Alan Sundermeier is known for his extensive extension knowledge that assists farmers.
That presence and advice was needed more than ever during last year’s farming disaster due to the wettest spring ever in Northwest Ohio.
“Oh yeah, by far, we were the hardest hit. Wood County was most severe of any in the Midwest,” said Sundermeier, who is wrapping up a 25-year career with Ohio State University Extension.
“I tried to assist as many farmers as I could during that farm bill signup. I tried to assist people who never had cover crops,” he said. “There were a lot of new aspects in the farm bill. It took a lot of calculating and understanding.”
Sundermeier is a Wood County extension educator and program leader in the Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, based in Bowling Green. He said that his main job is to present non-biased research information to people to help improve their lives.
“That’s the neat part of my position. I have nothing to sell.”
Sundermeier, who is an OSU graduate, started his career in sales, working in Ohio, Iowa and Illinois. He was back in Ohio, working at Hunt-Wesson Foods in Rossford, a tomato cannery, when the OSU extension opportunity was offered.
“When NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) came in in ‘93, they shut down production and shipped it out to California,” he said.
In January 1994, he started in Henry County ag education, working from Napoleon. He moved to Wood County when Dan Frobose took another position in 2001.
“I tried to improve my communication skills and I enjoyed solving problems,” Sundermeier said of the switch from sales to teacher.
His first work was centered around tillage research, look at different machines, adaptations and how to go from full scale tillage to no-till.
“But that was challenging with our soil in Northwest Ohio,” he said. “As that got established more, I got into cover crops.”
Sundermeier started research at a station by Hoytville.
“As cover crops got more acceptance and more interest, I got into soil health.”
That included improving nutrients and cycling in the soil, trying to cut back on inputs and saving farmers economically, he said.
His next research project was at the John Hirzel Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems Research Agriculture Incubator Foundation near Haskins.
“He’s one of the pioneers,” Sundermeier said of Hirzel and organic farming.
In 2001, they rented 30 acres and set up multi-system research farm.
“I was involved in that operation, operating the farm equipment, collecting the data,” Sundermeier said.
Two years ago, due to lack of grants and funding, that research was discontinued. There’s still interest in organic farming around the state, he said.
When he settled back in Northwest Ohio, Sundermeier said he got more involved with the family farm. His younger brother Keith operates the farm, which is near Dowling. It’s 320 acres, with corn, soybeans and wheat.
Sundermeier, who turned 65 earlier this month, officially retires on Thursday.
He and his wife, Sandra, have been married 42 years. They have three children, Mark, Las Vegas; Luke, Marysville; and Mary, Farmersville; and two grandchildren.
In retirement, Sundermeier expects to do some consulting and canning.
“I’ve already started some of those projects around here,” he said.
Travel plans that he and Sandra had are on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m just kind of sliding into retirement,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m missing out on a sendoff.”
Sundermeier has written a weekly column, “Ag Answers,” for years for the Sentinel-Tribune. Craig Everett has taken over that duty.
Earlier this year, Sundermeier was awarded an Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association service award.
Sundermeier’s specialties were noted as sustainable agriculture, including cover crops, soil quality, organic grain production, and tillage. He has provided strong support for organic agriculture within OSU and has worked closely with organic farmers throughout his career.
“Alan has a heart for organics and is our organic grain liaison to Ohio State University and OSU Extension. His passion for organics makes him a well-deserved recipient of the 2020 Service Award,” said Dave Shively, a local organic farmer and past president of the OEFFA Grain Grower Chapter.
Sundermeier regularly has attended and presented at OEFFA’s annual conference, offers trainings for organic farmers, and is active with OEFFA’s Grain Growers Chapter.
He is a certified crop adviser with the American Society of Agronomy, a former co-coordinator for Ohio’s SARE program, and a contributor to the Sentinel-Tribune, Farms.com, Ohio’s Country Journal, Ohio Ag Net, Corn and Soybean Digest, Ag Fax and No-Till Farmer.