By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Each year, an individual active in agriculture receives the Uncle Elmer Award from the Elkhart County Agricultural Society. David Hess says he’s humbled to be the recipient for 2013.
“This is more than an individual who receives the award,” Hess said. “It also includes the family. Without the support and help of my family, I couldn’t do it. My wife, Diane, my son, Jim, and my daughter, Gretchen, deserve recognition as much as me.”
The award has been given in honor of Uncle Elmer Lehman for approximately 40 years, he added.
“He was a promoter of ag and promoter of all things related to ag,” Hess said. “He revived the Elkhart County Ag Society in 1957. He was the prime mover to reactivate the Ag Society. It’s pretty humbling to be named in the group given the Uncle Elmer award. I’ve known all but two personally (who received the award). I know people who have received this and it’s quite humbling.”
Hess says his father received the same award in the early 1990s.
“I’m the only second-generation to receive this award which is kind of neat,” he said, smiling.
Hess made his first acquaintance with Uncle Elmer as a 10-year-old during a 4-H meeting at Harrison School in 1957.
“It was on a cold March evening. A gentleman came out all the way from Goshen to talk about 4-H,” Hess said. “I don’t remember a word he said, but I wanted to be in 4-H and be a part of what we had going on in Elkhart County. I asked, ‘where do I sign my name?’”
His roots in agriculture and Elkhart County run deep. Hess milked cows for a number of years and served as an Elkhart County commissioner and administrator. He now serves on Elkhart County Council.
“I have always tried to maintain and protect the cumulative drain fund,” Hess said. “I give rural perspective on rural drainage and other issues.”
Hess has also served as a field manager for Indiana Farm Bureau and worked on many volunteer boards and state organizations. In the late 1980s, at the height of the farm crisis, he became a certified mediator to help try to prevent farm foreclosures.
“It was rewarding to keep a family farm business (from foreclosure),” Hess said.
His involvement in 4-H has extended to yet another generation in the Hess family, since his first 4-H meeting in 1957.
“I have a 9-year-old granddaughter in 4-H, so that is kind of neat,” he said. “She had a steer and a couple pigs at the fair. We’re starting the third generation of 4-H activities. It’s really neat when she took interest for the first year and went into the ring (to show her animals).”