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Marshel to retire from Farm Bureau

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After 35 years, he'll call it quits Feb. 14

By Dave Bell

After 35 years with the Illinois Farm Bureau – 32 of those in Fayette County – Ron Marshel is calling it a career.

In that time, the Wayne County native has seen the technology of farming change dramatically. And he’s done his best to keep the county’s farmers up to speed.
“Things have changed so much,” said Marshel. “The equipment is larger, marketing has become much more important, the cost of both equipment and inputs (seed, fertilizer, chemicals and fuel) have increased significantly, and technology has changed everything. It’s a whole new ballgame.”
Against that backdrop, Marshel boiled his job as county Farm Bureau manager down to the basics.
“We’ve just tried to give farmers good information so that they can make informed decisions,” he said. How that task is performed, however, looks nothing like it did 35 years ago.
“We used to get that information out by doing radio reports on what the markets were doing,” Marshel said. “Now, they get that information – and a whole lot more – on their smart phone from the cab of their tractor.”
Keeping track of market prices for grain and livestock has become an everyday necessity, as producers must make decisions on when to buy and sell commodities to get the best prices.
“When I started, grain prices wouldn’t change much,” Marshel said. “Now, marketing skills are a must. Farmers must keep on top of so many things.”
Over the years, Marshel and the local Farm Bureau Board of Directors also have made it a priority to keep up with legislative issues at the state and national levels. To do so, they’ve been in regular contact with legislators in Springfield and Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with some great boards,” he said. “They are business people; and they know how important it is to run the Farm Bureau as a business.
“Early on – in the late ’80s – we established a foundation to fund things such as ag seminars, the Ag In The Classroom program and ag scholarships. Since then, we’ve given out about $80,000 in college scholarships to county students. That’s allowed several students the opportunity to go to school when they may not have gone otherwise.”
Though Marshel didn’t grow up on a farm, he was raised in a family that was concerned about the environment and wildlife habitats. His father was the supervisor of a conservation area near Johnsonville. He also spent several summers working on his uncle’s Wayne County farm.
He attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, majoring in administration of justice and finance. In fact, it was a job in law enforcement that brought him to Vandalia in 1974, serving as a patrolman on the Vandalia Police Department.
After five years, he accepted a job as Farm Bureau manager in Lawrence County. He returned to Vandalia in 1982 to take the job he’d hold for the remainder of his career. A year later, he assumed responsibility for managing the Bond County Farm Bureau as well – splitting his days between the two counties.
With his retirement on Feb. 14, Marshel and his wife, Candy, hope to travel, and he plans pursue hobbies that have been back-burnered during his working years – including scuba diving and photography. Their daughter, Amanda, and her husband, John, live in Mt. Vernon, and Marshel plans to spend considerable time with his grandson, Jack.
“The 35 years have passed so fast,” Marshel said. “About 80 percent of the farmers in Fayette County belong to the Farm Bureau, and they’ve become like family to us.
"It’s been a wonderful experience.”