Virginia "Ginny" Ebers of Alpine Township
by Cindy Laug
The Ebers experienced a huge fire in fall 1969 just before her husband Rocky’s death. The insurance payout was not yet complete, but Everett Schue, her longtime farm manager, was a big help in sorting everything out. “Everett,” she said, “With your head and my head, could we see this thing through?”
“Did you ever have any doubt?” he quickly responded.
“I saw the move to the farming business like moving to a new city. You had to acclimate yourself to the new lingo like packouts, the managment of seasonal pickers, keeping your head above water financially, and where the heck was the back orchard and the south end of which orchard? Sometimes there’s no other way but to get your feet wet, and once you do, you learn fast.”
But there were good loan officers who had confidence in her. “The President of Old Kent Bank said I walked into the bank and knew exactly what I needed to do,” recalls Ginny with a laugh. “But when I went home and told the kids what I had done, and I knew we’d be eating hamburger for a long time.”
Ginny had a few things going for her besides determination and Everett Shue’s support. She understands marketing. That has been her field of expertise since her arrival in Grand Rapids in 1954. She was one of the first consumer marketing agents in the Michigan State University extension service. She had experience on both radio and TV.
Using her degree in home economics from Ohio State University, Ginny continued to do part-time work. From 1970-1973 she was with the Grand Rapids Public School system supervising the Home Economics Committee for Education. She was the ghost writer of a weekly column in a local shoppers guide called Take Ten w/ Margowhich ran for 16 years.
During those busy years:
- The Ebers family hosted the Apple Smorgasbord twice.
- Ginny served on the MI Council on Vocational Education representing agriculture from 1987-1991.
- Ebers used her marketing background when serving on the Michigan Apple Commission in 1971 as director of communications. In this capacity, she appeared on many homemaker-oriented TV and radio programs promoting and proclaiming the virtues of Michigan apples. She also produced short, taped segments to be broadcast over the Michigan farm radio network, and developed fact sheets for the news media. She toured Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan using radio and TV media to promote the new Paula Red apple.
- She served on the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association board from 1974-1989.
- Ginny served on the Sparta Quasquicentennial (125 years) –Agriculture Day– committee. She and Merlin Kraft were responsible for bringing Cliff Hardin, then Secretary of Agriculture, to this memorable event on August 9, 1971.
- Ginny was also recognized for her professional services:
– Kent-Ottawa Horticultural Society (1962)
– Distinguished Service Awardby Michigan Fruit Industry (1985)
– Michigan State Horticultural Society (1985)
– Fruit Person of the Yearby Michigan Association of Pomester (Pome) Clubs (1988)
Ginny still resides at her family home overlooking the Ebers orchards in Sparta. Her son, Dick, has taken over operation of the farm. Even though she retired from the orchards in 2010 she misses the busy physical activity that was a part of harvest. She keeps very active in her church (Westminster Presbyterian Church). Faith has been a very big part of her life as she has served as a deacon and elder over the years.
Reflecting over those years, Ginny stated she was not involved in WSAM (Women for the Survival of Agriculture in Michigan) but applauds the organization and what it has done for the family farms in Michigan. “Sharon Steffens, JoAnn Thome, and many of the area women were responsible for bringing awareness to the industry and pushing for change in legislature during those tough years,” acknowledges Ginny. “The American consumer is our greatest asset and we need to meet their needs, but farmers in agriculture also must be compensated fairly for it.”