By GAY GRIESBACH For the Daily News
When John Kohl found out he could give $2,500 to any nonprofit community organization he was in a quandary — should it go to the Richfield Fire Department, the Richfield Lions or his church?
Sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, the grant allows farmer to bestow the funds on the nonprofit community organization of their choice.
“I went to that mill with my dad,” said Kohl, 83, referring to the Messer-Mayer mill operated by the society at Richfield Historical Park.
“We got wheat ground for flour back in the old days, when it was being run by water power. I was only a child at that time, but I can still see it happening.”
He became a member of the Richfield Historical Society shortly after it was formed in 1997. Historical Society Charter President Marge Holzbog said members were excited to find themselves the recipient of the award.
“(John) has always been very supportive,” Holzbog said.
Funny thing is, Kohl hadn’t even applied for the grant. “I was surprised — I don’t know how they got my name,” Kohl said.
It turns out that while applying for a Monsanto Fund education grant, his daughter-in-law Elizabeth entered his name for the other award. Elizabeth’s husband, Terry Kohl, is the primary operator of the farm where John was born and raised and where he still helps out.
“I do what I can,” John Kohl said. Terry Kohl said his father had been on the Richfield School Board for six years and served as a trustee at St. Boniface Catholic Church for six years.
“He gave his time. This award is extending that service,” Terry Kohl said.
At his father’s suggestion he joined the Richfield Volunteer Fire Department, which John has been a member of for 50 years. Terry is now chief.
Between farming about 1,000 acres, John Kohl served on Richfield’s then-Town Board for 22 years — 16 as Town Board chairman.
The field was crowded when he made his first attempt at a seat. “I was lucky and won,” Kohl said. “I wanted to be able to do something for my community.”
Kohl also spent 34 years as a Washington County supervisor and served on the Ag and Industrial, Highway, and other committees during his tenure.
“He’s an absolute stalwart in the community, fellow Richfield Lion and Historical Society member Norm Grier said. “John’s role has been critical to village; he’s been so involved in every aspect of village life.”
“Who doesn’t know John Kohl in Richfield?” fellow farmer and Historical Society member Herb Lofy said. “He’s been so active in the community in so many different ways. His heart is in the right place.”
Kohl, along with Monsanto representatives, will mark the donation to the Historical Society before the 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at Village Hall.
For a complete list of America’s Farmers Grow Communities winners and more program information, visit www.grow communities.com.