Oklahoma governor recognizes agricultural leaders

Oklahoma’s Ag Day at the Capitol may have had to be postponed because of the crowd during the teacher strike, but that didn’t dampen the celebration of four of the state’s leaders in agriculture.

Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese presented the awards during a ceremony May 9, at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture

Keith Kisling, Burlington, Oklahoma, joins the Oklahoma Agricultural Hall of Fame as the recipient of this Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture award. Kisling, a former chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates, traveled to 17 countries to maintain and grow markets for American wheat. He so impressed former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a trip to Cuba for USW, that the nation bought several million tons of wheat from Oklahoma.

Sec. Reese, in presenting the award, noted that Kisling has a passion for agriculture and promoting Oklahoma agriculture in particular.

“He’s made a difference in working to support our trade,” Reese said.

Kisling thanked his wife and family and advised those who follow in his footsteps to work hard, be humble and have fun, but also choose their life mates wisely.

“Marry a good spouse,” he said. “Someone who has the same ideas, same wants, same wishes and dreams you have.” That, he added, makes the journey all the better. 

Outstanding Legacy in Agriculture

R. Larry Watkins grew up in Purcell, Oklahoma, and found a passion for agriculture through the FFA. A past director of the Agricultural Development Division for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, it was through his initiatives that the city became known as the Horse Show Capital of the World. In presenting the award to Watkins’ widow, Natalea Watkins, Sec. Reese cited that it’s notable that he planned and managed the world’s largest youth livestock show, the Oklahoma Youth Expo and the National Finals Rodeo, when it was still in Oklahoma City.

Public Service in Agriculture

Randy Gilbert, Tecumseh, Oklahoma, is a born educator and promoter of youth activities in agriculture. Among his varied activities, Sec. Reese noted that Gilbert serves on the boards of the two largest youth events in the state of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Youth Expo, and the International Finals Youth Rodeo, which he began 25 years ago.

In accepting the award, Gilbert, ever an educator, shared with the audience advice that has steered his life’s path, found on a glass pop bottle.

“It’s not about the nickel you could get to bring that bottle back,” he said. “On the bottle it says, ‘No Deposit, No Return.’ I’ve tried to go through life giving back to the organizations that gave so much to me.”

Agricultural Environmental Stewardship

Jimmy Kinder, from Cotton County, Oklahoma, has blazed the trail for the use of no-till in Oklahoma. Twenty years ago he started using no-till on his family’s farm, where they grow wheat, canola, sesame and grain sorghum, as well as grass and stocker cattle.

“He converted to no-till before Oklahoma State University and The Noble Research Foundation had even thought of putting in research plots,” Reese said. “And he showed we could change the way we farm.” His use of Greenseeker technology has saved his farm $30,000 annually in fertilizer costs, and OSU estimates that over 13 years, that’s about 2.6 million pounds of applied fertilizer.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].

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