Making a difference
Published 10:14 am Friday, August 7, 2015
3 inducted into Hall of Fame for contribution to agriculture
An FFA director and the Freeborn High School FFA were inducted as one into the Freeborn County Agriculture Hall of Fame Wednesday afternoon, based on their efforts more than a half-century ago to start a program that helps many today.
Lee Asche, an agriculture instructor and FFA director at Freeborn High School in 1953, came up with an idea for a corn drive. Asche’s idea was to gather corn that fell to the ground during a large storm.
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The FFA club took the $90 raised from the effort and donated it to Camp Courage. The donation allowed one Freeborn resident with polio to attend summer camp.
FFA executive secretary Waino Kortesmaki encouraged all Minnesota FFA chapters the following year to participate in the corn drive. In its second year, the corn drive brought a total of $1,815 to Camp Courage from 19 chapters; $536 was from the Freeborn County FFA. The drive grew to include donations of corn, soybeans, potatoes, pulpwood and cash. By 1979, total donations from FFA reached $1 million and by 1989 had reached $2 million.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by people I worked with,” Asche said.
Asche taught at Freeborn High School from 1953 to 1958 before moving to Mankato and becoming a counselor.
Donations from FFA are used to help send children and adults with disabilities to Camp Courage, where they grow in independence and self-esteem. Funds are also used to help build facilities that allowed Camp Courage to grow and serve more customers.
Former Freeborn FFA members Jim Beach and Neil Pierce began a golf tournament in 2001, shortly after Freeborn High School closed, called Tee it Up for Campers. The event successfully raised $2,970 in its first year for Camp Courage.
To expand outreach to the community outside of golf, the Tee it Up for Campers Committee began a wine tasting event in 2011. Taste of Courage and Friendship features live music, local wine and beer samples, hors d’oeuvres, raffle prizes and a silent auction. The event reportedly raised more than $4,000 in 2014.
Over the last few years, the Tee It Up For Campers group has donated more than $180,000 that has been used to support a ropes course, a baseball field, remodeling of cabins, a boat and many camper scholarships.
Other inductees included Albert-Lea based Olson Manufacturing, which has been in business for more than 100 years, and Lester Perschbacher, an 81-year-old longtime milk tester who is starting his 60th year in the profession. Perschbacher is currently the oldest milk tester in the state of Minnesota.
“You’re only as old as you feel,” Perschbacher said.
This was the second year Freeborn County has held an Agriculture Hall of Fame ceremony.
“Our goal was to recognize individuals, families, organizations and companies that have made a significant contribution in the promotion and advancement of the agriculture community in Freeborn County,” organizer Paul Hansen said.