Richard Lehnert, associate editor with Good Fruit Grower for the past six years, died suddenly August 31 at his home in Trufant, Michigan. He was 72.
Lehnert received numerous awards during his 52-year career as an agricultural journalist. Earlier this year, he received the Distinguished Service Award from Michigan State University for his outstanding contributions to Michigan’s agricultural and natural resources industry and for his high standards of integrity.
Lehnert grew up on a dairy farm in Sand Lake, Michigan. His mother’s family grew apples on Fruit Ridge.
He attended Michigan State University, starting as a chemistry major. He graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a science writing specialty. He worked as a laboratory assistant in horticulture and an agricultural press release writer for MSU while in college.
Lehnert began his career as a newspaper reporter then joined the staff of Michigan Farmer and was promoted to editor. When the publication was sold in 1991, he launched his own communications agency and for two years worked part time as animal initiative information officer at MSU.
In 2004, he took a position as managing editor of Fruit Growers News in Michigan. Five years later, he joined the Good Fruit Grower as associate editor, covering the Midwest and Eastern United States.
Good Fruit Grower Editor Geraldine Warner said Lehnert had an inquiring mind and was tirelessly committed to providing fruit growers with the latest science-based knowledge to help them advance and prosper.
“Richard had a rare talent for turning complex scientific data into snappy educational articles that growers throughout the world enjoyed,” she said. “He had a deep understanding of and appreciation for the tree fruit industry, and his enthusiasm for his work never waned. This is a huge loss to us all.”
Lehnert received many honors for his writing and photography during his career. He was named Agriculture Writer of the Year by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association in 1975.
He liked to do small-scale farming in his spare time. He had a large garden, small orchard, a few head of sheep and a 1948 Cub tractor.
Lehnert is survived by his wife Elaine, three sons, five grandchildren, five stepchildren and 15 stepgrandchildren.
“Richard was a fine journalist and an exceptional person,” Good Fruit Grower Managing Editor Casey Corr wrote in a note to the magazine staff. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. This is such a loss.”
View a short YouTube video honoring Lehnert: