Tag: agriculture (page 2 of 3)

A Subject That Has More Teeth Than Less

Lori PavlicekAs I’m sitting in an airport pondering what direction I want to take my first editorial with the newly minted Oregon Aglink, I’m overhearing people complain about their overbooked and delayed flights, seating that is too tight, and the lively debate about the Presidential race.  I would be a fool to take on the pros and cons of the election, and that topic definitely doesn’t fall under the “Warm and Fuzzy” category, but the airline complaints stem from the fact that more people are traveling and there are fewer flights to get them where they need to go. Sadly, it isn’t going to get any better.

With my first column I want to focus on a more positive, quality verses quantity, subject. Something true Oregonians would understand.  As I mull this thought around, I start to think about the number of people moving into Oregon.  Why wouldn’t they? We don’t get hit with devastating fluctuations in weather or natural catastrophes on a regular basis. Despite the drought of 2015, we still have plenty of water in most places, which leads to all sorts of great outdoor opportunities and a great farming environment. People are drawn to our rural charm. Our state has a lot going for it.  But, Oregon isn’t the only state with population growth; data shows we will be expected to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. That’s only 34 years from now!

This topic has teeth, especially looking at it from a producer’s point of view.  How do we plan to accomplish this feat of producing enough food and fiber with limited availability of land, water, plant protectants, and having to work under constant scrutiny and constraints?  Granted, technology will play a major role, but we as business owners have to work on our image. Perception is reality, and right now our perceived perception to the public is mixed at best. Working with the Adopt a Farmer program has opened my eyes to the fact we have a long ways to go.  The good news, though, is that whether it’s our Adopt a Farmer program, or FFA and Ag in the Classroom, we are hitting the very ages we need to engage.  These grass roots efforts have an easy story to tell if we get behind them with our financial and intellectual support.  We need to enlighten the naïve and misinformed.  Remember, there is going to be more and more of the misinformed as the years go by, so we have to start now.

Organizations such as Oregon Aglink, the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Women for Ag, or any of the other hard working organizations that dedicate their time to getting our voice heard, are here to serve you. Help us help you!

As you know, it will be an uphill battle for the Natural Resource Industry and for anyone dedicated to creating food and fiber, to gain a foothold.  Thirty-four years is not that long so we need to start the pendulum swinging our direction.

In spite of the microscope we live under, I’m optimistic for the future of agriculture.  I see progress being made in technology, and in the classroom.   Oregon Aglink is working hard at “cultivating common ground” between farmers and the urban consumer, along with putting a face on the family farm.  We represent a pretty cool industry. That is something to smile about.  🙂

Lori's Signature

 

 

 

Lori Pavlicek, 4B Farms

Oregon Aglink

geoff horningEven simple change can be difficult. I had a friend in college who simply couldn’t function if she didn’t have a specific type of pen to write with. Perhaps she was onto something, as today she’s one of the most successful persons I know both professionally and personally.

How difficult is change? I just texted her to inquire about her pen of choice. She sent me back a photo of her holding that same pen. Some things change, and some things stay the same. I can’t help but laugh at this little idiosyncrasy even today.

Now imagine changing a brand that is 50-years-old and has name recognition throughout the industry. It’s not a decision that comes lightly, or without more than a few conversations. It took us nine years of discussions before we pulled the trigger, but times are changing, and so are we.

At Denim & Diamonds, ABC President Molly McCargar announced to the more than 550 present that the Agri-Business Council of Oregon is now officially doing business as Oregon Aglink.

Why? While the decision is complex, the answer is fairly simple.

When the Agri-Business Council of Oregon was founded in 1966, our industry was still revered by most people, even those who live in Portland, Eugene and Salem. They may not have understood natural resources, but they appreciated and respected the work that was being done. Even in urban settings, being a farmer or rancher was a very noble profession. Agri-business was a term universally respected.

Today? Outside of natural resource circles, not so much.

