Three area men to be inducted into MN FFA Hall of Fame
WORTHINGTON -- Three individuals who made a great impact on the FFA program in southwest Minnesota will be inducted into the state's FFA Hall of Fame this spring.
Ron Kelsey of Lamberton, Doug O'Neil of Jackson and the late Lonnie Boese, who taught agriculture classes at Pipestone Area, are among nine individuals selected for induction this year. They join 142 others already named to the Hall since it was established in 2004. There were 75 individuals named to the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.
"The Hall of Fame is an excellent opportunity to honor the men and women who, over the years, have demonstrated leadership and commitment not only to the FFA but also to Minnesota's agricultural industry," said Hillary Kletscher, president of the Minnesota FFA Association, in a press release announcing the names of the new inductees. The Hall of Fame is a collaboration between the Minnesota FFA Association, its alumni association and Minnesota FFA Foundation.
Those selected for the honor were nominated by their peers, and have demonstrated a "high level of service and longstanding commitment" to agriculture, agribusiness or ag education.
The selection committee consists of FFA members, alumni and agriculture educators.
The nine inductees were named during the Minnesota FFA Alumni Association Annual Conference Feb. 18, in Vadnais Heights.
Lonnie Boese taught agriculture classes at Pipestone Area High School for nearly 25 years before his death in 2006. He began his career in Jasper and was an excellent leader and role model for kids, according to Pipestone ag teacher and FFA Adviser Chad Williamson, who nominated Boese posthumously for the award.
"He worked real well with (students)," Williamson said. "He knew how to motivate kids and he was real active in the state FFA association."
After Boese's death, Williamson was asked to lead his ag classes at Pipestone Area -- a task that was difficult not only for Williamson, but for the students who respected and appreciated Boese.
"It was hard on the students, and it was really hard on the alumni," Williamson said. "You always knew he had a positive impact on people. (Alumni) had wonderful things to say about him -- wonderful memories. He's a good guy, that's all there is to it."
Madelia native Ron Kelsey credits his own FFA adviser for guidance and support that ultimately led to a 35-year career teaching agriculture students in the Red Rock Central School District.
Kelsey was an FFA member in high school and remained a member of the Madelia chapter until he turned 21.
"FFA, to me, was a stepping stone to my whole career. Had I not been in FFA in high school, I probably wouldn't have gone into agriculture," he said.
Growing up with nine siblings, Kelsey said there wasn't a lot of money to afford college, but his high school ag teacher encouraged him to stay in agriculture.
He enrolled in the agronomy program at the University of Minnesota, switching gears early on to pursue a degree in agriculture education. He returned to southwest Minnesota and taught in Lamberton, reaching out to nearly 600 high school students during his three and a half decades there.
Kelsey retired from teaching 10 years ago, but he continues to volunteer his time with the FFA. He leads the Minnesota FFA Talent Contest each year and coaches the Red Rock Central FFA soils team. He was nominated to the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame by Steve Pooch, a previous inductee who hired Kelsey as superintendent of the farm crops display at the Minnesota State Fair.
"I've done that for 11 years," Kelsey said, adding the FFA Crops Show is included in the display. "In 10 years, we have been able to double the number of FFA crop samples at the Minnesota State Fair."
Kelsey was 7 years old when he attended the Minnesota State Fair for the first time, and it's an event he never misses. During his own years in the FFA he showed grain in the state contest. Now, he concentrates on getting other FFA members involved.
"(FFA) is everything -- it's the leadership," he said. "It really was the basis of my life as far as my career and my (community) involvement."
Aside from his role with the FFA, Kelsey served as Lamberton mayor for 20 years, was a city council member for 10 years and is now in his eighth year on the Red Rock Central School Board. He's also a familiar face in the Wilder Pageant each summer at Walnut Grove, having acted a part in the outdoor production for the past 25 years.
In addition, Kelsey serves on the board of Western Community Action and has been the play director at Red Rock Central for about 25 years. He is also active in the Lamberton Lions Club, Lamberton Commercial Club, Lamberton Historical Society and the Lamberton United Methodist Church.
"I encourage all students, continuously, to be involved in organizations," he said.
A 1970 graduate of Worthington High School, Douglas O'Neil was an FFA member and ag student under the tutelage of long-time advisers John Wright, Wayne Flynn and others.
After college, O'Neil served as a farm business management instructor for 23 years, during which time he helped a lot with the FFA program in Jackson. He is a past president of the Minnesota State Ag Teachers Association, as well as the Minnesota FFA Alumni Association and the Minnesota Council for Coordinating Education in Agriculture. He served on the Minnesota FFA Foundation board of directors, and spent many years as the farm business management coach for the Jackson County Central FFA program.
O'Neil also served as superintendent of the Jackson FFA Crop show at one time and volunteered with FFA judging contests at the local, state and national levels, he said.
O'Neil said while some people think of the FFA is the "I want to be a farmer" program, it's so much more.
"It's agriculture, it's horticulture, it also helps with your leadership skills," he said. "By going through the FFA program, you learn to be a better speaker, a better motivator, a better leader. Hopefully it enhances your overall career endeavors."
After more than two decades working with the farm business management program, O'Neil moved into a career in banking in 2000.
O'Neil is a past recipient of three Honorary Chapter FFA Degrees, the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree and the Honorary American FFA Degree. He is also a past president of the Jackson County Bankers Association and the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.
O'Neil, Kelsey and Boese join six other Hall of Fame inductees this year, including Tom Anderson, Plainview; the late Norman Bohmbach, Waseca; James Foss, Kenyon; Dr. Richard Joerger, Newport; Melvin Lloyd, Cleveland; and George Peichel, Fairfax.
The induction ceremony is planned April 23, during the 83rd Minnesota FFA Convention in St. Paul.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.