Ruth Hirsh Award
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 and her husband Donald farmed near Kinsley beginning in the mid 1950s. Throughout their 42 years of marriage they were active in their community, fighting for the preservation of the family farm. Through Kansas Farmers Union, Ruth was the first woman to be elected a member of the State Board of Directors and was sent to Washington, D.C. various times to lobby for family farms. She represented the Farmers Union in meetings across the United States before becoming the State Youth and Education Director for KFU and traveling throughout the state.
Ruth Hirsh Award recipients include:
1996: Edward Worth, of Park, Kansas
1997: Wilfred and Anna Bergkamp, of Colwich, Kansas
1998: Billie Flora, of Quinter, Kansas
2000: Kenneth Hewson, of Pawnee County
2001: John P. Hulsing, County and Kansas Farmers Union service
2003: Sheryl and Tom Giessel, Pawnee County Farmers Union
2004: Vernon Deines, of Wichita for service as KFU Vice President and Membership Director
2005: Dale Lyon, of Athol for service as KFU president from 1973, when it was rechartered, until 1981.
2006: Dave Fredrickson, National Farmers Union President 2002-2006 for lifelong advocacy.
2007: John Stencel, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
2008: Nancy Boyda, Former Congresswoman from Kansas’ 2nd District and NFU Golden Triangle awardee
2009: Dr. Daryll E. Ray, director and founder of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee
2010-2011: Emil Mushrush, former KFU director
2011: Tom Giessel, honorary NFU historian and former KFU Vice-President
2012: Linda Hessman, longtime ag mediator and KFU board member
2013: Henry Strnad, Republic County
2014: Lavern Potuzak, KFU Vice-President
2015: Nick Levendofsky, KFU Vice-President
2016: 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
2017: Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, United States Senator
2018: Char Henton and Forrest Buhler, K-State’s Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services (KAMS)
2019: Mary Fund, Jerry Jost, and Dan Nagengast of the Kansas Rural Center
2020: Gerard Steinlage, Nemaha County Farmers Union
Ruth Hirsh Awardees
Lavern Potuzak was awarded the prestigious 2014 Ruth Hirsh Award during Kansas Farmers Union’s annual convention banquet held Friday, Dec. 5 in Manhattan. Potuzak, who farms near Agenda in Republic County, joined KFU in 1974, served as a KFU board member from 2006-2011, and has been the organization’s vice president since 2011. He is an avid supporter of community events, serves on various boards and committees, and attends and [...]