“Farming’s not just a job — it’s a life we truly love.” – Rod Kuegel
While the printed fliers may have read “16th Annual Rural Life Celebration,” Jim Gilles, owner of Hill View Farms, will tell you that the original group started 25 years ago with four couples at Mount St. Joe.
After that first meeting, gatherings waned in and out until Gilles said, “Bishop (McRaith) got ahold of Rick Kamuf.” The Bishop felt it was important that everyone with an agricultural background was involved, and he also hoped to make it a Diocese of Owensboro event.
The event, previously held at the Sportscenter, now welcomes 400-500 members of the agriculture community into the Owensboro Convention Center.
Over 25 different sponsors from around the community, including individuals and businesses, donate funds to purchase food, which the committee members prepare. While the group enjoys a meal together, members of state and local leadership, as well as friends and family members, “honor individuals who have been influential in the farming community.”
On Sunday evening, Candance Brake, CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, reminded the crowd that “our economy is rooted in agriculture,” and thanked “those who work for our sustenance.”
Tributes were paid to the life work of Tom Curtsinger and Billy Joe Miles, referred to as two men of faith who gave of their time and talents to benefit the community.
John Wright, Executive Vice President of Owensboro Grain, shared some exciting news on the innovation front. Wright said, beginning September 1, Owensboro Grain would begin using a combination of soybean oil and biodiesel to create candle wax.
Wright said their goal for the future is to continue converting more “ag-based products” to “build more markets and products” for local farmers, in an effort to eventually build a bio-refinery.
On September 15, the Owensboro Grain elevator project, “the oldest part of our company,” according to Wright, should be completed. This will enable farmers to dramatically increase the amount of corn and soybeans and the speed at which they can be dumped at the grain mill.
The last two presentations of the night were the Lifetime Achievement Award and the first annual “Be Like Rick” Award.
Sylvester Fischer was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award and is viewed as a man of “humility, honesty, Christian values, and family,” according to friend and co-presenter Rod Kuegel.
Fischer said upon receiving the award, “My life has been all about people giving me a chance.”
The final award of the evening was the “Be Like Rick” Award, created in honor of the late Rick Kamuf and his selfless compassion for others in the community.
Brake said of Kamuf, “He always makes us strive to be better — even today.”
The award was presented to Jerry and Vicky Morris for their use of “time, talent, and treasure” to help build homes, repair roofs, and voluntarily cook on countless occasions for charities and families in need.
It was estimated that if Morris and his team were paid for their time, they would have earned over $2 million dollars for their 39 cooks for different organizations last year, using 168, 480 hours of manpower.
Morris said that while Kamuf was “a hard man to follow,” helping others “comes very easy to us.”