Some believe a man’s worth is measured in possessions, money and material things. But the true measure of a man can be found in the legacy he left behind and his impact on those around him.
If that’s the case, Jake Hartz was rich.
Hartz passed away last week at the age of 93, but he left behind a legacy rich in knowledge, integrity and passion.
“If he gave his word he meant it, he never broke it,” former Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture and longtime industry leader Richard Bell said of Hartz. “His integrity was unquestionable. Part of what made Hartz Seed so successful was Jake Hartz and his personality.”
According to his obituary, Hartz and his family moved from Wheatley to Stuttgart where they established Hartz Seed Company and brought the first soybeans to the Mid-South.
During his career, Hartz was an active director and officer of both the national and state soybean organizations and served as president of the American Soybean Association, where he held an honorary lifetime membership. His service includes work with the Arkansas State Plant Board, the Arkansas Seed Dealers’ Association and the Soybean Council of America.
Hartz was appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Variety Protection Board in 1973.
In 1976, Hartz began a research program to develop higher yielding and disease-resistant soybean varieties and established the largest soybean research facility in the South. He received the President’s “E” Certificate for Exports from President Ronald Reagan for outstanding contribution to the export expansion in Japan, Mexico and Spain.
Another aspect of Hartz’s work was his tireless efforts to establish the White River Irrigation District and bring water to farmers on the Grand Prairie.
“He was definitely in all of agriculture,” Bell said. “He was a national leader, as well as a leader in Arkansas.”
That same leadership he displayed in the agricultural community Hartz used to better the Grand Prairie with his philanthropic and volunteer work.
Hartz was dedicated to his church, Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Stuttgart. He worked to widen Park Avenue and served as a member of the Stuttgart Memorial Hospital Board and St. Louis Federal Reserve Board. He volunteered at St. Vincent Infirmary and supported the construction of Stuttgart’s Grand Prairie Center.
Hartz was especially dedicated to his work with the Boy Scouts of America.
“Jake gave not only his money, but his time and leadership to support not only the Grand Prairie district scouting program, but also recruit people to support scouting all across Arkansas,” Boy Scouts district executive Tom Crum said of Hartz, who served on the district committee.
Page 2 of 2 - Crum noted that it wasn’t strictly Hartz’s work with the Boy Scouts that left such a lasting impression.
“When I moved to Stuttgart, I didn’t know anybody,” Crum said. “Jake made me feel welcome, and he helped me in planning and goal setting that I have used for the last 40 years.”
Upon hearing the news of Hartz’s passing, Crum said he spoke to another retired Boy Scouts executive who said, “Jake was the epitome of a fine Southern gentleman.”
It was his hard work and dedication in both his career and volunteer efforts that inspired so many around Stuttgart.
“He was so passionate about everything he did,” Lori Dabbs said, “whether it was cheering on the Razorbacks, supporting a political candidate, playing golf, pushing the irrigation district forward, whatever it was he was passionate about it.”
Dabbs, who worked with Hartz on the White River Irrigation District, said Hartz’s passion and commitment taught her perseverance.
“He poured his heart and soul into everything he did,” Dabbs said. “He stayed until he accomplished what he set out to do.”
Hartz enjoyed passing on all he had learned to anyone that was willing to listen.
“Jake was so knowledgeable in so many areas and had so much history and experience in everything he did,” Dabbs said. “The stories he could tell were so rich in history for this area.
He was the greatest history teacher I ever had.
“He loved to tell you stories, loved to talk about the early days of agriculture, the early days of irrigation, when Hartz was developing different soybeans,” Dabbs said. “It was such a lesson in history that you could listen to him. He taught you the importance of listening, to sit down and pay attention.”
While he may have been one of the nation’s leaders in agriculture and an example of community service at its best, it was his ability to connect with others that made Hartz one of a kind.
“He shared a love of something with everybody — Razorbacks, golf, soybeans, family, water — he shared a love of something with everybody he met,” Dabbs said.
“You couldn’t help but learn and grow when you were with Jake.”