Oregon Aglink honored two leaders in agriculture who accepted awards for their achievements at the 18th Annual Denim & Diamonds Dinner and Auction on November 20th, 2015 at the Oregon Convention Center.
Honorees are nominated by the Oregon Aglink’s Board of Directors to recognize Oregon’s agricultural leaders.
Paulette Pyle, Executive Director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, was honored with the Agriculturist of the Year award presented to her by Oregon Aglink President Molly McCarger. It’s an award that highlights her tireless efforts, her achievements and how far she’s come, a remarkable story in itself.
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Most of us consider ourselves lucky to have one we can count on through thick and thin. One we support and defend with all we’ve got, and are dedicated and committed to until the very end. Perhaps even luckier, are those who can say they have two. For Paulette Pyle, Oregon’s natural resources industry is that second family. One that’s flourished through her work as grass roots director at Oregonians for Food and Shelter (OFS) for the past 35 years.
Today agriculture and forestry are two chief drivers of Oregon’s economy, but it’s hard to say where they would be without Pyle. She’s a voice for Oregon agriculture and forestry, a champion for Oregon’s natural resources and a friend and mentor to many.
Pyle was born in Iowa, before moving with her family to Idaho and eventually to Georgia. Here at age 12, now the oldest of eight kids, her life took an unexpected turn. Pyle’s parents divorced and the decision was made to place the six oldest children in St. Mary’s Children’s Home for Girls while the two youngest went with grandparents. Seven months later Pyle and her siblings moved to another children’s home, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Cul De Sac, Idaho, before settling with two foster families close to one another. Pyle and a few of her siblings lived with John and Lillian Rustic, owners of a dairy, poultry and wheat farm.
From these experiences, and what was to follow, came lessons of hard work, discipline, gratitude and service. Dwelling on the negative was never an option. “It was a very positive experience for me,” says Pyle. Those who know her well, like current OFS Executive Director Katie Fast, would agree. “Her interest in service, I think a lot of that came from her upbringing and being the oldest and really taking care of her siblings,” says Fast, “going through the orphanage, that really shaped her.” These were experiences that Pyle would never forget.
Years later, she married and had four children, Kateri, Kraig, Kary and Karyn, before divorcing and marrying her current husband, Ken Pyle. Ken’s two children, KC and Shon, quickly became children she loved as her own. Ready to stay home and raise their newly combined family, Paulette moved with Ken to Oregon, his home state. Then, she received the call. Pyle’s experience growing up on her foster family’s farm, and time spent working for Congressman Steve Symms in the 1970s, were about to come in handy.
Oregon’s timber and ag industries needed her help to defeat two ballot measures. For Pyle, the decision was an easy one and she agreed to step in and help. “I had a passion for natural resources, they were like members of my family,” Pyle says. One measure would ban aerial application of herbicides, and the other would ban roadside application of herbicides. Pyle got to work, organizing 36 counties to drum up a massive opposition against both measures. In the end both were defeated, and Oregonians for Food and Shelter was finalized by its board of directors.
Hired on as its grass roots director, Pyle’s since been tasked with passing and preventing several important natural resources measures. Perhaps the most notable of those she’s helped pass are the Right to Farm and Forrest, passed in 1993, Oregon’s pesticide preemption bill, passed in 1995, and Oregon’s seed preemption bill, passed in 2013. All successes that can be attributed to Pyle’s ability to inspire and lead the right coalition for each. “You can’t accomplish something alone, in politics, you need a group, and she’s been able to lead that coalition forward,” says Fast. Something that could not be done without a few key personality traits.
“She’s a hard, hard worker, she has this work ethic and passion, and everyone knows that and respects that,” says Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
Even when things don’t go smoothly, and there are differences of opinion, Pyle is known for keeping Oregon’s natural resources groups unified. “When there is conflict, she really works hard to maintain the relationship between all natural resources groups,” Rosa says. Pyle’s also a force to be reckoned with at Oregon’s Capital, where she’s excelled at connecting Oregon’s natural resources industry with politicians to affect significant change. “It’s really about how she’s been able to connect farmers with lawmakers, doing that through her being a conduit or giving farmers talking points and support to go do that on their own,” says Fast, “that’s what she does and she’s the best at it.” To many of those she’s helped, Pyle’s also a mentor and a friend.
One of many reasons why she’ll be missed now that she’s retired. “We’re all going to miss her, desperately. It’s really sad, it’s like losing a close member of your family,” Rosa says. For Pyle, the feeling is mutual. “I will miss my members, I will miss my members immensely. They can call me anytime and I’ll be thrilled to hear from them,” Pyle says. The affection she has for her members, and they for her, is a testament to the connections she’s made that are recognized by the Ag Connection award. A recognition that, for Pyle, extends far beyond herself. First and foremost to her family, including six children and 16 grandchildren she’s immensely proud of, and secondly to everyone else along the way. “It’s not just me, it’s been a whole lot of people in this journey that have had the successes I’ve been credited for,” Pyle says. Successes that will sustain the industry for years to come, and ones that will always be remembered with gratitude.
