Aug 31, 2015
Obituary: Richard Lehnert

Richard Lehnert, a former editor of Vegetable Growers News and Fruit Growers News, died Aug. 31 at his home in Trufant, Michigan. He was 72.

Lehnert was born and raised in Sparta, Michigan. His father worked in Fruit Ridge orchards during World War II, before starting a dairy farm. Lehnert left home at 17 to study writing and agriculture at Michigan State University, where he also had his first job writing about the university’s ag research. He graduated from MSU in 1963.

After a brief stint as a newspaper reporter, he joined the staff of Michigan Farmer magzine, where he spent 26 years – the last 15 as editor. He spent most of his career in Lansing, Michigan’s capital.

Michigan Farmer was sold in 1991, and Lehnert spent 14 years as a freelancer, writing for dozens of magazines and newsletters about all manner of agricultural topics. He spent two years back at MSU, writing about animal agriculture in Agriculture Hall, three floors up from where he started in his student years. He was in Ag Hall when John Kennedy was shot in 1963 and when 9/11 happened in 2001.

He joined Great American Media Services, publisher of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News, in 2005, and served as an editor there until 2010.

“Dick was one of the finest agricultural journalists in the country. He was always a champion for the grower and his passion for the industry fueled his great journalistic skills,” said Matt McCallum, owner of Great American Media Services. “Everyone at Great American Media Services is keeping his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.”

Earlier this year, Lehnert received a Distinguished Service Award from MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The awards are given to individuals “who have made outstanding contributions to Michigan’s agriculture and natural resources industries and who possess high standards of integrity and character.”

Lehnert earned national recognition for his reporting when the fire-retardant chemical PBB was mistakenly added to animal feed, leading to the destruction of thousands of cattle, pigs and chickens. For this, he received the Detroit Press Club Foundation Professional Award. He also received the Heath Cooer Rigdon Conservation Writer Award for his coverage of soil conservation.

Lehnert lived on 6 acres in Trufant, where he maintained a small orchard, a large garden and a small flock of sheep.

He is survived by his wife Elaine, three sons, five grandchildren, five stepchildren and 15 stepgrandchildren.

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