Agri-business is looked at through a lens of distrust by most Oregonians. Research conducted a couple years ago by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon showed that those in urban centers trusted the individual farmer, but agri-business was not trustworthy, and in fact was deemed as corrupt and almost evil.

Now imagine being members of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. Our spokespeople are the very farmers and ranchers who are universally beloved and respected. Yet, when representing a link between producers and the consumers – the name of the organization was getting in the way of the message.

The Adopt a Farmer program provides our industry with an awesome opportunity to have in-depth conversations with students, teachers and parents. Many of the conversations revolve around pesticide application, the debate surrounding GMO technology and the safety of our food. The depth of their questions are sincere. Rarely with a hint of malice. They just want to be informed.

More and more people want to know where their food and fiber comes from, how it was produced, and even the famous Portlandia skit isn’t too far off. Some do want to know what the name of their chicken is that they’re about to eat. When having that conversation the board of directors decided it’s time to soften our presentation. We want to be that trusted link for the consumer to come to. We want to be that comfortable pen that you can’t live without.

We are the Oregon Aglink.

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Going the Extra Mile

by Heather Burson

NORPACThe phrase ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ is one that is used to describe someone who’s always there whenever needed. Someone who goes the extra mile and genuinely cares about being there for others. In Oregon’s vegetable processing industry, the equivalent is a person who dedicates their career to helping Oregon’s vegetable growers achieve success. Putting in the time to do whatever they can to boost sales and move product locally and around the world. That person is Chuck Palmquist. Today, Palmquist is vice president of sales and services at NORPAC. It is the culmination of a 42-year journey, the seeds of which were planted long before this.

In fact, Palmquist’s career happens to be the continuation of a very familiar subject. “I have always been around farmers and farming,” Palmquist says. Palmquist grew up on a small farm near Mt. Angel, where his dad grew hops, grain and boysenberries, among other things. From an early age he was either helping out on the farm or helping pick crops like green beans and strawberries. Later on, Palmquist attended Oregon State University where this experience helped lead him towards graduation with a degree in food science and technology.

He went on from there to land his first job at Stayton Canning Company in 1973 as a quality assurance supervisor. This job involved “being on a production shift, making sure that everything we did met all our requirements in terms of food safety and quality,” says Palmquist. Palmquist spent four years at Stayton Canning Company, then pursued a series of other jobs culminating in his return to Stayton Canning Company in 1983 as a production shift supervisor. Three years after his return, the consortium of seven companies that made up North Pacific Canners and Packers had dwindled down, leaving Stayton Canning Company as the only one left. Seizing an opportunity, they took the North Pacific Canners and Packers name as their own and changed it to the acronym NORPAC.

At this time, Palmquist found himself moving on through a series of other job titles at NORPAC, starting with repack scheduling manager. Special projects manager was next, and it was during this time that NORPAC’s Hermiston plant was built. Palmquist became its engineering manager. Then, in 1996, NORPAC had acquired Stone Mill Foods and he became its general manager for two years. When Stone Mill Foods sold, Palmquist came back as the manager of NORPAC’s packing facility.

“This was probably my favorite,” Palmquist says, “the day-to-day seeing something produced, there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”

He remained in this position until the president of NORPAC’s sales agency, located in Lake Oswego, retired in 2007. When this happened, Palmquist became general manager of NORPAC’s sales agency office. An office NORPAC held until everything was consolidated to its current location in 2014. Palmquist transitioned to vice president of sales and services in 2009, and has remained in this position ever since. It’s one he’s proud to serve in as “part of this organization, owned by 240 family farmers.” Yet also, a role he remains humble about. “Our mission in life is to give them (farmers) access to the marketplace and we remember that every day. My role is to be part of that whole organization and keep that going,” Palmquist says. Others, like NORPAC grower Molly McCargar of Pearmine Farms, would say Palmquist has done way more than that.