Barb Iverson was honored with the Ag Connection of the Year award presented by Oregon Aglink President Molly McCarger. The award is a testament to her vision, her dedication to her community and her impact on Oregon agriculture and the industry as a whole. All traits that have blossomed from humble beginnings.
The term ‘visionary’ is often used to describe someone gifted with foresight and creative thinking. Someone who moves things forward and truly makes a difference in the world. That someone, is Barb Iverson. A large part of her time is dedicated to farming with her brothers, Neil and Ken, and her nephew Jon, always looking for ways to diversify their farm and share Oregon agriculture with others.
Iverson also lends her time and talents as Oregon Farm Bureau’s 3rd vice president, chair of the board for Monitor’s phone co-op, a volunteer EMT with her local fire department, a member of Clackamas County’s tourism development council, and as a stepmom to twins, Ross and Lauren. In all of these pursuits, her contributions have been significant. Iverson’s innovation and creativity have helped grow her family’s farm, enhanced several organizations and groups, and have bolstered the image of agriculture overall.
Growing up on her family’s 225-acre farm in Woodburn, with more than 80 crops including hops, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pole beans, was a family affair. Everyone, including Barb’s sister and four brothers, was expected to help in any way they could. “One of my earliest memories was going down the bean rows and picking the bottom half because I couldn’t reach the top,” says Iverson. Overall the most important lesson, according to Iverson, came from her dad. “Hard work, there was no excuse, you got out and helped on the farm,” Iverson says. Today, that hard work has paid off. Thanks to Iverson and her family, the farm is still highly diversified and adding new things all the time. Many of which, are grown with agri-tourism in mind.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farms hosts several events throughout the year that are open to the public, and Iverson plays a key role in all of them. Always making time for guests, her passion and willingness to share Oregon agriculture shines through in each interaction. Something that neighbor and friend Mallory Gywnn can attest to. “She’s not a public person, but when she’s dealing one-on-one with guests, there’s nothing more special than to see that,” says Gywnn. For Iverson, who enjoys “just going out and talking to the people and the feedback from the people,” it’s truly a labor of love. “It’s just incredible, the difference you can make in their life…that’s real rewarding,” Iverson says. Drawing thousands of visitors a year from all over the world, these events have grown and continue to grow.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest, Pumpkin Fest, and others, all are regularly infused with new ideas and no two years are exactly the same. A lot of this is due to Iverson’s drive to try new things. “Every year, we’re always looking at how can we make this better,” says Iverson. A trait that those who know her well, like Oregon Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Dave Dillon, see time and again. “She’s never a sit on your laurels kind of person, she’s one to say ‘things are pretty good, but how can we make them better,’” says Dillon, “she’s always looking for those ways.” It’s a passion that’s also fed through her involvement with Clackamas County’s tourism development board, as a local EMT and in her role with Monitor’s phone co-op board.
As chair of Monitor’s phone co-op board, Iverson’s helped move technological advancements to the forefront. The most recent, fiber-optic cables to help keep up with the broadband change in her community. Surely, there’s more to come. “It’s been fun, you can see what’s coming down the road in terms of technology,” Iverson says. Also a local volunteer EMT for 30 years, Iverson’s literally been in the business of making things better. A feat she carries off with the same calm demeanor that’s served her well in other areas. “Barb is one of the coolest and calmest people I’ve ever dealt with in business,” says Gwynn. Gwynn also helps promote the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, as does the Clackamas County tourism development board. In turn, the latter’s marketing seminars have given Iverson skills she can apply. All in the name of making a better experience for all, a trait Dillon sees carried over to her role with Oregon Farm Bureau.
As 3rd vice president of Oregon Farm Bureau, Iverson’s responsibilities center around how their committee structure works. Her focus being how to make sure these committees are effective, focused on the right kinds of issues, and participating. A concern that is equally extended to Oregon Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. An avid youth supporter, Iverson’s “always made sure that the tools and programming we’re offering are useful and attractive to younger members,” says Dillon. That include utilizing resources like social media to change how they relate to the needs of these members. Not unlike the same concern she has for others.
Known as someone who always puts others first, Iverson has endeared herself to many. “She’s one of the most selfless people that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” Dillon says. Perhaps a reason why she was so surprised to learn she’d received the Agriculturist of the Year award. “I was so surprised…I was beyond humbled,” says Iverson, “there’s so many people out there that are so deserving.” Some of those likely include her family, who’ve been the reason she’s been able to contribute so much to those around her. Creating a legacy that will always be remembered.
Past Award Recipients