduled,” said Judy Pusateri, Thomas’ daughter, who introduced him.

“Sunup to sundown, Dave was at the fairgrounds with countless volunteers,” Pusateri said. “If that didn’t seem stressful enough, Dave would come home to a house with his daughter, his son-in-law, his two grandsons and their dog, as their house had also been flooded and were living with them at the time. But on Aug. 29, 2007, the Hancock County Fair opened as if nothing had ever happened.”

Over the years, Thomas has farmed up to 1,100 acres and raised hogs, beef and sheep. In 1976, he became the third generation to farm his family’s homestead when he chose to farm full time. With the help of his son, Jim, Thomas continues to farm and they are now training the fifth generation, Thomas’ grandsons.

Thomas is an Arcadia High School graduate and served in the Ohio National Guard. He has served as a Biglick Township trustee and as president of the Hancock County Trustees Association.

Egner, a Mount Blanchard High School graduate, served eight years as a member of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service board, and 10 years as a 4-H adviser.

A grain and livestock farmer, he also served as Hancock County Fair beef superintendent and as a member of the board of directors of the Arlington grain elevator.

Egner also was a Jackson Township trustee for 24 years.

He died last year at the age of 75.

Pepple, an AgCredit veteran of 39 years, became a trusted adviser for many farming families, discussing their finances and helping them grow their business by lending them money.

“Mark’s legacy will be that he listened to young and experienced farmers alike, taking note of their unique farming operation that they each worked so hard for, and taking chances on families that wanted to grow their family farm,” said Pusateri, who is assistant resource development director of United Way of Hancock County.

“So many families — including ours — have benefited from Mark taking a leap of faith and putting his trust in them,” she said.

Pepple was vice president of corporate services for AgCredit. He was the branch manager of the Findlay AgCredit office for over 20 years.

He was responsible for the oversight of the appraisal and marketing departments in northwest Ohio. He also was part of the executive management team at AgCredit.

Pepple organized the Junior Fair dairy feeder and calf club programs for nearly 30 years at the Hancock County Fair.

Pepple and his family operated a grain farm and Jersey heifer operation, and a contract hog barn in Hancock County.

“Farming ran in his blood, as he financed it during the day and worked it in the evenings and on the weekends,” said Pepple’s brother-in-law, Kevin Williamson.

Pepple graduated from Arlington High School and Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics.

He died last year at the age of 62.

Wilin: 419-427-8413
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