Tag: Agri-Business Council of Oregon

A Golden Celebration

geoff horning1966.

The “8th Wonder of the World,” the Houston Astrodome was built.

The first episode of Star Trek airs.

Pampers created the first disposable diaper.

Ronald Reagan entered politics for the first time – eventually being elected Governor of California.

My parents started dating.

And, Marion T. Weatherford, an Eastern Oregon wheat farmer, led a small group of agricultural supporters to create the Agri-Business Council of Oregon.

Honestly, I have no idea if a specific event inspired Weatherford to create our association. I do know he understood a schism was forming between rural and urban Oregon and he wanted to create an organization that could have an open conversation with his neighbors in Portland, Salem, Eugene, etc.

Over the first 49 years the Agri-Business Council has pulled off some pretty revolutionary things. Did you know ABC was one of the first organizations to ever do grocery story food sampling? If we could get Costco to give us royalties for that concept we wouldn’t have to put so much effort into fundraising!

We were very political at one point. In fact, both Representative Stafford Hansell and Senator Mike Thorne served as president of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon WHILE they were in office. Today, we leave the politics in the very capable hands of the Oregon Farm Bureau and other agricultural associations.

ABC sponsored pig races have been held in the streets of downtown Portland, and a kissing booth was built to raise funds during the Northwest Ag Show. I have been trying to convince the current ABC Board of Directors to participate in a similar booth at Denim & Diamonds, but if I push too hard I fear they’ll make me kiss the pig.

As an organization, we’re about to turn 50. We’ve become more mature as an organization. If not, I’d win that debate with the board and a kissing booth would be at every event we attend. Like a fine Oregon Pinot Noir, we continue to evolve.

At Denim & Diamond next month we will start a year-long celebration highlighting the efforts we’ve made over the past 50 years, and we’ll talk about a barn dance we’re planning for next August to celebrate our golden anniversary.

With that said, our focus is not on the past but on the future. Big changes are ahead. Announcements will be made at Denim & Diamonds in November, but at our core we’ll still be doing what Weatherford set out to do in 1966. We’ll just skip the part where the executive director kisses the pig.

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Geoff Horning

An Original Pioneer: Founder Marion T. Weatherford

by Heather Burson

Photos courtesy of OSU Archives Library and Oregon Wheat Growers League

An Oregon pioneer usually brings to mind the image of someone who’s travelled the Oregon Trail. Itself, a 2,200 mile wagon journey from Missouri to Oregon that brought settlers westward. Marion T. Weatherford was a direct descendent of one, his grandfather William Washington Weatherford, but the term ‘pioneer’ means so much more. A pioneer is also someone who helps create or develop new methods, ideas, etc. This is what Marion T. Weatherford would go on to do, creating a rich legacy in Oregon agriculture.

With ties to Oregon State College’s extension program, Weatherford, pictured at left, joins one of its members to look at the wheat crop.

With ties to Oregon State College’s extension program, Weatherford, pictured at left, joins one of its members to look at the wheat crop.

Born to Marion Earl Weatherford and Minnie Clara Weatherford, on October 9, 1906, Marion T. Weatherford began his life near Arlington, Ore. on his family’s wheat and cattle farm. Marion T.’s grandfather was the first to plant wheat in Gilliam County, a practice his family continued. In an original publication “The Weatherford 16 Mule Team,” Marion T. describes how his father cut costs hauling wheat to the railroad in Arlington. A task that required a lot of help.

The farm used a 16 mule team to haul seven wagons both ways. A round trip The Oregonian’s “Pioneer Family to Mark Harvest” describes as being “26 miles each day, hauling 270 sacks of wheat.” Marion T. recounts his own duties in “The Weatherford 16 Mule Team” as a 16-year-old boy whose job was to “load, harness, feed and water, unharness, and act as general flunky on the job.” This lasted until 1924, when paved roads forced them to switch to hauling wheat in Model T Ford trucks.

Mule Wheat Team Photo

The Weatherford family’s mule team consisted of 16 matched mules, seen here hauling wheat in the summer of 1923 along the John Day Highway.

Marion T. would remain on the farm, except for two decades from 1922-1942. A time period best described in another of Marion T.’s publications, “Things I See,” where he recounts the following. “During those twenty years, I first rebelled against parental authority and the Establishment and gave the world a whirl ‘on my own.’” Until, he adds, he “came to his senses” and went to college to get an education. Oregon State University’s archives reveal that this journey began at Pasadena University, a small liberal arts school, where he began studying industrial arts before transferring to Oregon State College (later known as Oregon State University) to do the same.

