Sanpete County Farm Bureau recognizes John Keeler with Distinguished Service Award
EPHRAIM—A Manti native who has traveled an estimated 2 million miles and attended upwards of 2,500 local Farm Bureau board meetings received the Sanpete County Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award last week.
The award was presented to John Keeler, who has retired after 43 years with the Utah Farm Bureau, including 37 years as southwest regional manager.
The presentation occurred at the Sanpete County Farm Bureau’s annual banquet Thursday, March 16 at Snow College.
Wade Eliason of Moroni, president of the Sanpete County Farm Bureau, kicked off the banquet at the Noyes Building by pointing to a new Farm Bureau mission statement printed on the placemats.
The new mission is to “inspire all Utah families to connect, succeed and grow through the miracle of agriculture.”
A corollary statement said, “We bring value to every citizen and community through love of God, family, country and the land. We work for those who work to feed and clothe the world.”
The Farm Bureau is no longer “just about farmers,” Eliason said. “It’s about every citizen in this state of ours.”
John Eliason, agent for Farm Bureau Insurance, a subsidiary of the Utah Farm Bureau, read a biography of Keeler and helped present the award plaque.
Keeler was born in Manti into a farm family. His father, Paul, was a farmer and his mother, Bernice, a school teacher. His uncle, Aldon Barton, was Utah commissioner of agriculture for many years.
“John grew up in Manti working on his dad’s farm with all the freedoms and privileges of a young man growing up in small-town Utah in the 1950s,” Eliason said.
He graduated from Snow College, earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Utah State University, and in 1974, joined the state Farm Bureau office in Salt Lake City.
While in Salt Lake City, he helped organize producers into farm commodity groups. He also set up something called the “Safemark Battery and Tire Program,” which continued for another 20 years, enabling Farm Bureau members to get discounts on products.
In 1980, he moved back to Manti to help take care of his elderly parents. After a brief hiatus from the Farm Bureau, he rejoined the organization as manager for 10 counties—Sanpete, Sevier, Wayne, Piute, Garfield, Millard, Beaver, Iron, Washington and Kane counties.
His duties included overseeing county-level Farm Bureau groups, including attending board meetings. “And he is always the first one there,” Eliason said.
He worked on agriculture issues with state and federal agencies ranging from the Forest Service, BLM and USDA to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Division of Fire, Forestry and State Lands
That role included “submitting hundreds of comments on actions taken by these agencies and trying to solve problems arising from those actions,” Eliason said.
Meanwhile, he served on 11 elk committees, three sage-grouse committees, a bison committee, a pronghorn committee, a prairie dog committee and several land planning committees. “He obviously likes committees,” Eliason joked.
Keeler’s wife, Diane, said his family calls him the “human Utah road map,” because he has driven, and knows, almost every road in the state.
He also knows a lot of people—and they know him, Diane said. Once she joined friends on a bus trip that went from St. George to California, she said. At the beginning of the trip, everyone introduced themselves.
When she introduced herself as Diane Keeler from Manti, “half the people on the bus were asking, ‘Are you related to John? Do you know John?’”
In accepting the award, Keeler said simply, “I love you all. I’ve appreciated working for the Farm Bureau. We have to keep it up.”
Eliason mentioned that Keeler plans to spend much of his retirement working on his family farm and already has a new tractor.
John and Diane Keeler have five adult children. Jeremy, Alex and Jessica all live in Manti. Christopher and Leila live in Oregon.