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'True Leaders'

Farm Bureau honors Halpin family, Wills as outstanding members

The nominees for the Grundy County Farm Bureau's "Outstanding Farm Bureau Member" Award were so qualified the board couldn't decided between the two, so there were two recipients.

About 120 people attended the 98th annual meeting of the Grundy County Farm Bureau Thursday that was held at Chapin's North Banquets, inside the Quality Inn in Morris. The bureau conducted its business meeting, hosted dinner, held an awards presentation and had several speakers.

The "Outstanding Farm Bureau Member" Award was created to recognize the "true leaders" of the organizations, said Tasha Bunting, manager of the bureau. The award was given to Frank Halpin and family of Gardner, and Elvin Wills of Coal City.

"Both were deserving candidates," said Bunting as to why the board couldn't decide between the two.

The Halpin family has been an active supporter of the Ag In the Classroom program. For about 30 years, Frank Halpin and his family have opened their dairy farm to educate children.

More than 20,000 people have visited their farm, Bunting said, observing cows being milked, learning about feed rations, and getting to touch a calf.

"The sights, sounds and smells of the dairy are memories of a lifetime for those fourth graders," she said.

The family's dedication to agriculture education continues with its fourth generation of family members hosting tours.

Frank Halpin, his wife, sons, daughters and grandchildren all went to the podium to collect the plaque.

Halpin said he and his family will continue to participate in the tours because it's important to continue to spread the knowledge of agriculture.

"There are a lot of great volunteers here that make Grundy County a great place," he said.

The second recipient has been a farm bureau member for 50 years. Elvin Wills is now a retired farmer, but still an agriculture enthusiast, said Bunting. He has served on many committees, and as a director on the farm bureau board for nine years. He also has served on numerous boards in the Coal City community.

Wills continues to be a long-time supporter of the 4-H program and regularly dedicates his time at the 4-H fair.

"It's a pleasure for me to be with the farm bureau all these years. I enjoyed it and God Bless everyone else who belongs to it too," said Wills.

The last award presented was the "Friend of the Farm Bureau" Award to Debra Granger, an Ag In the Classroom teacher since the project began. Granger is a teacher for Mazon-Verona-Kinsman School District.

This award is to honor a person or group who has demonstrated exceptional service to agriculture, said Bunting.

Since 1991 Granger's students have competed in the Ag Jeopardy contest and, of the 22 events, her students have had three third-place finishes, one second-place finish and six first-place finishes.

"Mrs. Granger has proven to be an advocate for agriculture education," said Bunting.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger, State Senator Sue Rezin, and State Rep. Katherine Cloonen also spoke at the event. 

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