Tuesday was a day of significance with many shades to it. The much-debated 5-year Farm Bill got its final Congressional approval in Washington; the day was designated by American Cancer Society as World Cancer Awareness Day and Chevy developed its Purple Roads ad and “purple your profile” campaign to raise funds on facebook. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 is also the day the world lost a good and courageous dairy farmer I was glad to call friend. Here are the thoughts I penned for this week’s Farmshine.
Zach Meck fought the fight, kept the faith
Zachary L. Meck, 33, of Womelsdorf, Pa., passed away Tuesday, Feb. 4 after a five-month battle with cancer. In the words of his wife Suzanne (Perdue) Meck, formerly of Whitehall, Md., “Zach saw a full healing as he was peacefully called to his heavenly home.” Over the past few months, she said, the couple felt the prayers and well wishes from around the world, and they were comforted to know so many people care.
In Zach, the world lost a good and courageous young dairyman. 2 Timothy 4:7 is the verse that comes to mind for a life gone too soon, loved by many and lived in earnest. Zach made a lasting impact on not just his family and friends, but also upon the future of the dairy industry he so loved and the solidarity he had with fellow dairymen, as well as the passion he had for the cow herd he and his brother Jeremy built up into a business through sheer determination.
It is not without notice that the next five year Farm Bill passed its final hurdle in the Senate on this same day. Zach had poured time and energy into being part of an effort to shape the future for young dairy farmers within the context of the Farm Bill’s dairy title.
Our paths crossed in 2009 when the dairy industry faced the most devastating milk prices ever endured. Zach and his brother Jeremy had built their Meck Brothers Dairy from scratch. They had started with the 4-H animals their late father Ronald bought them as youngsters growing up on their parents’ poultry farm in Lancaster County, Pa. They grew the herd in a rented barn — working all kinds of other jobs – then purchased and renovated a Berks County, Pa. farm they moved into during 2009.
Zach was not one to sit still. Sometimes it seemed he was going in multiple directions all at once. But his efforts were effective. In 2009, he was part of a group of dairymen meeting in two counties, which later became the grassroots beginnings of the Dairy Policy Action Coalition that spread beyond the borders of Pennsylvania as dairymen from various regions talked together about the future of their industry.
He also served as a Land O’Lakes delegate and ran a close race as runner up for a seat on the Land O’Lakes board in early 2013. Zach was a member of the Berks County Farm Bureau, Marion Grange, and Berks County Holstein Club. He graduated from Cocalico High School, where he was a member of FFA and was active in 4-H.
“We’ve been through a lot over the years,” wrote friend and mentor Nelson Troutman in a calendar-of-hope created for Zach in December. “Then came Suzanne, and when you made up your mind, I could tell. It was good. But with these health issues, try not to make sense of it all, it never will. Remember to always look forward and that you are not alone. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).” Wise words he heeded in his short time with his beloved Suzanne.
Having the privilege of writing a story about Meck Brothers Dairy in August of 2012, I could see the respect he and his brother Jeremy had for one another and their passion for what they worked to accomplish – with that edge of always pushing forward to do more to make the cows more comfortable, do more to tell the dairy story to the greater Berks community, do more to get the voice of the young farmer heard, do more to light a fire – even if only to send a smoke signal – that policies need to be changed to consider the context of the young farmer. Zach was impetuous, yet intuitive.
“It’s time to get the younger generation involved in the leadership of their cooperative,” Zach said during a summer of 2012 interview. “Our futures are at stake in the outcome of the decisions that are made. The mechanics of the market should be our focus. We should be looking out for our fellow dairy farmers around us. Large or small, we’re all important. We have to focus on creating opportunities and getting the mechanics of the market right.”
So we come back full circle to that verse, 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Yes, Zach, you surely have.
Born in Denver, Pa., Zach was the son of the late Ronald K. and Joyce (Stoltzfus) Meck. In addition to his wife Suzanne, Zach is survived by his mother Joyce, two brothers Matthew K., husband of Susan (St. Clair) Meck of Denver; Jeremy R. Meck of Womelsdorf; two nephews Jackson K. and Levi C. Meck of Denver; and his paternal grandmother Norma (Zimmerman) Meck of Lititz.
A visitation will be held on Friday, February 7 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and on Saturday, February 8 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at the Tulpehocken UCC Church, where services will be held at 11:00 Saturday.
Memorial contributions in Zach’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 1274, Lebanon, PA 17042 or Vickie’s Angel Foundation, 511 Bridge St., New Cumberland, PA 17070.