Graduating in 1930, Marion’s own biographical sketch shows he went on to teach industrial arts at Marshfield Wisconsin High School, returning in 1937 to pursue his masters in industrial education at Oregon State College. Upon receiving this degree in 1938 he became an associate professor at San Jose State College, remaining there until his parents’ death in 1942. At this point he returned to take over the farm with his wife Leona. Something that went fairly smooth given his accounts in “Things I See,” where he states “…even during those twenty years ‘outside,’ I came home frequently and always kept in touch with current events in this community.” A practice that would serve him well.

Armed with this knowledge, Marion T. quickly found ways to get involved. In 1945 he became a board member of the Bank of Eastern Oregon, serving until 1962, and a Gilliam County Fair board member, serving until 1953. The following year, 1946, Marion T. became Eastern Oregon Wheat League’s vice president. From this, he became one of three wheat growers to found the Oregon Wheat Commission. The first wheat commission in the nation. This would become one of his most well-known accomplishments.

M Weatherford

The commission’s formation came about through a wheat surplus, with Marion T. selected to serve on a three-person committee. This committee was tasked with writing and passing a bill to assure a steady supply of money in the future, to deal with these and other problems that may arise. Ever the orator, Marion T. Weatherford’s written account of these events reveals the following. “In later years I have come to view this assignment as an incredible one,” he says, “…so far as I know, neither one of us had ever even read any part of the Oregon laws, and I’m sure we didn’t have the slightest idea of how to go about getting new legislation drawn up.” Despite these challenges, the committee worked connections throughout the Legislature, the House and the Senate to get the bill drawn up and passed, founding the Oregon Wheat Commission and assuring the wheat industry’s prosperity for years to come.

In addition to founding this commission, and serving as its founding chairman to boot, Marion T. went on to become president of the Pacific Northwest Grain and Grain Products Association from 1950-1957. A position, once again, served simultaneously along with various others. An OSU Foundation trustee since 1947, Marion T. became one of the founders of the Oregon 4-H Foundation in 1957. Serving as vice president and later its second president, in 1960, he was influential in the development of its business practices and its ability to accept gifts for 4-H. One of his accomplishments was finding a location for a 4-H center, something he would see come to fruition when he was president again in 1967 and 1968.

Marion T. Weatherford, pictured here at left, helped found the Oregon 4-H Foundation and was present at a special ceremony celebrating the program in 1962.

Marion T. Weatherford, pictured here at left, helped found the Oregon 4-H Foundation and was present at a special ceremony celebrating the program in 1962.

While all of this was going on, J.F. Short, state director of agriculture, had proposed the formation of an Oregon Agri-Council to be “one voice for agriculture.” A February 1965 edition of the Eugene Register Guard recounts that the decision was proposed in 1964, and that preliminary feasibility studies would continue during the next year. Another article, written in an October 1965 edition of the Heppner-Gazette Times, discusses a September meeting where four subcommittees were chosen as part of a larger steering committee headed by Marion T. Weatherford. He would become the council’s first president from 1966-1967, and this council would become known as the Agri-Business Council of Oregon.

A 1968 article in the Bend Bulletin would quote Marion T. as saying that the council’s purpose would be “to provide a medium of communication between the urban public and the farmer.” An aim that continues today, as it approaches its 50th anniversary next year. It would also quote him as saying the council’s challenge was “essentially one of communicating the significance and importance of this agriculture business and to do it in a business-like way.” Something Marion T. had always done and would continue to do through various pursuits the rest of his life. One might say that no one did this better than Marion T. Weatherford. An original pioneer who forever left his mark on Oregon agriculture.

 

Oregon Agriculture: The “WHY” Approach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere I go again, my homework is due and I’ve procrastinated once again. As ABC’s president, I am only asked to write four simple stories and so far I am 0 for 3 on turning in my homework early or on time. Maybe the next time I’ll do better? Feels like the story of my life. I find it appropriate to mention my homework tardiness given the start of fall, a new school year, and my lack of motivation and inspiration after a very LONG, HOT and DRY summer. Yet, as I watch and listen to the excitement my kids have for school (it’ll wear off by Thanksgiving I’m sure) I’m slowly becoming inspired and motivated once again.

Their endless possibilities for life, the eagerness to learn and to then think they know everything, only to realize there’s more to be taught and people to be inspired by. Who will they look up to, and see inspiration from? I secretly, ok maybe not so secretly, hope to inspire my girls. They are potentially the next generation of family farmers. Memories of my own school days flood back, and honestly I just hope I can teach them why to turn in homework EARLY! Life is all connected through possibilities, leadership, learning and inspiration, and through ABC, I believe we are working hard to accomplish this each day.

