LEWIS CENTER — From sales and marketing to fundraising and the skincare industry, Bernadette Arehart has always found a way to tie what she does back to agriculture and people.
Arehart was honored as the 2018 Ag Woman of the Year at the 2019 Central Ohio Farm Bureaus Women in Agriculture Brunch, March 2, at the Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center in Delaware County. According to the Central Ohio Farm Bureaus, Arehart received this award “for having consistently demonstrated leadership, passion and dedication for the betterment of Ohio agriculture, FFA and Farm Bureau.”
In her speech at the brunch, she began by describing her family. Her father was a veteran of World War II, serving in the Navy. “(My father) experienced war first-hand,” said Arehart, adding that he had an incredible work ethic. “My mother would always have an extra plate at the table for anyone who stopped by to visit,” said Arehart. Her brother always told her that, “It was best to look for the good,” in situations and people.
Arehart grew up in western Ohio on a small dairy farm in Yorkshire, and now lives in Grove City with her husband. She has two adult children and a teenage step-daughter.
“Over the years, I have been able to couple my experience with my love of agriculture and move it across different channels,” Arehart told the guests. While considering what she would talk about during the brunch, her college friend who attended the brunch told her, “You bloom where you are planted.” Arehart then added that it, “starts with people you surround yourself with.”
Arehart is a member of the Ohio Ag Council and provides the voice-overs for the Ohio Ag Hall of Fame recipient videos. She volunteers and assists FFA chapters and the Ohio FFA Association, and has received the local, state and American Honorary FFA Degree. She is also a Farm Bureau member, and while serving as a trustee in Delaware County, she was recognized for her contribution as a co-chair of the Benefit in the Barn Fundraiser, which won national recognition in 2017 by the American Farm Bureau.
Although Arehart has made an impact with the agricultural community, in 2017 she “chased a dream” and went back to school to become a licensed esthetician in the skincare industry. Now Arehart works in a salon and spa in downtown Columbus, where she “advocates agriculture to a new group of people.”
“Some may say I’m in a role now that is far removed from agriculture, but everyday I have the opportunity to advocate to a whole new audience. And I truly get to help people feel confident and positive, and I love that. If you believe in something, you find a way to make it sing,” said Arehart.
She explained that when she was a child on the farm, her brother would always find her with the show animals, braiding and cutting the animal’s hair. She said she always liked “making things look pretty.” While in high school, Arehart was a leader in her church youth group, 4-H and FFA, holding several local, state and national positions. Later, while in college at The Ohio State University, she was a farm editor for the Agri-Broadcasting Network and began a journey of networking and working with agricultural leaders.
Although she now works in the skincare industry, Arehart told the guests that her “roots in agriculture run deep, just like many of you here today. Our careers and personal lives take us in many directions — my story is proof of that. Today, I leave you with this, find what you are passionate about, nurture it with lots of love, people and kindness, and bloom where you are planted.”
As the brunch’s keynote speaker, Casey Converse of Union County shared her story within the agricultural industry.
Converse recently finished a three-year term on the Ohio Farm Bureau Young Agricultural Professionals State Committee, where her and her husband served as co-chairs. When they were first elected to serve on the committee, Converse admitted that she reacted with fear, asking herself, “How were we connected enough in the ag industry to make an impact on this committee? How would we balance our time?” But she changed her tune, asking the guests, “Folks, how often are we foolish enough to let fear alter our vision of opportunities before us?”
Converse’s husband, Dustin, currently serves as president of the Union County Farm Bureau. The couple live in Richwood with their son, Colby, where they operate a small grain farm raising corn and soybeans, baling hay and straw, and raising Shorthorn and Angus beef cattle.
“It was the bike rides down the farm lane to spot where the combine was harvesting, the hot summer days in the cab of that old ford pickup with 610 WTVN blaring and the wind blowing through my hair, and the hours that felt like mere minutes with friends rummaging through the scrap pile, letting our imagination run wild that I developed a love and admiration for the American farmer and the agriculture industry,” said Converse.
Converse ended her speech with sharing her and her family’s simplest desires: “to raise crops, cows, kids, and live happily ever after. We are confident that this incredible grassroots organization (Farm Bureau) plays a part in making those desires a reality…Together, we will make agriculture better for the generations that follow us.”
Others recognized at the brunch
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda attended and spoke at the brunch. “Women in Ag; this is where I need to be today,” she said to the group. Pelanda recently spoke at Ohio Farm Bureau’s Ag Day at the Capital, Feb. 20, in Columbus.
Ohio Representative Mary Lightbody, House District 19, attended the event. She was awarded with Ohio Farm Bureau’s AGGPAC (Agriculture for Good Government Political Action Committee) “Friend of Agriculture” award. She earned the award during the 2018 campaign based on her responsiveness to the needs of the agriculture community as designated by the Franklin County Farm Bureau, according to Steve Berk, organization director for Union, Madison, Delaware and Franklin Counties.
This event has been going on since 1983 and recognizes outstanding women in the field of agriculture, according to Berk. He added that the Ag Woman of the Year award has expanded to take into account more than work with Farm Bureau, but considers the total body of service within the agricultural community. He added that this year’s location, which was in Delaware County, was a “more inclusive” location for central county Farm Bureau members.
For more information about the Ohio Farm Bureau visit: www.ofbf.org