“Chuck is a hardworking guy who has a big role in the outcome of the crops we grow,” says McCargar, “Providing market access for our vegetables is what he does, and if he wasn’t doing it, then, well let’s just say, I’d probably have a lot of inventory.”
McCargar first met Palmquist about 10 years ago at a NORPAC annual meeting, and they continued to cross paths. Located close to NORPAC, Pearmine Farms became a frequent stop on tours for current and potential buyers of NORPAC products. An occurrence that led McCargar to ask Palmquist to accompany her on an Adopt a Farmer classroom visit in 2011. Not long after, he joined McCargar on ABC’s Board of Directors where he has remained to this day.

Cindy Cook, of Cook Family Farms, met Palmquist in much the same way. As a grower for NORPAC, she got to know him through Cook Family Farms’ relationship with NORPAC over the past 10 years. At the same time, much like McCargar, she’s also gotten to know him as a fellow ABC board member and friend. “He is a stable presence on the ABC board,” Cook says, “always willing to support and provide vegetable products for Denim & Diamonds and other functions.” McCargar adds that, “If there was ever a need for something from Chuck, he was right there to ask and get it.”

Indeed, Palmquist’s time at NORPAC has been more than just changes of positions, or giving farmers access to the marketplace. It has led to and solidified many friendships he will miss as he prepares to retire next year. Retirement, for Palmquist, holds many things, catching up with friends who’ve already retired, volunteering, and spending more time with his wife Sara, their four sons and their grandchild. Although he looks forward to these and other adventures, he will always be grateful for his time spent at NORPAC. “It’s been a great place to work. I’ve had many great opportunities with NORPAC,” says Palmquist, “I’ve never gotten tired of what I did. I’ve really appreciated being part of this whole industry and working for NORPAC.”

Tis the Season to Start Tax Planning

By Curtis Sawyer, CPA and Eric Groves, CPA

As another year draws near to a close, we reflect on things that transpired in 2015 as we begin to plan for a full and prosperous new year. An important element of planning is a forward look at the coming tax season. To jumpstart a conversation with your tax professionals, here is a brief look at a few opportunities for tax savings.

Income Averaging for Federal Returns

Federal statutes allow farmers to spread a portion of their current year farming income equally over the three previous tax years. This treatment can make sense for any of the following reasons:

  • Your current year taxable income places you in a higher marginal tax bracket than prior years. Income earned at the higher rate can be applied retroactively to prior years with lower rates.
  • The farm income averaging election has not been utilized in earlier years. The IRS will let you amend prior years’ filings to capture those benefits.
  • Starting in 2013, high-income farmers saw an increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent in the top tier of federal taxes. By averaging income back to 2012, you can take advantage of a 35 percent marginal rate on some of your earnings.
  • You anticipate higher income or higher tax rates in the future. Applying income averaging for 2012-2015 sets you up for profitable use of this treatment in future years.

IRS Schedule J captures the farm income averaging calculation. Your tax professionals can help you assess the benefits and provide the proper reporting.

Favorable Tax Treatment for Oregon Farmers

In a special election at the close of its 2013 session, the Oregon legislature granted a tax break for individuals who receive flow-through income from an active trade or business. Such flow-through income typically originates from an S-corporation or a multi-member limited liability company (LLC).

 

Amount of Pass-Through Income New Applicable Tax Rate Old Rate
Less than $250,000 7.00% 9.00%
$250,001 – $500,000 7.20%
$500,001 – $1,000,000 7.60%
$1,000,001 – $2,500,000 8.00%
$2,500,001 to $5,000,000 9.00%
More than $5,000,000 9.90% 9.90%

 

If your Oregon-based farm has already been organized as an S-corporation or a multi-member LLC, then you’ll enjoy lower Oregon tax rates in 2015. If not, you should consider whether the tax benefits offset the incremental effort to restructure your business. Your tax professionals can provide estimates of savings as well as ballpark figures for one-time and recurring costs.

Net Investment Income Tax

In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, Congress authorized the imposition of a 3.8 percent net investment income tax on individuals with significant modified adjusted gross income (AGI). In particular, once a married couple filing jointly reports AGI in excess of $250,000, a 3.8 percent incremental tax applies to all passive income beyond that threshold. Individuals cross the mark at $200,000.

If you are active in your farm business, there are two sources of investment income that can bypass this incremental tax. If you or an LLC in which you hold an interest owns the land and buildings on which the farm operates, then your “self-rental” income will not be subject to the 3.8 percent tax. In like fashion, if you serve as the farm’s creditor, then the interest income earned through this arrangement is not subject to the 3.8 percent tax. In both cases, the word ACTIVE plays a significant role in determining tax treatment. Your tax professionals can review the qualifications and help you assemble appropriate documentation to support your case. At a minimum, the following actions should be taken:

  • Prepare and execute an appropriate rental agreement between the property owner(s) and the farming business. Make sure that all rents align with fair market values.
  • Prepare and execute lending agreements to address monies loaned by individuals to the farming business. Use interest rates consistent with other creditors in the marketplace based on the type of loan, the duration, and risk assessment.
  • Where possible, incorporate a description of the role the property owner (or lender) plays in the ongoing management of the farm. This documentation strengthens the case for “active” participation.

Planning Ahead

We’ve highlighted just a few of the items that should be on your radar as you sit at the planning table with your tax professionals. Please contact us at (503)-620-4489 if you’d like to review these opportunities or discuss other options for tax savings.

 

Sawyer, Curtis 2015 Curtis Sawyer, CPA, has been providing tax compliance, planning and consulting services to his clients for nearly 10 years. He works closely with businesses across several industries with an emphasis on agriculture, farming, cooperatives, manufacturing and their owners. He also presents on topics including regulatory reform, the Affordable Care Acts, and tax savings strategies such as IC-DISCs.

 

AKT Lake Oswego Eric Groves, CPA, provides assurance services including audits, reviews and compilations to agriculture and farming, food processing, and manufacturing companies to help them achieve their goals. He also specializes in financial consulting and employee benefit plan audits for the firm.

 

 

Keeping Pace with a Changing World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a BIG Chicago Cubs fan. For those who don’t know much about them, they are the loveable losers of Major League Baseball. The history of the Cubs rivals few others in professional sports. Wrigley Field celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, and I got to visit the iconic field for the first time that same year. Wrigley hasn’t changed much at all in the past 100 years, some minor upgrades, but the walls of the Friendly Confines have remained much the same. At the end of the season in 2014, they began remodeling those historic walls, much to the dismay of die-hard Cubs fans. The new owners had decided it was time for a facelift, they needed something to attract new players and fans with the hopes of finding the right formula for a winning team. Folks in Chicago’s North Side were NOT happy, resisting it in many ways. You just can’t mess with the nostalgia and history of Wrigley Field.

Yet, as fans entered the stadium this spring and as the season went on, die-hard fans, many of them generational season ticket holders, warmed up to the change and began to embrace it. It also helped that the team had a great season, making it to the October playoffs. The Cubs won their first EVER division pennant at home. It took over 100 years of baseball for this new historical event to occur, and it happened within the NEW walls of the Friendly Confines. The second phase of Wrigley’s upgrade began at the end of the 2015 season, and fans couldn’t be more excited. They realized the change isn’t drastic, the Cubs and its history will still remain, all while moving the team forward to the future. (It’s just too bad that Doc didn’t get his prediction right in “Back to the Future,” maybe he meant Cubs win in 2016!)

What’s my point you ask? How does this pertain to ABC? Well friends, in November I had the privilege of announcing a new change for our organization. After 50 years as The Agri-Business Council of Oregon, we will now be doing business as Oregon Aglink! Why the change? As the Agri-Business Council of Oregon has continued its mission – through Road Crop Signs, television and web campaigns, and our most popular Adopt a Farmer program – one thing has become clear. The term Agri-Business raises eyebrows, and creates confusion and misconceptions among many who are unfamiliar with the term and the industry. Agri-Business Council of Oregon is still who we are and, while our history as an organization is rich and full of nostalgia, it’s time for a facelift and a bit of an update. We need to keep pace with our ever-changing world. Our priorities and our mission will continue to be the same. The only change will be our new name and logo. It is our hope that these changes will help us continue our efforts to unite all of Oregon agriculture and positively connect with our urban neighbors.

