“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Justin Ryan in a heart felt thank you speech addressed to a crowd of about 100 people attending an awards dinner at Fulton County’s Hale Mills Country Club.
Ryan, a recent graduate of Canajoharie High School, had been awarded the scholarship during the 2015 graduation ceremony and was attending the dinner with his parents, Kathy and Scott Ryan of Honorone Farm, a 400-acre dairy and crop farm located in Ames, NY.
“Agriculture is the heartbeat of America,” said Ryan, “from producing food and fiber to maintaining open space, practicing environmental stewardship and, most recently, biofuels and energy production.”
Ryan told attendees that although he had never met Ronald Mead personally, he admired his dedication and devotion to agriculture and that he is inspired by people like Ronald Mead, who are advocates of agriculture, and also by Eric, “who wants to continue his father’s legacy.”
“I want to thank everyone who donated to the Ronald Mead Scholarship Fund,” Ryan emphasized.
“Justin is the first recipient of the Ronald J. Mead Memorial Scholarship,” Eric Mead, son of the late Ronald Mead, told attendees. “We’re hoping it grows bigger and bigger every year!”
Mead commented that to his knowledge there are no other scholarships awarded specifically to deserving students pursuing a career in agriculture in the area. “I’ve never seen one for someone who wants to continue the family farm. That’s what our dad was about; agriculture and the family farm.”
Mead, who spoke about college costs and the burden they place on farming families, encourages people to support scholarships like this one that helps to continue family farms.
Mead explained his dad, Ronald, and grandfather, James, had owned and managed Floridale Farm. “It was a 160 dairy cow business and a total of about 250 head with calves and heifers. Our dairy herd sold back in 1995 when dad came down with cancer. Upon retiring from farming and beating cancer, Dad took a appointed job from then Governor Pataki and went to work for NYS Ag and Markets.”
Ronald, a devoted advocate for dairy farming and agriculture in New York State, ran a division of farm land protection for 12 years before passing away on June 14, 2014 in a tragic construction accident.
“I started this scholarship as a way to pay it forward for everything he did for me and everyone who knew and loved him,” commented Eric.
The $2,000 scholarship is paid out to each student awarded who is pursuing education in agriculture. Mead hopes other farming communities will follow his lead by initiating scholarship funds to be awarded to students furthering their education in agricultural pursuits. “Our goal is to get this information out to the public and help this scholarship grow, as we all know without future farmers there is no future for our country.”
Donations for the scholarship fund came from dairy farmers, other businesses, personal donations and funds raised from a golf tournament. “As of now this scholarship was available to Montgomery County residents, but if it continues to grow we will definitely look at other students in surrounding counties to be able to apply,” said Mead.
In his speech, Justin also thanked Kathy and Scott Ryan.
“I would like to thank my parents for their support and encouragement through the years, and for all of the hard work they do on the farm. I hope to continue that tradition and return to the farm after college- because for me; farming is where it’s at!”
Justin Ryan will be attending SUNY Cobleskill in the fall.
“Justin was a great choice to receive the award!” attested Mead.
Kait Isaac of St. Johnsville, second recipient of the $2,000 scholarship, was not in attendance.