The Dec. 22 Lancaster Farming edition included a reprint of our very first publication from 1955. Many things have changed since then, but our focus on farm news, markets, ads and features has remained constant.

There have been a few other constants as well. Lancaster County Penn State Extension educator Leon Ressler has been one of those, penning his “Now is the Time” column for nearly two decades. The column had quite a run before Ressler took over. We don’t know if Lancaster County’s first county agent, Dutch Bucher, had a column in any of the local papers.

We do know that Bucher’s successor, Max Smith, authored the first “Now is the Time” column on page one of the May 10, 1957, issue. His successors, Jay Irwin and John Schwartz, continued the weekly column until Ressler was appointed Lancaster County Extension director in 2001.

We talked to Ressler recently about his experiences with the column, and the responses to it from the ag community. Ressler had worked in Extension for about 15 years before he was named Lancaster County Extension director in 2001. His titles and duties have changed over the years. He became a district director in 2012 when the Extension service did away with strictly county offices. In 2017, district designations were formally ended, replaced with an emphasis on statewide functions. In spite of the changes, there remains an Extension office in every Pennsylvania county.

When the statewide approach came along, Ressler saw an opportunity to cut back on his travel schedule and return to his Extension educator roots. He took the opportunity. He’s happy to be out of his administrator’s chair and back in the field dealing with farmers and others in the ag community. “Now is the Time” was traditionally penned by the county director, but when the county post was eliminated, Ressler kept on with the column.

He recalled one of his earliest encounters with a regular reader during an educational meeting for farmers. “A guy came up to me and said, ‘I went home after last week’s meeting and I told my wife that I never knew for sure if there was a real person behind that column. Now I know there’s a real Leon Ressler.’”

The real Leon Ressler has taken immense satisfaction out of the reaction he’s gotten to the column, not so much because he’s achieved a measure of fame in the farming community, but because people are paying attention to his message. That kind of attention is gold for any committed educator.

There are a few readers who’ve admitted they’re not so much interested in the column itself as they are in Ressler’s quote of the week. They go straight to the quote and maybe pick up an educational tidbit or two along the way. “At least it gets them to the page,” he said.

Way back when it became general knowledge that he was going to be taking over the column, one of his church members strongly urged him to continue the tradition of ending the column with a quote. Ressler decided to give it a try.

Coming up with a quote is tricky business, he said. He mostly quotes dead people like Abraham Lincoln and Ben Franklin. Dead people can’t object when they’re quoted, and it could be argued that they have more quotable wisdom than just about anybody alive right now. He stays away from politics and the controversies that seem to bubble up out of nowhere these days. “I try to be sensitive to the culture of our readers,” he said.

Ressler ended his Dec. 29 column with a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian dissident and novelist who died in 2008, and who said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, and between classes, nor between political parties, but through every human heart.”

That’s a pretty good timeless quote, in our opinion. Ressler is happy enough if Lancaster Farming readers benefit only from the wisdom of the ages encapsulated in the quote of the week.

But he’s really happy when they read the column. He puts a lot of thought and work into it. His emailed column is due at Lancaster Farming first thing Wednesday morning. He writes it Tuesday evening, not because he’s like those of us who write for a living — i.e., we procrastinate — but because he wants his information to be as current as possible.

“Because I’m an agronomist, I focus a good bit on agronomy. In the summer months in particular, we have a weekly conference call with agronomists from around the state where we talk about issues that need to be addressed that week.”

Ressler said Lancaster Farming has been an excellent vehicle for his column and for Extension in general. “It’s been a good partner for Extension. It’s a platform that enables us to get information out to the field, and the paper gets to publish material that readers are interested in.

“It’s a two-way partnership that has worked very well for both partners,” he said.Leon Ressler


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