KFU proudly honors the legacy of Ruth Hirsh through its award in her name which is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to agriculture and the efforts of the Farmers Union. Hirsh was a strong advocate for a viable education program in Farmers Union; not only for the children, but also for the general public. She felt if all Americans recognized the challenges that family farmers faced, they would help change the laws in their favor. This year we broke with tradition with not one, but three awardees.
“Charlie has been THE rural mental health advocate in Kansas for decades, working through the eighties farm crisis and helping rural Kansas, and especially Kansas farmers, struggling with their life challenges. I had the extreme honor to work with Charlie when I was a farm analyst and working with clients of Kansas Ag Mediation,” states KFU President Donn Teske.
Griffin is a Research Assistant Professor in the School for Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. He has spent much of his career assisting with the impact of the 1980s farm crisis and continuing support for agricultural families as they work together, make decisions together, and nurture their families. He has served on the Kansas Rural Center board since the late 80s.
“Charlie was one of our presenters at this year’s convention and has also announced his official retirement. Our convention this year was the perfect opportunity to honor him with the KFU award for service to rural America,” says Teske.
Larry Mitchell served as Administrator of the USDA GIPSA and was responsible for a variety of programs that facilitate the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, and oilseeds, and to promote fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture. Prior to serving at USDA in the 1990s, Mitchell held the position of Vice President of Government Relations for the NFU in Washington, D.C., Director of Federal and State Relation for the American Agriculture Movement, Editor of the AAM Reporter and as an independent consultant and writer on American farm issues.
Teske says, “For a good-ol-boy from Texas, he has served American agriculture with dignity, intelligence, and honesty. He gave our keynote presentation and it was an honor to present him our Ruth Hirsh award.”
“Adrian has been a true leader in Kansas agriculture. In his youth, he was very active in Kansas Farmers Union and has always been a close friend to us,” shares Teske.
Polansky was appointed state executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Kansas in July 2009. He served in the same capacity from 1993 to 2001. Polansky brings a lifetime of agriculture experience to USDA. He served as secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture from February 2003 to July 2009, and owns a 1,900-acre family farm and wholesale farm seed company, both in Belleville, Kansas.
Teske adds, “Adrian addressed our state convention in a passionate and emotional presentation and it was great to have him and Kris there and to be able to recognize him for his many dedicated years to agriculture.”
Former Kansas Farmers Union Youth and Education Director Ruth Hirsh, at right, with past KFU staff member Jim Ploger and an unidentified woman in this undated Kansas Farmers Union archive photo.
Kansas Farmers Union proudly honors the legacy of Ruth Hirsh through its annual award in her name. The prestigious Ruth Hirsh Award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to agriculture and/or the efforts of the Farmers Union.
Ruth Hirsh Award recipients include Dr. Daryll E. Ray, director and founder of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee; Emil Mushrush, former KFU director; Tom Giessel, honorary NFU historian and former KFU Vice-President; Linda Hessman, longtime ag mediator and KFU board member; Henry Strnad, Republic County; Lavern Potuzak, KFU Vice-President; Nick Levendofsky, KFU Vice-President; Charlie Griffin, rural mental health advocate in Kansas and Research Assistant Professor in the School for Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University; Larry Mitchell, Administrator of the USDA GIPSA and former Vice President of Government Relations for the NFU; Adrian Polansky, former state executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Kansas and secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture; Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, United States Senator; Char Henton and Forrest Buhler, K-State’s Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services (KAMS); Mary Fund, Jerry Jost, and Dan Nagengast of the Kansas Rural Center; and Gerard Steinlage, Nemaha County Farmers Union.