Richard Preston was raised on a small hobby farm near Glendale, Ky., with aspirations of being a farmer. But his exemplary academic standing landed him at Yale University on a graduate fellowship, earning a doctorate in physical chemistry.
A Hardin County farmer, Preston, 67, has been named winner of Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual award for Distinguished Service to Agriculture.
In 1977, Preston was working as a research physicist at the University of California when he decided to come back to Hardin County and start a farming operation. He purchased 40 acres of cropland and some used equipment. He started out raising corn and hogs. Today, he and his wife, Alana, farm over 2,000 acres of row crops and have four employees.
Along the way Preston has made a mark in many circles with farm organizations and youth groups like 4-H and FFA. He’s been widely recognized for his innovative production practices and as an advocate for using sound science on the farm.
“Richard has a strong desire to serve others,” said Rodney Grusy, Hardin County agricultural extension agent. “He has a strong desire to make a difference. He’s well respected and a tremendous asset to agriculture.”
“I can’t imagine a better volunteer leader than Richard Preston,” said Kentucky Corn Growers Association (KCGA) President Russel Schwenke. “His contributions to the farming community, industry and our organization have been countless. He is uniquely equipped with a very strong academic background in science; he focuses those skills in all facets of our organization.”
Preston has served on KCGA’s board for 11 years and also has long been active with Hardin County Farm Bureau. He has spent much of his adult life teaching and coaching youth and young farmers. He taught the first computer programming class in Hardin County schools, as well as physics at Elizabethtown Community College. He’s been a strong FFA and 4-H supporter plus has been a PTA Chapter President and a youth baseball and basketball coach.
His daughter, Leslie Meredith, a teacher at West Hardin Middle School, was the 2013 recipient of KFB’s “Excellence in Ag Literacy” award.