Senator Robert McColley, Dick Ricker, and Rep. Jim Hoops - Putnam Sentinel
Senator Robert McColley, Dick Ricker, and Rep. Jim Hoops

FORT JENNINGS — Last Friday, Aug. 3, Richard (Dick) Ricker, a farmer out of Fort Jennings, added to his long list of accomplishments and accolades when he was inducted into the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame.

He was nominated by the Ohio Pork Council, an organization he helped found in 1962, and for which he served as President in 1973. He received the Ohio Pork Industry Excellence Award in 1978; was inducted into the Ohio State Fair Swine Hall of Fame in 1990; was appointed by Governor Voinovich to the Ohio Expositions Commission, serving from 1994 - 2006; and was inducted to Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame in 2008.

Outside of farming, Ricker served as Putnam County Commissioner from 1988-2000; and he also held leadership positions on the Board of the Jennings Local School District; on the St. Joseph Catholic Church, Glandorf finance committee; and with the Maumee Valley Water Conservancy District - again, to name just a few of the organizations in which he was involved.

Prior to his receiving this most recent recognition, the Sentinel had the opportunity to discuss some highlights from his lifetime of farming. To begin, Ricker was asked how old he was when he first began working on his family’s farm.

“Oh, about 12 or 13,” came the response.

And, how old are you now?

“92,” he answered. Meaning Ricker has been actively farming for around 80 years - two years longer than the current average life expectancy for men in the United States.

The conversation touched on the crops he has raised (corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, tomatoes, peppers and pickles), his first forays into raising cattle (1965 Grand Champion carcass, International Livestock Show, Chicago), and his accomplishments raising pork (1966 Grand Champion Pen, 10 market hogs, Ohio Spring Barrow Show - one among many recognitions).

Again, it is impossible to succinctly describe the amount of change Ricker has seen and been directly involved with during his many years farming. He remembers planting corn using horses and a two-row planter. He easily recalls when the family purchased its first steel-wheeled tractor. Getting the cattle carcass to the 1965 International Livestock Show in Chicago, and back home, at nearly the exact moment when many of the small towns in-between were installing their first traffic light, is a story in and of itself.

Fortunately, there is one yardstick, a way of measuring the scope of change Ricker has observed that every farmer and many non-farmers will immediately understand - yield.

Centering the discussion on corn, Ricker was asked what would have been considered a good yield, not when he was first starting out at the age of 12, but when he first took over the family’s farming operation.

“Probably 45 [bushels],” came Ricker’s answer. “You’d be bragging if you got 50.”

And, when he turned the farm over to his own son, on that same land, what was a good yield?

“Oh, I’d say 150 [bushels]. And now, overall average, we’re probably at 220, 225, 230 [bushels] - somewhere in there.”

In a span of one farmer’s lifetime, corn yield more than doubled, and then it more than doubled again.

“Soybeans,” Ricker continued. “When we first started raising them, we made hay out of it. Then, a few years later the soybean market developed…Back then 25 bushels was pretty good. Now, it’s 70, 80.”

“There’s been tremendous progress in agriculture,” Ricker added, “just tremendous, amazing. And, we haven’t hit the peak yet.”

Neither, it seems, has Ricker himself. Though he has turned the operations over to the next generation, Ricker remains very involved. This is why he says he was very surprised to learn of his nomination to the Agriculture Hall of Fame. The Pork Council submitted the nomination, and both it and Ricker’s children provided supporting materials, including letters of recommendation from close associates, without Ricker being any the wiser.

“Oh yeah, I didn’t know a thing about it,” Ricker says, smiling broadly. “They kept it from me. It was just amazing.”

Rich Deaton, President of the Ohio Pork Council was very pleased with the recognition Ricker received, saying, “On behalf of the Ohio Pork Council, we congratulate Dick Ricker on his induction to the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame. While we congratulate Dick on his accomplishments, we also thank the Ohio Ag Council for providing an opportunity to celebrate and cherish well-respected individuals, like Dick Ricker.”