Change is challenging, those with long history often have the hardest time adjusting, and that’s OK. While it may be difficult at first for the diehard fans, it’s what’s important and necessary to attract new players and grow our support across the state, in both our urban and rural communities. We appreciate all of our members, and we hope that you will continue to support us in the years to come. So join us, embrace the change and let’s all help keep Oregon Rooted, Green and Vital!!

Molly McCargar's Signature - Cropped

 

 

 

 

Molly McCarger, Pearmine Farms

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

Farmers and Ranchers: The Eternal Optimists

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a glass is half full kind of person, the eternal optimist. I will look for the upside of life even at the worst of times. I’ll admit, there have been times where cynicism has snuck into my thinking, and most recently during our current legislative session. It always seems easier to be cynical; reasons are abundant for why one could become a bona fide pessimist. I mean really, why should one really care about finding the good in challenging times? Because the fact is, optimism can create opportunity.

Summer is here and life on the farm is even busier than normal. The spring has been filled with dry weather, early crops and the continued challenge of finding labor to get all the jobs done. While we are all gearing up to harvest, the legislative session is winding down. Many bills are being debated and some are being passed, several of which appear to make doing business, especially farming, an even bigger challenge in Oregon.

I could begin to ramble off the long list of bills making their way to the governor’s desk, but I’d rather not. What I’d rather do is share with you some of why I think our industry continues to survive. Farmers and ranchers, whether they believe it themselves or not, have always been optimists, even when they don’t sound like it. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t still be taking on the challenge each day, season and year. We go to bed each night, expecting good things to happen. We wake up and set our intentions for the day. Some of those intentions are little things, others are much larger. Some days my intention is just to make through the day and I’ll be honest, if I can get the day’s work done and get my kids fed and in bed before 10pm on a summer night, it’s a success. When you read stories about agriculture or press releases about new rules and regulations, ones that make it seem like our jobs just got harder or that what we do doesn’t matter, it’s easy to become cynical. To feel sorry for ourselves. Nobody wants farmers to succeed. Right? We’ve all had the occasional thought. But guess what? People want to be us.

Farmers and ranchers are like rock stars. You’re laughing, but it’s true. We carry ourselves in a different way, one that appears to others as strong and courageous. We stand up tall, smile and engage with people, which makes us appear as confident, optimistic people and others aspire to be like us. Everyone wants to be a farmer. Think about it for a minute. Think about the conversations you have with your urban friends. They probably like to talk about their gardens or chickens with you, wanting to relate, trying to be a farmer. Why do I mention this? Because these are the opportunities, to listen and engage, to share what you do and your love for doing it. These opportunities may seem small and meaningless, but they are far from it.

Like I mentioned earlier, farmers and ranchers set their intentions or expectations every day on the farm. Being intentional helps guide what we bring to the day and the jobs we set out to get done, it helps us focus our time and energy to accomplish the most. There are always setbacks and that’s often when farmers thrive. We are masters of reframing a problem into an opportunity. Problems aren’t solved by complaining about them, so we gather information and data, analyze, create plans A, B and C, and then put one of these new plans into action.

We take an approach from a new angle and get the job done. Even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone, farmers get it done. Folks in our industry are capable of doing more than we realize, we just take for granted our innate ability to survive, all by just reframing the challenge in front of us. Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems will change into opportunities to grow. Optimism is contagious, so too is pessimism, which would you rather see grow?

Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking they were created.” Farmers and ranchers are resilient, and I believe it is because we start out our days with the glass half full, the eternal optimists. Hey, and if all else fails, find the humor in any of the most unfunny situations and laugh. Humor can be the antidote to almost every ailment or adversity, it’s either that or exercise. And let’s be honest, I think we all get enough of that every day at work. As the season goes on don’t forget to lighten up and laugh a little, because our optimism will keep Oregon 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.

geoff horning signature

Geoff Horning

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