There is a theory that great leaders have a different approach to inspiring. They allow us to see what lies within us, not behind us or before us. They don’t need to be rich, well-educated, or have all of the resources available to them. As a matter of fact, you can have none of these and be a great leader. It’s the WHAT and WHY which are important and the order of how we receive this information from them. Think about this too, what’s our purpose, our cause and belief? We get folks to join us because they believe in what we believe. Let’s test this theory out briefly.

I believe Oregon has the best agricultural community in the world. We produce the highest quality products in the most efficient, sustainable, safest and reliable way. Oregon agriculture is incomparable to anything around the world. Oregon producers are willing to step up and help fill the need to feed hungry communities by donating extra or additional acres of produce to the food bank networks. We love our lifestyle, what we do; who we help and take pride in producing the best that Oregon agriculture has to offer. This makes you feel pretty good about Oregon Ag, doesn’t it? This is WHY people want to buy into and believe in what we do.

The WHAT approach could look a little like this: Farmers and ranchers produce over 250 different commodities grossing nearly $7 billion annually in Oregon agricultural products. We have approximately 35,000 farms and ranches in Oregon and approximately 140,000 jobs are connected to agriculture. All of these facts are great. This is the WHAT of what we do. But how does that really make you feel about Oregon agriculture? Does the cause or belief stand out? How about pride, does it show through in these numbers? Do they inspire you to want to rush out and buy local fruits and vegetables and add to the cause? Probably not.

We need to start thinking a bit differently about our approach to connecting the urban and rural populations. We need to stop telling them WHAT and HOW we do it and instead start with WHY we do it. Inspire them to believe in what we believe in. Perhaps if we took the approach and started with WHY we are and love Oregon agriculture, followed by HOW we do it, then maybe folks will understand the WHAT of it all.

With this model, those who are driven by WHY now have a cause, purpose or a belief and will join for themselves and their beliefs. As they believe in us and our stories, we will continue to succeed as an industry. Are you confused yet? Just remember the why. Why you fell in love with farming, why you stay awake at nights worried about the animals, why you worry about the weather, why you’re at work before dawn and come home after dark, why you get up each and every day hoping to inspire the next generation with your love for what you do.

There are three quotes I have heard repeatedly over my educational career.  They are from well-known, very different, yet all very influential, inspiring leaders. I hope they inspire you a little.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. “ –Nelson Mandela

“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” –Albert Einstein

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” –John F. Kennedy

As students head back to school  for another year of learning, I would like to encourage you to also keep learning, to lead, to inspire, or be inspired.

For those participating in the Adopt a Farmer program or those who are sharing their farm in other ways, know you are all great leaders of our industry and are a key instrument to the success of keeping Oregon agriculture Rooted, Green and Vital.

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

 

Molly McCargar

From Revolution to Evolution

geoff horningLooking into the mirror and seeing your blemishes is usually an easy endeavor for most people. When you have a face for radio like I do, that’s an easy mission to accomplish. What’s more difficult is publicly admitting those blemishes.

Four years ago the ABC Board of Directors took a look into the mirror, saw its blemishes, and publicly declared that we were not doing a good enough job fulfilling our mission. Worse, there was no clear cut focus or direction.

A strategic planning session was scheduled. Frankly, the first one was a mitigated disaster. A facilitator was hired and, despite impeccable credentials and valued references, we walked away after two days feeling like the only thing we had accomplished was holding hands and singing kum-ba-yah.

It may have been the defining moment for the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, though, as a revolution was underway. Over the next several weeks some very difficult decisions were made:

Oregon’s Best Contests – a program that ABC had sponsored at the Oregon State Fair and county fairs throughout Oregon for two decades was cut.

An association health insurance program that was a significant revenue stream for the association was sold.

Several other projects that distracted from the mission were also cut.

When the revolution was complete, the only programs still standing were our safety and workers’ comp program, our road crop sign program and continued support of Ag Fest.

Rising from the ashes, though, was the birth of two programs that have invigorated the staff, the board and the industry support of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. The Adopt a Farmer program is receiving recognition throughout the Northwest, and organizations from other states are inquiring about ways they can implement a similar program in their regions. And the “I am Oregon Agriculture” campaign, in conjunction with the development of the www.oregonfresh.net website, is putting the face of our industry in front of those who have questions for our farmers and ranchers.

Last month, the ABC Board of Directors and some key contributors to our efforts met for another strategic planning session. The conversation this time was not about lighting a torch, but about building upon the momentum we’ve made.

Over the past four years we’ve worked hard to lay a solid foundation, and perhaps we’ve even put up a beam or two. But, we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us before we’re a completed unit. While the primary focus will remain on building upon the programs we’ve recently established, there are also some exciting new ideas in development which will be unveiled in the months ahead. None of this would be possible without your membership. You’re a part of ABC’s evolution.

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Geoff Horning

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