(Posted March 10, 2016)
Each year, during its Rural Urban Day breakfast, the London Rotary Club presents the Joe Yoder Agricultural Award. This year’s honorees are the Davison family.
Born in the late 1930s, Johnny and Virginia Davison graduated in 1957 from Southeastern High School and married in Dec. 9, 1957. The next year, Johnny sowed wheat for the first time on his own and Virginia started the process of recordkeeping, taxes and delivering meals to the workers in the fields.
The Davisons raised five children—Tim, Carl, Bruce, Michael and Rachel. Tim, Carl and Bruce opted to follow their parents into the farming operation, starting as helpers long before graduating from high school. “TCB,” as they are known now, not only help with the family farming operation, but also own and operate their own farms now.
Johnny and Virginia purchased their first Madison County farm in 1972, a second in 1977, and a third in 1981. In 1996, they purchased the family farm in Clark County, where they now reside, from Johnny’s siblings.
In 1967, Johnny received the Young Farmer Award for Madison County and later earned the same award at the state level. He credits vocational agriculture teacher, Bob Phillips, for encouraging him to apply for the awards. He is thankful to his neighbor and friend, Robert E. Hunter Sr., for pushing him to join Young Farmers.
Johnny was instrumental in the development of Tolles, the career and technical school in Plain City, making sure that farming and other ag-related jobs continue to be taught to future generations.
Johnny talks about getting his start with a five-foot head combine and a single-row corn picker. Through the years, he graduated to a 40-foot head combine with a 12-row corn head. The family uses GPS to provide a variable rate of fertilization. All of their land is set up in 2.5-acre grid samples; they apply dry fertilizer and lime. They use no-till practices and have started using crops like radishes and annual rye to break up the soil compaction. As good stewards of the land, they have installed 15-foot buffer strips along their waterways and have set aside areas to benefit wildlife.
A fourth generation of Davisons also plays an integral part in the family farm operation. Bruce’s children Gerrett, 20, and Zane 16, and Carl’s children, Avery, 23, and Satch, 19, pitch in at the farm when they aren’t in school. They run the grain cart, field cultivate, handle spring and fall tillage, and shell corn.
Joe Yoder Agricultural Award history
Joe Yoder was a lifelong farmer in Madison County and a county commis-sioner for many years. Yoder was a strong advocate for the well-being of farmers and often spoke up on their behalf. He was a longtime member of the London Rotary Club and believed in its ideal of “Service Above Self.” In 2008, after Yoder’s death, the Rotary Club decided to give an award at the annual Rotary Rural Urban Day to someone who:
- has made a significant contribution to agriculture in Madison County;
- holds as an ultimate goal the preservation of the land for the future;
- has a strong reputation in the agricultural community; and
- pursues agriculture as a significant source of his or her livelihood.
Past recipients of the Joe Yoder Agricultural Award are:
2015—Roger and Jane Snyder.